Book Review: Vertical – Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail – Rex Pickett

There can’t be many people interested in wine that haven’t seen or aren’t familiar with the 2004 film ‘Sideways’.  Starring Paul Giamatti (Miles) and Thomas Haden Church (Jack) as old college friends who go through US wine country ahead of Jack’s impending marriage, the film (and book that it was based on) was a love-note to the Pinot Noir grape and managed to change real-life perceptions of the variety whilst forcing negative light on Merlot.

What’s perhaps less known is original author Rex Pickett penned a sequel to Sideways; Vertical, which was originally self-published way back in 2010.  Following some ‘pruning and adjustments’ to the content and with a bit more funding behind it, the book is now about to be re-launched to a wider audience.

Vertical

In a strange blending of art imitating life imitating art, the previously downtrodden character of Miles (a depiction of Pickett) is now the successful author of a book called Shameless.  This novel, which is clearly the same as the real-life Sideways, was then made in to a successful film (in both the book and real life).  Miles is now scouting for ideas for his new book (which has technically already been written as the book Vertical).

Vertical follows Miles as he heads off to a speaking engagement at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon and, roping along Jack for support, they are also joined by Miles’ ailing mother Phyllis and her carer Joy.

From the detail and attention that has gone in to such things as the passing scenery, the driving routes they take, and even which way the wind is blowing, it feels that Pickett is writing first-hand about his own trip to Oregon off the back of the success of the real Sideways. Rather than read it as a first-hand Pickett narrative, given how much Giamatti and Haden Church absorbed and became the characters of Miles and Jack in the Sideways film, I chose to read the book with their voices in my head, rather than treat them as simply the Martin and Jake characters who star in the Shameless film.

I read the first half of the book, almost in one go, whilst the sun was streaming in through a window.  Such was the beautifully composed narrative I was immediately transported to the blue skies of wine country, ready to jettison my life and head off on such a wine adventure myself.  Even at 10am in the morning I was thirsty reading it.

I’m always wary of any book that carries a back-page review that says ‘laugh-out-loud funny’, but there were several moments throughout their road trip I did indeed laugh out loud.  Clearly imagining the chilled-out Haden Church delivery of Jack, one whole story arc is a joy to read.  I won’t spoil the details, but suffice to say I’m now well aware of what priapism is!

I’d also be willing to get the Kickstarter fund going to make the movie, just to see the moment that the brake comes off of Phyllis’ wheelchair on a vineyard terrace and she goes tumbling down through the steeply sloped vines whilst Miles, Jack and Joy chase after her.  Or where Miles gets dropped in to a pool of his despised Merlot!

The comedic situations in the book mean that you’ll enjoy it even with no prior wine knowledge, but there’s plenty of references here for those in the know, even if a few do seem a little superfluously thrown in (e.g. “I didn’t know very much….relying heavily on Jancis Robinson’s brilliant encyclopedia on the subject, The Oxford Companion to Wine”).

There’s certainly enough detail for you to make your own wine pilgrimage to match that of the book which, after reading it, is exactly what you’ll be wanting to do.

A great read, and well recommended.

With thanks to Loose Gravel Press for providing the review copy of this book.

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Chilean Cabernet 2015 vs. Chilean Cabernet 2015

I very nearly did it.

I very nearly day-dreamed my way through a wine purchase at a supermarket by simply half-looking at the label and assuming that I knew what I was picking up.

Nestled right next door to the Chilean stalwart Casillero del Diablo was Camino del Angel, a new offering from Sainsbury’s whose label bears more than a little passing resemblance to the former.

camino

Filtering out the generics of a plain white label with a black band below and a circular motif, the main font for the brand name is blatantly emulated and the sub-conscious mind sees the capitalised C and lower case d.

Of course it’s not the first time that a particular wine from a particular country has slipped in to a ‘house’ style across brands and retailers.  A clear example is the number of line drawings of mountain ranges that can be found on Argentinian Malbec.

malbec-mountains

Both Camino and Casillero are from the Central Valley in Chile, both are from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape and the 2015 harvest.  Both are 13.5% in alcohol and both are similarly labelled so, will they be similar in taste?

I awoke from my daydream, knowingly purchased them both, and decided to put them through the taste test.

Camino del Angel Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 , Valle Central, Chile, 13.5%, £7

The nose of this wine was clean and full of ripe fruits.  I could detect intense blackcurrants, plums and damson blue fruit, mixed in with a whiff of cake and pepper spice and touches of vanilla florality.  The overall impression of this wine, even before tasting it, was rich with the tertiary characters of both liquorice and meat.

On the palate the overall sensation continued with a somewhat beefy rich texture.  Even though there was a fairly high acid to match this out, the combination of the stewed dark fruit and almost chewy grainy tannins meant this was a tough taste.  Alongside the sour fruit, touches of ash and bitterness added further to this austerity, and the stalky raw finish is what you have left in your mouth on the end palate.

On day 1 I didn’t get the feeling of a particular blend or style and it did feel mass produced.  In the spirit of fairness, on day 2, the blend did feel a little more structured, but nonetheless fairly forgettable.

casillero

Casillero del Diabo Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 , Valle Central, Chile, 13.5%, £6.50 (on offer, usually £7.50)

On the nose this wine was no less full of activity and flavour, but this time was of a silky/velvet quality.  We still have the blackcurrant fruit, but this time we also see the addition of some red cherry.  This slightly deeper complexity is matched by a subtle vanilla florality, and the whole is both bright and uplifting.

On the palate there is a good medium mouth weight, light grippy tannins with a medium matching acidity.  Black cherry is the predominant fruit alongside blackcurrant and pepper spices.  Overall the mouth sensation is dark and brooding, more given over to bitter chocolate and mocha.

These tertiary characters are testament to the blending, with the damson and blue fruits taking a backseat in this wine.  There’s still a touch of raw quality (green and stalky characters), but the overall sensation feels more complete.

Summary: One interesting aside from the tasting was looking at the bottles once they were empty.  As you can see from the picture below the Camino bottle is significantly lighter in colour.

empty-chile-bottles

Whilst there are environmental benefits from this (with a weight of 421 grams as opposed to 520 for the Casillero) including travel expenses and glass wastage, it is well known that the darker the glass, the less light penetration there is.  With light being one of the enemies of wine storage, this ability to repel will contribute to a wines ageing potential.

In summary, consumers should keep their eyes open and be aware of what they purchase.  Whilst the labels on these bottles may be similar, it is interesting to debate whether the extra 50p for the Casillero has gone on the increased cost of the glass used.

If it has, would you happily trade up on taste at a small cost per bottle to the environment?

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The Wine Show – Series One Round-up & Review

Last weekend saw the broadcast of the final episode of The Wine Show, the first UK mainstream channel series devoted to wine since Oz and James left our screens in 2007.  The series was independently produced by Infinity Creative media and tendered out to the networks as a finished product.  Without the guarantee that the show would be picked up it’s all credit to those involved for having the foresight and production values to be able to get wine back on the small screen without a direct commission.

wine show 1

Hosted by actors and self-confessed wine novices Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode, their journey to becoming better acquainted with the world of wine is supported by experts Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer.  Together they make a great team who are always engaging on screen, with particular praise going to Matthew Rhys who is naturally funny and always ready with a witticism.

Joe: “Why did you choose this wine?”

Rhys: “Mine was the cheapest”

——————————————————

Joe: “I have a dilemma”

Rhys (who is Welsh): “I know Dai Lemma, lovely boy!”

They’re clearly all having a great time and this selection of bloopers shows you just how much.  It’s also a pleasure to see that Joe, true to his word in the show, is readily available via Twitter and happy to chat to you about wine.  He truly seems like a chap you could go for a drink with.

Each episode follows a standard format, beginning with a filmed section from somewhere in the wine world, followed by a look at wine gadgets, food and wine matching, choosing a bottle of wine to create the perfect Italian case, and then one final filmed piece.

As a lover of wine facts and wine education, something I initially struggled with was the radical change of presentation style that’s been used.  Gone are the days of an introduction as to how wine is made, what styles are available, and why it is made in the countries that it is made in.  With this show you are straight in to a wine adventure, picking grapes at 4am in a vineyard in South Africa.

When I try to help others to understand the complex world of wine I always start with a few core fundamentals to give them something to balance upon; key grape varieties being one obvious example.  This didn’t seem like a first concern here and I was amused to note that the first mention of a grape variety comes a full 27 minutes in to the programme (and even this was by the guest chef rather than the hosts).  Consequently I struggled to identify whether they were trying to make wine look sexy for novices or to teach people already interested in wine, facts that they wouldn’t find in a textbook (which is done amply in the stunning location shoots).

Even though Joe is on hand to clarify the finer points, both Matt’s tasting notes frequently start and stop with “ooh, that’s good” or “I like that”.  Bottle labels aren’t poured over to wean out details such as alcohol levels, and scarcely any mention is given to bottle price, retailers or availability.  To their credit, all of the information is available on their website and signposted as such in the show, so is completely available should you wish to delve deeper.  Keeping it simple on screen allows each piece to remain relevant to all without becoming bogged down in the detail.

Once the series hit its stride my concerns were alleviated (episodes 3 and 7 are particularly brilliant in storytelling wine history and wine future) and, as each episode is standalone and could technically be slotted in anywhere in the series, I do wonder if they just started with the wrong episode?

Perhaps it was chosen as it was the only one to feature wine stalwart Bordeaux?  Opening proceedings with the sweet wines of Constantia before going on to talk about a £300 cork removal device seemed just a little bit too niche for the average viewer in my opinion.

Created initially for my own reference, I thought I would share my personal view of the series content and where I think each item sits in terms of accessibility (green indicates accessible to all, amber less so).  It’s worth clarifying that all of the content is interesting, but where gadgets/bottle prices have slipped in to the £100’s of pounds, or chef created food dishes move on from what the average viewer is likely to re-create (lobster with cabbage and strawberry cake, for example), I’ve moved the accessibility up to amber.

For completeness, I have colour coded the intro’s/outro’s in dark blue and advert breaks in grey.

wine show 2.jpg

As you can see from the above, the series covers 11 countries: Portugal, Chile, France, South Africa, Australia/Tasmania, Italy, USA, Moldova, China, Santorini, and Israel.  Making full use of the allotted travel budget (and who could blame them) there were multiple films from some of the further flung places, whilst other regions were left out of the mix.

I can only hope that a second series is quickly commissioned and we get to explore the absent big hitters such as Spain, Germany and, dare I say, England!

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One night only. No second chances

Leafing through the latest issue of Wine Spectator magazine I happened to notice that their 2015 Wine of the Year was Peter Michael ‘Au Paradis’ 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s not a wine that I’ve ever tasted, but it does stir up a lot of memories of what is probably one of my finest wine experiences.

Even now, with winemaking in the southern part of the UK developing all of the time, I’ve often lamented that I don’t live anywhere in the thick of it.  I think how wonderful it would be living in perhaps Italy or Spain and having near access to multiple world famous destinations to tour.  It feels like I would never have a weekend free!

Some years back I was reading an article on a UK wine hotel and had probably already started assuming that it wouldn’t be anywhere near me, when I realised that it was.  It was literally ten minutes away by car and, on a warm day, possibly walkable.

I’m referring to The Vineyard at Stockcross, which has been owned by Sir Peter Michael since 1996.  With over 3000 bins available it was, at the time, a multi Michelin starred establishment (Head Chef John Campbell has since departed) and was somewhere I had no excuse not to visit.  I eagerly booked a room and downloaded the extensive wine list in readiness of tasting some amazing and rare wines.  At the time (and to be fair, to this day) my main wine passion is Champagne (which readers of my blog will know rests heavily on Dom Pérignon), and so that was the focus of the night.

I pre-selected the 1966 Dom Pérignon to be ready and chilling in an ice bucket on arrival in the room, and the 1970 Dom Pérignon to be served with dinner.  These Champagnes certainly still rank amongst the highest value wines I’ve ever drunk, but having checked their current retail prices, what I paid then seems like a bargain!  The whole trip however was a calculated indulgence (I could have taken a cab home, but decided that staying there would top everything off), and these two mature vintages were chosen specifically as they were the current releases when both I and my wife were born.

Vineyard1

Upon arrival at the hotel when giving over my personal details, I’m convinced that there was a confused glance from the receptionist.  Upon checking my details and spotting my home address was only around the corner, I think she was trying to work out why I was staying there at all.  The answer lay in my room, and what greeted me was the glorious sight of the chilled 1966 Dom on the table.  Rather than unpacking, I opened the bottle.  It is still the oldest Champagne I’ve ever tasted, and I can recall its rich herbaceous woodland tones, with baked apple and dark honey very clear on the palate.

I contacted their sommelier with a view to choosing a pre-dinner aperitif, and was suitably impressed when he invited me to look through their locked wine vault which, years later and knowing much more about the subject, I really want to do again.  I was still in the mood for celebratory bubbles so probably didn’t fully absorb their collection of impressive Bordeaux and Burgundy, or perhaps even their focus on Californian Cabernets, showcasing the owners US interests.  I switched back to a fresh vibrant Champagne and selected the 1996 Krug, which was a dream.

And so to dinner which, for a 2-star Michelin restaurant, definitely played second fiddle to the wine.  Not that the food was bad – far from it – but this was when Michelin food was characterised by adding foam to the top of every dish, and it became a little bit much.  Perhaps as a response to the money that I was spending (the exact prices I paid for each of the bottles is etched in to my memory) we were given the top table which was set away from the main dining area and overlooked the other guests.  The 1970 Dom arrived and, although having only slightly less age than the 1966, was showing a much younger profile and went well the fish dishes I’d chosen.  As a closing gesture, my sommelier was happy to gift me two Dom Pérignon branded flutes (boxed ones too, not the ones we had been using!) as a reminder of this one-off evening.  Alas the glasses are long since gone, but the memories remain.

Vineyard2

There was one further bottle of red picked from the wine list to round off dinner, but following the excesses of the Champagne, it went mostly undrunk and I have no recollection of what it was.  I still live just around the corner from The Vineyard and I do often think about going back, however I know that it can never live up to that amazing experience.

I’d love to live that night again, but it truly was a one-off.  No second chances.

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One for the road……

As we come to the end of the festive season and peoples thoughts turn to a ‘dry’ January to counter-balance the over indulgences, it seems an apt time that the Government re-states its guidelines for what it views as responsible alcohol intake.  The full report will be published later this month, but the heavy speculation suggests that the suggested maximum acceptable levels will be reduced (of course) from previous guides, and there will be a clear recommendation to have at least 2 alcohol free days per week.  It has also been suggested that the report will state that there is in fact no safe amount of alcohol that can be drunk at all – especially for those people in middle-age.  Even the smallest intake per day/week could lead to several illnesses, including many cancers.

My article today isn’t to discuss these revised guidelines as I believe that responsible levels vs. potential risk cannot be done on anything other than a case by case basis.  Indeed there are many things that can cut short a healthy young life, whilst the heaviest of imbibers can live to the ripest of old age.  Indeed the chief medical officer doesn’t mention at all the fun that responsible (as defined by the individual) drinking can have in perhaps prolonging life, and certainly enjoying it along the way.

The link between alcohol and death does, however, lead me nicely to what I found to be one of the more obscure, but extremely interesting, wine-related stories from over the festive period, which I thought I would share with you.

Westerleigh Crematorium in the south-west of England has become the first funeral home to be granted an alcohol licence, enabling them to conduct both a funeral service and the post-service wake.  The idea was brought about due to the slightly remote location of the chapel which meant that guests would need to make onward arrangements with pubs or hotels in the wider area, and then arrange the necessary travel from one venue to another.

Westerleigh is currently in the middle of a full redevelopment which will include a full bar and a new hospitality suite capable of facilitating up to 150 guests.  There will also be the necessary segregation of areas for funeral services and celebrations of life, to ensure that service only funerals can continue to be served.

The provision of a licence has been largely welcomed by the local community, and Richard Evans, managing director at the crematorium was quoted as saying: “For many families a wake or celebration after the service is a necessary event and it is not always convenient for them to set off again to meet in a hotel or pub. The provision of a new hospitality suite will therefore cater for funeral parties who are looking for a simple, dignified event after the funeral”

This ‘one-stop-shop’ does actually seem to be a sensible idea (one of those ‘why don’t we do that already?’ moments), and something that I think will spread to other crematoriums in the not-so distant future.  Mindful of the view that it is perhaps a further commercialisation of death, and in respect of the sadness of the overall occasion, it does take a certain step out and simplify the process, which can be very welcome at a tough time.  As long as the alcohol drunk on the occasion does not increase, either due to the ease of availability, pricing (currently to be advised) or having the extra ‘one for the road’ as the focus on driving to a venue is removed, then it is a logical step and a bigger story that the mild ripples that it caused in the run up to Christmas.

It’s interesting to note that the application went unchallenged by the local authorities and was even endorsed by the local clergy.  It seems it’s only the new Government guidelines that won’t allow us a guilt-free drink to toast our recently departed loved ones.

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Christmas Wine Word Search

The festive season is upon us and what better way to while away the hours than with a good quiz.

Even better than that, how about a Christmas wine quiz!?

My good friend Clare over at http://aimetus.blogspot.co.uk/ has graciously allowed me to share her ‘Winter Wine Word-Search’, and a good deal of fun it is too.

All you have to do is find 24 different wine grape words (as an example, Cabernet and Sauvignon will be two distinct words).  Have fun with the Word-Search (the answers will be revealed in January), and please do visit Clare’s blog for more lovely wine stuff.

Crossword

Seasons Greetings!

Wine Epiphany – MWWC#17

mwwc logo

I read earlier in the week that wine blogging is dead.

This is bad news as my wine blog is only 5 months old, but happily, it seems the average time for a wine blog to operate before fatigue sets in can be something like 6 years, so I’ve still got a little way to go. A quick Google, initially to rediscover the article that I had misplaced, filled the page with a slurry of articles all predicting in equality the promising future or the sad demise of the wine blog. Some even offered up an obituary for the medium.

When faced with the question of Epiphany in wine from the MWWC I’m going to take it at face value – a standout moment of clarity that changed me from that point on. As a long time imbiber, I’m going to have to think way back. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. There’s been so many over so long a time that really only the watersheds from yesteryear still stick out. So sit back, and let me weave you on a tour that rides from 2007 to the present day.

In terms of a standout moment for red wine, I recall the time in 2010 that I found a bottle of Chateau Latour 2001, vaguely reduced at the Berry Bros outlet in Berkshire. Flush from a work bonus I snapped it up and kept it for as long as I could, which in reality was only a further year or two, before I savoured its contents and then deified the cork and empty bottle. I personally got a lot out of the experience; not least tasting the wine, but the full majesty of opening and decanting the bottle, and taking notes. Then tasting and re-tasting. The experience was somewhat marred at a wine dinner some time later in 2012, when I was openly lambasted by a fellow guest for pre-empting the experience, and wasting the opportunity of keeping the bottle cellared for another ten years.

Oops.

Sparkling (or should I clarify, Champagne) is still my alma mater for wine, and I remember at a job interview for a wine role, they asked me for my wine epiphany moment. I took them back to the glamorous location of Gatwick airport and my purchase of the Dom Pérignon 1995. I asked myself how something so priceless could have a price tag. £70 later, I had purchased the un-purchaseable but made a storage faux-pas by standing the bottle in my front room in direct sunlight on a shelf acting as some sort of make-shift shrine to that unique experience. On pouring, the bottle was OK (it was no 1996, let’s face it) but simply part of an experience that, in hindsight, was only available to me and only about 5 million other purchasers of DP 1995.

For whites and Rosé I have no real idea. My first Orange wine experience came last month at Selfridges in London, at my request. It wasn’t notable, and I was glad I had requested a sample as opposed to just blindly paying out for a bottle.

No, I think my real wine epiphany lies elsewhere. Was it when my wife bought me the birthday present of an internet only course for wine? A cheap, non-recognised qualification from an internet course provider that has since gone bust, rendering my qualification void. Whilst a waste of her £36, this did however, spur me on to sign up to the courses provided by the WSET (Wines & Spirits Education Trust) in London and, as an outsider to the trade, self-fund my way through to the Level 4 Diploma. This is probably the one wine moment more than any other that leads me to where I am today, which is looking to inspire others through the popularisation of wine education. And this is also the moment that brings me back to my initial point about wine blogging.

In what is already quite a crowded niche, I set up my site, and launched many a wine opinion on the world. Slowly but surely, my site has been not only building in content, but also building in subscribers, feedback and, inadvertently, the quality of what I write. Importantly, I feel that I have something valuable to say that others will enjoy reading. I try to keep my subject matter as broad as possible. This runs the gamut from what wine I have tried today, to nuggets of wine history, as well as giving hints and tips to those taking wine exams through organisations such as the WSET.

This has led to a good following on Twitter, to tweeting and conversing with many unknown fellow wine lovers around the globe. It is a direct result of this that has led me to contribute to websites such as the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.

My wine epiphany? Well, you’re reading this aren’t you……?!

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Your place or mine?

Be it a short burst of promotion, or a fun excuse to open the next bottle of wine, many grape varieties have a day of celebration devoted over to them each year. You can celebrate Chardonnay day on the 23rd May, Merlot day on the 7th November or, in case you were not aware, today is Malbec day! Time to pop to the shops for some Argentinian Malbec!

Argentina is Malbec’s adopted home, where the consistently long warm days allow the grapes to ripen more evenly than it’s frosty French origin, and whilst French plantings of the grape are decreasing, Argentine plantings are on the increase. The reason it does so well away from its homeland is that the Malbec grapes are susceptible to frost, and in France’s cold marginal climate, that is an ever present threat. Whilst it is still grown in parts of south-west France, it’s primarily found in their Bordeaux-style blends as opposed to varietal wines. Malbec is a grape that produces a tannic wine, and these bitter notes can come to the fore when the grapes are not fully ripened, thus it makes sense to blend it with other grapes that can perform well in these climatic conditions. This ensures that all flavours are rounded out in to a smooth and drinkable wine.

Argentina is of course much warmer than France, and higher altitude plantings (where it gets up to 1 ºC cooler for every 100 metres you ascend) can deliver grapes that see cool conditions, but with the added advantage of warm consistent sunshine throughout the growing season. In a nice bit of serendipity, the fuller flavour of Malbec happily pairs well with steak, which is an Argentine food staple. It therefore doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to decide that tonight’s dinner for me will be steak paired with an Argentinian Malbec. Job done.

Or is it? Am I simply taking the lazy option? The day is organised by Wines of Argentina, and placed on the anniversary of the day when the first Malbec plantings were recognised in Mendoza, but the day is all about the grape, and not the location. It’s not Argentinian Malbec day, after all.

When planning any celebration it’s natural to want the best experience, which in this case could well be Argentinian Malbec and steak, but in planning for success, do you also plan to fail? By safeguarding our choices do we also miss out on what can make an event unique? Surely there can be as much fun in playing away from type, as there can be in getting it spot on? And you don’t even need to worry if things don’t go to plan, as there’s only another 365 days to go until the next opportunity!

With these thoughts in mind I might just do things a little different today, and pop my Argentinian Malbec back in the rack, and nip out for some French Malbec instead.

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Wine and crisps

My Friday night tipple tonight is a lovely 10 year old Ermita de San Lorenzo 2005 from Spain. In typical style for a Spanish Gran Reserva, the nose and the palate fill with velvet black cherry, mature wood, vanilla, spice and chocolate notes (my definition of divine!).

The addition of chocolate to the palate had me recalling a comment I recently made on a wine forum. With this weekend being Easter, much discussion in the wine world is being given over to what wines to match with either your lamb or with your chocolate treats. Maybe I’m weird but I’ve never had the urge to pair a wine with chocolate. At this point it’s worth mentioning that I’m no more than a (very) casual eater of chocolate in the first place, and that it doesn’t excite me in the way that other foods do (indeed, I still have a lot of odd chocolate still hanging around from Christmas). Thinking about it though, I don’t think the lack of pairing excitement comes from my passing liking of chocolate (I’ve considered and executed wine pairings with odd fish varieties that I’ve perhaps only had once in my life), I think it’s more about how we tend to eat chocolate, and why people would actually want to drink wine at the same time.

Now of course wine isn’t exclusively meant to be drunk at mealtimes (I’m very guilty of this!), but a lot of the point in creating a food and wine pairing as I see it, is to compliment the liquid with the food. This can help to bring out diverse characteristics in each by either matching, or by off-setting flavour components. This makes sense when thinking about how to augment starters, main courses, desserts, and cheese boards, for which wine is a potential liquid accompaniment. Obviously some puddings do feature chocolate as a partial or core ingredient, but the only place that chocolate will likely feature as a key place in a meal is with the coffee, and that’s clearly been catered for – the sweetness of the chocolate is there to juxtapose the bitterness of the coffee. After all, we don’t find ourselves expecting a wine and chocolate course at the end of dinner, do we?

In order to have a fully rounded appreciation of wine, with all the full facets and potential unearthed, I have no problem with others enjoying merging the two experiences, I’m just not sure how necessary it is. For instance, I’d be interested to know if anyone would go so far as to base their evening wine choice around such a small aspect of any menu (or treat before bedtime), or even to heading out to buy a specific chocolate because it pairs well with their Spanish Reserva?

It feels like people are trying to find the perfect wine match for any food. Take, for example, a popular food like crisps (although my wife correctly informs me that Walkers/Jacobs Creek did in fact run a crisps/wine match promo a few years back). OK, so no one has described a wine of tasting like one flavour of crisps that needs to be compared to another, as you could potentially do with chocolate characters, but it feels like you would only need to conduct such an experiment from a challenge or experience perspective. In terms of how wine will actually be drunk of an evening, is the match key?

Maybe I’m wrong, I’m missing out and I need to arrange a tasting? As a UK consumer I only own/get gifted/buy regular milk chocolate (as I suspect the majority of UK people do), rather than artisanal blends from far flung corners of the chocolate making world, each out-doing the other with increasing amounts of pure cocoa. From an academia point of view, a full range of differing chocolate versus differing wine would make an interesting piece – for example, does Argentinian chocolate go with Argentinian Malbec? Personally I don’t think it’s of any use for everyday drinking.

Perhaps the question is being asked wrong? Maybe, instead of the wine world asking “which chocolate would you pair with your wine, it should be left to the chocolate critics to ask “what wine would you pair with your chocolate?”

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