How very Guardian

Back to basics: what wines can’t you do without?
If you had to pare down your wine selection to just a few staples, what would you choose?

Wine. Staples. Britain.

It’s easy to see why recipes with a limited number of ingredients are winners, and that definitely applies to cocktail recipes more than most – who on Earth has the inclination, time or budget these days to be a mixologist on top of everything else? But what about wine? Is it a bonus to limit the number of different wines you drink?

Not for readers of this column, I suspect, who thrive on the new and unfamiliar, but we all need staples in our lives.

I’d suggest everyone needs an everyday red and an everyday white – that is, something you can enjoy and pour without breaking the bank.

Everyday.

Yes, I know wine has become more popular these days, no longer just an upper middle class thing. But it dopes nicely show that the Guardian is the upper middle classes thinking about the proletariat rather than actually for the proletariat, doesn’t it?

54 comments on “How very Guardian

  1. “The pale, pretty, strawberry- and cream-scented Co-op Irresistible Eight Acres Sparkling Rosé (12.5%), from the Balfour Hush Heath Estate, is really delicious and, for English fizz, good value at £18.”

    Only the best is good enough for the workers. Shouldn’t she be recommending £90 fizz from Fortnum and Mason? Or £200 shampoo from Horrids? Or ……

  2. On the next page, without irony, there will doubtless be another article about why everyone should drink less.

    Or is that just aimed at the beer-swilling proles?

  3. Make the twats drink Juice of Crushed Grasshoppers –since that is the fate they have planned for us.

    Or maybe just bash them, take everything they have and deport them with only the clothes they stand up in –remember the beginning of the Papillon movie?–to their beloved EU.

    I’m sure Molenbeek has lots of room.

  4. Großer – I’d nominate a piece on how a family of four limits its use of fresh water for washing to a sungle litre per week.

  5. Good premier cru burgundy, white and red. 2012 for red, 2014 for white. Failing that Kumeu River NZ Chardonnay Mate’s Vineyard and a decent 2010 Brunello.

  6. I find I get the DT’s if deprived of coffee made with beans passed through a feline’s anus.

    How dare thick racist northeners threaten supply lines by their Brexit obssession.

  7. @Bloke in Germany – September 14, 2019 at 9:19 am

    Or is that just aimed at the beer-swilling proles?

    As the great Fabian, George Bernard Shaw explained – “I’m only a beer teatotaller, not a champagne teetotaller”.

  8. Everyday wines… Berry Bros extra-ordinary claret is a staple, as is their equivalent white. Sunday lunch usually rates a decent Burgundy. I struggle to see much beyond France these days, though have taken to a sub-£30 pinot noir from California. The only fizz I drink is Pol Roger, preferably the 2008.

  9. Well, well, well. Waitrose has a selection of cheap-end own-brand wines at £4.99 a bottle, some of which tastes better than stuff 4 or 5 times as expensive, so not out of reach of all but the poorest. (I rate the Aussie red better than the Italian, but the Italian for the white).

    If you go to a restaurant you may be asked for £20-£30 a bottle for stuff that retails at £8, and the house wines are likely to be cheaper than that, so too much restaurant dining skews your perception of what the stuff costs.

  10. Thing I’ve learned over the years. Most people know sweet f**k all about wine. If you happen to come into possession of what is considered “a good wine “, keep the bottle. Now you can decant any old shit into it. Helps if it’s right colour. The “experts” will exclaim how good it is.& how they would never drink the stuff they’re currently drinking..
    Am I an expert on wine? Of course I am. Few years ago enjoyed a bottle of Margeaux at Margeaux. According to what I paid for it, it was a good year. My opinion? It was definitely red.

  11. Hint (from a Savoy barman): a teaspoonful of creme de cassis in a bottle of red plonk will have the bien pensants extolling your great knowledge and taste.

  12. One of the nicest wines I have drunk was a litre (shared) of local house red in a restaurant in France a couple of years ago, 6€.

  13. The one in Entre Deux Mers, Tim. A short drive from where I was living in Bordeaux. My french spelling is atrocious, because mostly I’ve learned the language it by listening to it, not out of books. Doesn’t stop me finding La Porge, though. Probably one of the best beaches in Europe.
    And one of the more famous labels comes from a field, back of a Total gas station on the highway. Presumably the constant diesel fumes wafting over the vines adds to the bouquet. .

  14. @Fatmatt
    Creme de cassis! In red! Whatever floats yer boat, I s’pose. Rest of us prefer creme de mure (Without looking it up, I believe the result’s called a communard. Not saying I’ve ever heard anybody order one as that. Maybe in Paris they do. Different country)

  15. Well, I must be a pleb then. Chilean Cab Sauvignon or Carmenère, or Sainso’s do a Californian Cab Sauvignon that I like too.

  16. “My french spelling is atrocious”

    “Entre Deux Mers”

    And geography – Left bank? 🙂

    Agree with the rest – hugely diminishing returns (re price) at that kind of level. It’s far more fun coming across some wonderfully quaffable plonk at a bargain price.

  17. “Kumeu River NZ Chardonnay Mate’s Vineyard”: my pocket doesn’t run to good burgundies but my birthday treats do run to Kumeu River. I just want everyone to know that it’s absolute piss and they should on no account seek it out and drive the price up.

  18. P.S. The Co-op’s Argentine Fairtrade Malbec 2017 at £7.50 is a decent drop and well suited to the labouring classes.

    Their Chilean Carmenere at £6 leaves me less impressed.

    Has anyone got any Aldi recommendations?

  19. On the road wanders up the Gironde side of the peninsular. If you see the Citadel de Blaye on the other bank, you missed it. About half an hour if you’re coming from La Bastide. Who needs geography?

  20. Find the places with the right geographical conditions to produce wine, with the lowest labour rates, and where the region has little cache. Then buy good from that area.

    Champagne has roughly the same conditions as the Loire Valley, the Jura and Stuttgart. So, applying the same labour in the Jura produces wine as good as Champagne, but without the name premium.

    Chilean cabernet is better value than Bordeaux because it’s Chileans driving the tractors and they get paid less.

    The only reason to buy stuff like Champagne, Burgundy or Bordeaux is if you’ve got mad money to spend, because the rest of the world still aren’t making stuff as good as Ducru-Beaucaillou and Belle Epoque.

  21. When I lived in Austria ( I really must change my name, it’s been years now) my blood was 2/3 Gruner Veltliner and the rest was dunklesbier. We lived near a vineyard that supplied it at 3 Reichsmarks a litre and it was sublime. The best GV comes from Langenlois. Majestic (if you can find any open nowadays) sell Wachau Domain. a sort of co-op wine, which is also excellent. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose get theirs from the “wrong” bank of the Danube and it shows.

  22. It’s less the guys on tractors as the guys at the top of the food chain, with wine making expertise. Pol Roger, for instance, tends to be more consistent in their blend. It is true the business has become one of ‘mad money’ with most top quality wines outside the price range of Mr Everyman. Generic ‘entry wines’ begin at circa £40/bot these days. Quality white Burgundy is nearer £60/bot. I recently drank two bottles of Rioja that retail at £220/bot and wouldn’t repeat the exercise.

  23. My opinion of wines is that if you want to do the whole wine tasting thing, breakfast on dry bread, wash the palate with the piss of virgins, spit don’t swallow (which I’ll leave to your imagination) there probably is quite lot of different between wines. But for practical purposes, what you are or not eating with it, the ambience under which you’re drinking & above all your expectations colour the experience. I have a pal, owns a well recommended & pricey restaurant. The scoff’s excellent. His often complimented upon house red is cheap re-labled plonk from the wine suppliers. It’s not bad. He drinks it, I drink it. The expensive wines on the wine list are for the mugs.

  24. Will skip the virgin piss, thanks. I’ve learnt not to ruin good wine with food. Conversely, food is most usually enhanced by wine. Some wines, particularly the heavier sort of red – Hermitage, for instance – need a giant roast to see them off (am roasting a 3.0k joint this afternoon). Agree that restaurant wines are tres expensive, although most establishments go the extra mile to stock that suited to the cuisine. Restaurant food and wine remains a sideshow for me, in that it’s primarily about the company and conversation. Am certainly no expert despite having friends in the business, albeit have been drinking the stuff on a regular basis since the mid-70s and am fortunate in being able to indulge myself. Many well-heeled friends never moved on from the ubiquitous house red/white and are quite happy. Each to their own.

  25. Bernie G,

    “It is true the business has become one of ‘mad money’ with most top quality wines outside the price range of Mr Everyman. Generic ‘entry wines’ begin at circa £40/bot these days. Quality white Burgundy is nearer £60/bot. I recently drank two bottles of Rioja that retail at £220/bot and wouldn’t repeat the exercise.”

    This is why I’ve gone new world on the quality stuff. £25 gets me a really good NZ Pinot Noir. I’m guessing you probably need to spend £40+ in Burgundy, because I stopped when I tried an unspectacular £30 one.

  26. The Woodbridge brand, from California, is a good, reliable daily wine. Runs $10 for 1.5 liter and its available in most grocery stores in the US.

  27. “Has anyone got any Aldi recommendations?”

    It’s almost ever white wine, but…

    It depends on how well the years’ harvest on the central european plain has been, but to keep stuff Exclusive, a lot of overproduction from prime vinyards gets bought up in bulk, blended, cartoned, and shipped off to Aldi/Lidl.

    It’s a matter of sampling the batches, but there’s some *very* decent whites to be had off the Aldi shelves. For next to nothing.

  28. bloke in spain,

    “But for practical purposes, what you are or not eating with it, the ambience under which you’re drinking & above all your expectations colour the experience.”

    Absolutely. I still think spending a bit more for something really good can be worthwhile, but with all the extra variables, you probably don’t notice the difference between a £25 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and a £90 Vacheron Sancerre.

    Wine price rises are a diminishing return. Like, sports cars or headphones. It’s definitely worth spending £2 more per bottle than cheapest. The next £2 is an improvement, but less so. By the time you’re past £30, it’s almost nothing.

  29. Occasionally I treat myself and my lady friend to a stupidly expensive slap-up.

    A memorable occasion in the recent past was at the daftly named Pollen Street Social. There was a sommelier, who knew what he was about. The reason I know this is that he recommended two different wines for two different courses, and not only did they enhance the courses, but they did so in precisely the way he’d said they would. The wine and the food were better for each other. And bought by the glass, too. What’s more, he was English.

    It was a bit of an eye-opener, since my last run-in with a sommelier was 15 or more years ago at an ad hoc dining club with friends who were as drunk as I was. I think it was at the original Ivy. The poor bastard was overdoing it a bit in the French high camp stakes, so we gave him the run around. He might have been forgiven if he spat in our glasses before serving.

    Naturally, I drove home from Pollen Street.

  30. Well, well, well. Waitrose has a selection of cheap-end own-brand wines at £4.99 a bottle, some of which tastes better than stuff 4 or 5 times as expensive, so not out of reach of all but the poorest.

    The Sainsbury’s own brand Shiraz at that price isn’t bad either. Certainly if you’ve killed you’re pallet with a couple of beers first.

    I’m rather partial to a decent Argentinian Melbec, especially with a good steak or beef joint. Anything north of £8 is usually OK and over £12 is getting very good.

    I haven’t found a cheap white I like, probably because I’ve been spoiled by being introduced to NZ Sauvignon Blanc’s, with Nobilo being my favourite. I can’t stand oaked wines, especially Chardonnay.,

    I’m a member of the Wine Society and get a regular delivery of their selected wines, its a great way to find wines I haven’t tried.

  31. A memorable occasion in the recent past was at the daftly named Pollen Street Social. There was a sommelier, who knew what he was about. The reason I know this is that he recommended two different wines for two different courses, and not only did they enhance the courses, but they did so in precisely the way he’d said they would. The wine and the food were better for each other.

    I had a similar experience in a small hotel on the French side of the Swiss border, close to Geneva and in Piedmont. In Piedmont the chef came out with each course and talked about the food and wine and why he had chosen them. Both were completely random finds I’ll never find again. Neither were particularly expensive.

  32. “Been drinking it for over 20 years. Really good stuff.”

    There was a Martinborough Riesling I thought the world of. Then the swine stopped exporting it to Britain. Margrain – also a nice spot to spend the night.

    If you see it on your travels, pounce.

  33. “There was a Martinborough Riesling I thought the world of. Then the swine stopped exporting it to Britain. Margrain – also a nice spot to spend the night.”

    We’re heading towards the Mosel are in early October in the camper van, duly noted.

  34. “There was a Martinborough Riesling I thought the world of. Then the swine stopped exporting it to Britain. Margrain – also a nice spot to spend the night.”

    We’re heading towards the Mosel area in early October in the camper van, duly noted.

  35. White wine: Louis Jadot Macon Villages. Exported to Texas it’s become more expensive over the years and is now around $12. So ten quid or less.

    Red wine: there’s a bunch of no known name Pinot noirs from Burgundy – entirely drinkable – at about the same price in the Austin area wine shops.

    The local wine chain had some surprisingly good Pommard for $35 a while back from a grower I’d never heard of; wandering through Beaune the other day, there was their shop! Bloody eck! No, didn’t buy any.

    In Normandy we seem to be subsisting on the nicer Beaujolais – fleurie and Julienas, all direct from the shelves of Carrefour. Plus others that catch the eye. A for special occasions Gevrey-Chambertin was only 25 euros or so, while a similarly priced Aloxe-Corton and a Pommard were real disappointments. Buy one, giggle it down; if twere good buy what they’ve got, else, hey, learning process….

  36. Late to the party here, but I must third Ken and dearieme on Kumeu River wines. I visited the winery earlier this year and loved all their wine, esp the single vineyard chardonnays.

    I was generally blown away by the quality of vin de Kiwi. Ironically, I can still take or leave their sauvignons, but they make some astounding chardonnays, pinots and Syrahs. And before visiting I had drunk very little.

    Which just goes to show the pointlessness of the article. Variety is the spice of life. Drink more wines.

    And spend more on it if you’re drinking at home. If you are OK with spending £20 for a bottle of pub plonk, spend £20 on something half-decent and drink it at home. In places like the UK, where tax makes up a big chunk of the price of a cheap bottle of wine, spending a bit extra is definitely worth it.

  37. Variety is the spice of life. Drink more wines.

    Hear, hear, especially if they are neither French nor German. Because of the Bruxelles Reich.

  38. I recently drank two bottles of Rioja that retail at £220/bot

    I’m a Rioja fan – I like big, oaked reds – but even Castillo Ygay is under £100, unless you’re talking about 1950s or ’60s vintages.

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