Three-quarters of Brits know very little about wine

If you’ve ever felt baffled by the array of wines on offer, you’re not alone. While people in the UK famously love their wine, many have very little understanding of the nuances of the subject. In fact, a recent report says that 75% of British people are foxed by wine and 73% admitted being confused by wine lists in restaurants.

Not confident

Six in ten people (58%) reported feeling that they don’t know enough about wine to feel confident when ordering and more than a third (36%) have no idea what they’re doing when invited to taste a wine at the table.

Typically, people in the UK spend around £25 for a bottle perfect for a dinner party, but a tenth regularly stump up £100. Despite being willing to pay a bit more, most don’t know what to choose in store, with 29% simply opting for anything on offer and 23% always sticking to wines from the same region or country. Only 18% bother to try and match the wine to food they’re eating.

Food and wine

The survey took in the wine-based opinions of 2,000 people in Britain for a Californian winery. In response to the results, wine expert Joe Wadsack from the BBC’s Food & Drink show said: “It’s amazing how far a little useful information can take you. Knowing what food tastes good with what sort of wine, and more importantly why, is very useful information to have.”

Understanding basic food and wine pairings will ensure that you will get the most enjoyment out of your dinner but will also help to avoid matches that just don’t work. Some wine and food combos clash and can make food taste strange.

Correct glasses

Some tips for wine novices include using the right glass. For examples, red wines taste smoother and breathe more easily in big bowl glasses with tall stems, while whites work better in glasses with a narrower rim and smaller bowl as they stay cool longer.

Red wine should always be served at just below room temperature to help appreciate its flavours and savour the subtle aromas. If it’s served too warm, reds can taste ‘jammy’, and not as nuanced as they should.

Don’t be put off by wines with screw tops, which are commonly assumed to be of a lesser quality, and don’t be fooled by prices going up. This doesn’t necessarily mean a better wine, it could mean it was a poorer harvest leading to fewer bottles.

Follow these simple tips and learn some basic food and wine pairings, and you’ll be able to enjoy wine to the full.

Whites to drink during a long, hot summer

It may have seemed like a heatwave to start with, but it looks like the very hot weather in the UK could be here to stay. With high temperatures forecast for the next four weeks at least, it’s time to talk refreshing whites.

Summer white wines are light and delicious, providing a nice contrast to the popular rosé. Sifting through the options available, we like to go for something light and fragrant with a hint of floral aroma.

Pairing with summer foods

Everyone needs some good white wines that go with summery food such as vegetable dishes, grilled fish and fancy salads. Particularly delicious with English peas and seasonal broad beans, white wine is the best choice for the hot months ahead.

Taking white wine with you on a picnic can be tricky, as it’s difficult to keep them cold enough, but it’s also a good idea not to over-chill the wine. At this time of year, it can be tempting to leave them in the fridge for days before drinking but, unlike with rose, white wines are often best well chilled but not ice cold.

French whites

Everyone gravitates towards big name wines such as Sancerre and Chablis, but the south of France is also a good place to look for some more individual wines. For example, Chateau Rives-Blanques Cuvee Occitania Mauzac 2016, which is made in Limoux from mauzac is a frangrantly delicious choice. Usually the mauzac is only found in local sparkling wines, so this white is a nice change, with light fruity flavours of peach and apricot working well with grilled fish.

Alternatively, a good Sauvignon Blanc from the same region does the trick. Abbots & Delaunay Les Fruit Sauvages Sauvignon Blanc packs in citrus and tropical fruit flavours with enough acidity to cut through richer dishes.

Vineyards above the village of Lagrasse turn out the Laurent Miquel Albarino with the Spanish albarino grape. Resulting in a crisp, elegant, fresh and clean flavour it goes very well with all kinds of fish and salad dishes.

Italian white

The Italian island of Sardinia is home to vineyards that make delicious wines, although they’re less well known in the UK as a rule. From up in the hills comes the Unmaredivino Terra e Mare Vermentino di Gallura, which is super refreshing with sharp apple and grapefruit flavours.

From the Italian mainland comes Sassi del Cadinale Gavi di Gavi, which is a smoky wine from the Piedmont. With lemons and spices threading through, it’s a lovely wine for seafood pasta.

Pinot Grigio is often the first choice for a summer wine and is seen as the typical Italian choice. Some people can assume it’s going to be a bland and uninteresting, but there are plenty of delicious choices around. For example. Redentore Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie is a natural wine (without sulphurs) and gives a full-flavoured, tangy taste with notes of pears and almonds. It’s great with richer cheese or fish dishes.

UK whites

Don’t forget the UK, which is well on its way to making a name for itself in the industry, particularly for sparkling and whites. Try Ortega Classic Ferment which is grown on the North Downs towards Kent. It has a depth of flavours including lychee, melon, elderflower and honeysuckle and means you can enjoy an old-fashioned hot English summer while enjoying a delicious English wine!

Who’d win a wine World Cup?

We’re well into the first part of the 2018 World Cup and will shortly move into the knock-out stages. While the world waits with bated breath to see who will lift the Jules Rimet this tournament, we started thinking about a wine World Cup…

Many of the countries in this year’s football World Cup are big wine growers, but we reckon that the final would always end up with Italy and France. These two wine growing giants cover all bases with classic and diverse wines across all price ranges. Here’s how some other countries would fare

Germany – great for dry whites

The long-standing favourites for World Cups throughout the years, Germany would do well in our wine World Cup too. Teams in Russia right now with wine credentials include South Africa, New Zealand and Italy, but Germany would get all the way to the semi-finals with their always on-form dry white wines.

Portugal – fruity flavours win through

There are 32 teams in the 2018 World Cup, and out of these, at least 20 countries have significant wine industries. These include Japan, with its subtle dry white wines made from grapes including koshu. These would definitely make it into the last 16 and the knock out-stages.

And while England’s World Cup wine might be young, it’s becoming increasingly confident with its increase in world-renowned sparkling whites and burgeoning industry.

As with football, we turn to the larger European teams for depth and strength. France includes its classic reds from the south and Portugal wins through with its fruity Ail Galeria Poetico from just south of Lisbon.

South America – close but not quite there

There are lots of challengers from South America with vastly improving wine industries in Peru and Brazil. Added to these is Argentina’s successful industry, with its deep reds such as the Angula Innocenti Cab Sauv, with its black-fruited glossy flavour.

Although these countries have some delicious wines, they can’t stand up to the sheer range that Spain offers. Australia would meet Spain in the semi-finals of the wine World Cup, before watching Italy or France triumph in the finals.

Predicting who would win the wine World Cup isn’t an exact science, but matching wines to the countries playing in the last 16 will certainly liven up the real-life tournament!

Which wines work well with veggie dishes?

While most wine pairing articles stick to the tried and true ‘red with meat, white with fish and chicken’ advice, what about veggie meals? With more people turning towards vegetarian dishes for elaborate mains, how to pair the best wine with your veggies is just as important as matching a red with your barbecue.

Should you choose red or white?

Again, unlike when pairing wines with meat dishes, there is no ‘wrong’ answer. While some people swear you should only have white with tofu and red with pasta, there really is no reason to restrict yourself.

Go with the robustness, acidity and sweetness in the wine, rather than worrying about archaic pairing rules. Maybe try a sparkling white with your tofu, or a full-bodied, heady white with your favourite pasta dish. Wine pairings can be as innovative as you like.

Don’t avoid rosè

You may instinctively shelve the rosè when looking for the perfect wine, but dry roses made from traditional red grapes like Syrah and Pinot Noir go brilliantly with all kinds of vegetarian dishes, and don’t overpower the freshness of the flavour.

Good vegetarian dishes are all about the ingredients and allow the natural flavours to come through. A good wine will help and complement the flavours and elevate the dish into something really special.

Think local

This is good advice even if you’re buying globally. Think about the kinds of foods you’re eating and remember that across Europe all wines and food grow together regionally. So, search for wines from similar regions as the food you’re cooking.

For example, a rich ragout laced with Mediterranean herbs will naturally pair beautifully with a hearty bottle from southern France, Italy or Spain. A cheese-based dish would be best served with a delicate wine from a colder growing region, including Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Having said that, don’t completely ignore Australian, South African, Argentinian or Californian wine just because you’re eating Italian or French food. Wines from similar climates as your ingredients can also work well.

Match like with like

If you’re having a three-course fancy dinner party, then go all out with the wine. But if it’s a humble evening pasta dish, then you don’t need to fork out for a vintage wine. For celebration meals, go for a finer vintage, as they stand up much better to complex flavours in food.

Also match delicate to delicate, and robust to robust. If you serve a subtly flavoured wine with a complex spicy dish, then it’s going to taste like nothing. Bold food needs a bold wine, which is why Zinfandels work so well with Mexican dishes, for examples.

There is no heritage for wines that go with Thai and Indian food, but it does go very well if you choose wisely. The ripeness and residual sugars in a sweet white wine will temper any heat and draw out other flavours in spicier dishes. For example, a German Riesling brings out the sweetness from vegetables used in Asian and Indian dishes.

Trust yourself

Don’t overthink your choice and remember that wine is very versatile. Your own built-in palate preference is just as important as expert advice, because taste is subjective with wine as it is with everything else.

Five sweet wines for Father’s Day

While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day often lend themselves to clichés when it comes to selecting wines, what about the dads who like a bit of a sweet choice for their celebratory dinner?

When you’re selecting your Father’s Day wine this weekend, maybe branch out and try something different. It can be tempting to stick to the tried and tested Cabernet Sauvignon, but a good quality sweet wine could be just the thing to make it a special occasion.

If your dad likes to enjoy a good Riesling or prefers a Fireball to a Scotch, then any of the following wines could be a good choice.

  1. Moscato d’Asti

There are generally lots of Moscato options to choose from, but Moscato d’Asti is a class above. This is because there are several kinds of grapes within the Moscato (or Muscat) family and the average bottle could incorporate any of them.

Moscato Biaco (also known as Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains) is the best and oldest grape and is the only grape used to make Mosctago d’Asti. It’s made solely in Piedmont, located in the Asti region of northern Italy. Very slightly fizzy, relatively low in alcohol and a fresh sweet flavour makes this a delicious and refreshing choice.

  1. Tawny port

Port is definitely a dessert wine, but Tawny Port combines a certain acidity and oxidised flavours that creates a wine where the sugar is present but masked. It’s a brown-tinted version of the red berry-flavoured Ruby Port and has notes of caramel, brown sugar and strawberry. Just remind dad that it’s about 20% ABV so should be enjoyed slowly!

  1. Riesling Spätlese

Riesling covers a wide range from dry to sweet, but if you look out for a Spätlese then you’ll find the best of the latter. It has the perfect amount of sweetness to go with dinner, although you could also try a slightly drier Riesling Kabinett or sweeter Auslese Riesling too.

  1. Vouvray Demi-Sec

Chenin Blanc also comes in a wide range of style, although it tends to be on the dry side rather than sweet. Some regions, including Bonnezeau and Quarts de Chaume that specialise in a good sweet version, but the best is from Vouvray in the Loire Valley. Look out for the ‘Demi-Sec’, which translates to ‘half-dry’, which is ideal for pairing with roast chicken. An even sweeter version is Vouvray Moelleux.

  1. Bugey-Cerdon

For lovers of sweet wine, the Bugey-Cerdon is one of the freshest choices. From Bugey in eastern France, it’s a sparkling rose produced in the ‘methode ancestrale’, which is a specific style of fizzy wine making. Expect a berry-flavoured, easily drinkable wine that everyone will enjoy.