This time of year I usually start my blog with “it was a cold, windy, rainy night in Edinburgh” but on this occasion, that’s just not true. It’s been an absolutely stunning day in Edinburgh, feeling almost summer in warmth (Scottish summer I hasten to add).
We’re expecting J&J for dinner, they’ve been numerous times before, you may remember J1’s comment I posted on my blog back in September last year when we had a Sauternes with desert.
"It's like drinking apricot juice but boozy with honey"
J1 lived in Spain for a number of years and she loves Rioja (red Rioja) and although she would like to try other wines, she finds the choice overwhelming and has found it difficult to find alternatives she likes. Now, when she’s out buying red wine, she spends 10 minutes looking at the shelves but still ends up picking a Rioja...!
I sent out an SOS on Twitter asking for suggestions of alternatives to Rioja. @thefinewineman suggests a Tempranillo, a safe bet sticking with a Spanish grape. @WineUnearthed comes back with the suggestion of a New World alternative, perhaps a Barossa Valley Shiraz from a good producer, which gives me an idea.
There’s a knock at the door, they’re on time. I open the door and a bottle of red is thrust into my hand, for once it’s not a Rioja! J1 grins and says “I took your advice, so you can blame the guy in the off-licence if it’s awful. He recommended it.”
I’ve picked up a bottle of Lindauer (on offer in Waitrose just now) to go with the crab cake starter, this goes down well, but it’s not red and therefore we can’t compare it to a Rioja. Cava is mentioned once or twice.
We discuss the importance of having a good wine merchant. J1 is a great cook and believes in sourcing the best ingredients for her culinary experiments, using the knowledge of a local butcher or fishmonger to enhance a menu. Buying wine should work in much the same way. Small independent wine merchants are able to offer a more diverse selection of wine, and like the butcher, give background and provenance on the producer, whilst at the same time opening you up to more interesting flavours.
We’ve got neck of lamb stack for the main course in a light fruity jus. I’ve got a bottle produced by @teusnerwine called Joshua (2005) it’s a Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz blend, I’ve been saving it for just this type of occasion.
Although it’s less fruity and more full bodied than a Rioja, J1 likes it. It’s a food wine and a great match for the lamb. The aromas of red current and green pepper give way to more black fruit flavours on the palate, but the black pepper persists through out. I tracked this wine down after coming across @teusnerwine on Twitter. Spotted in Harvey Nichols one Saturday afternoon at £18, but this is probably not the best price on the market.
Over the main course the conversation turns towards how with a bit of practice and help you will learn what you like and what you don’t, what to look for on a label (and what to avoid) and how to be smarter in your wine choice.
There are film and book critics that I agree with and some that I don’t, I view wine critics in much the same way.
J1 doesn’t have the time to invest in gaining expert knowledge about wine, so I suggest she finds a good wine merchant and to give them a chance to learn what she likes, if they’re good they’ll move on to challenge her palate. J1 spends a lot of time on-line so by reading reviews in the press, bloggers online and tweeters alike to share their knowledge and listen to recommendations.
In return the least they can do is provide an honest and independent view on the wines they have tasted/write about.
For you chance to meet UK wine bloggers why not attend The Wine Gang Christmas Fair, November 7th, 2009 at Vinopolis. Check out the blog entry for this too.
You can learn what motivates bloggers to go to the efforts of maintaining a blog, usually for no reward (except appearing at wine tastings) and what their particular passion is. It is an easy way to find some great new sources of wine information to complement your own wine buying research and maybe even new friends to share experiences with.
Perhaps you'll find that special wine for the festive season.
If your a UK wine blogger and would like the chance to be a part of the Wine Gang's Christmas Fair then check out the competition on the Wine Conversation blog
A few suggestion of wine merchants in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Wine Merchants (part of Cambridge Wine Merchants)
30B Raeburn Place
Tel: 0131 343 2347
The Great Grog
GREAT GROG Retail Shop
2 Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 667 2855
For a good selection of Italian wines:
Valvona & Crolla
19 Elm Row
Edinburgh EH7 4AA
Tel: 0131 556 6066
For a good selection of Californian wines:
91 St. Leonards Street
Edinburgh EH8 9Q
Tel: 0131 668 4207
109 Comiston Road,
Edinburgh EH10 6AQ
Tel: 0131 447 8580