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Issue 8; Not Quite a Sommelier

By T W Coombs

As the title suggests the next 700 words or so will be about wine, mostly my journey of wine with some of my favourites thrown in, also a great way to track your wine journey using your phone. 

Wine was always that thing my parents drank and my father made to varying success, it was dry and horrid through the 80’s and just not liked when we were indulging our alcopop 90’s.  And I didn’t get a taste for wine until my late twenties and my tastes have improved over this time.  Now 10 years on and the lack of cigarettes has really helped me taste wine.  Now I am no sommelier but I have tasted bad cheap wine, nice expensive wine, horrid expensive wine and really nice cheap wine, so I now know what I like and what I don’t.

Wine, like Gin and Craft Beer has had a resurgence in this new Hipster fuelled society. With people earning more once again and less worried about spending it, more local wine shops and merchants have opened up (see here) who are offering a great selection of old world and new world wines.  And you can find some real gems here and if you really like it then buy a few, it is not everlasting.

Over the last three months I have discovered even more about wine thanks to a friend and it is amazing how many types of grape there are and what it changes in flavours.  If you venture out of the realms of supermarkets the choice is just staggering, how our taste buds have been curbed by the growth of such large stores.  We are venturing into a difference price range, a £11 plus bottle of wine will be much better than the something the same price in a supermarket, this is due to the way these stores work out their pricing and if you are happy with a £3 to £5 bottle from Tesco then that is up to you, but you are certainly missing out.  I have discovered many different varieties outside of the standard fair.  We all know a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay etc, but Chasselas from Switzerland? No me neither until I tried ‘Le Chasselas Selection Villette Grand Cru 2015, made in Lavaux.  So light and crisp but with strong flavours, it is not a bottle to start with but a great wine.  Also Dolcetto, which I drank a nice bottle by Prunotto, the d’Alba Classici 2015, this is basically like liquid jam with tannin's, but nothing too heavy, this is not a basic Red from the shelf but only about £13.50 max a bottle.  My favorite white has to be the Semillon from Lapostelle (pictured at top), the big producer and oldest in Argentina, it is a must, the 2014 is just outstanding and highly recommended. When it comes to grapes, Italy alone has 900 indigenous grape varieties, which is staggering and is one country.

When you walk into the world of wine it is a bit daunting, plus you will hear a whole cacophony of nonsense coming from the so called wine snob, we all know one, all you have to remember that they less than you as you slowly put your knowledge base together.  Just remember that even top tasters and sommelier’s still drink what they like, it is not down to price or prestige, I had a rare vintage once, and let’s just say I have better wine that has been in the fridge open for 4 days. If you want to go all out and learn in a class environment there are a few places that do courses on wine, from level one sommelier which is a shorter course up to full sommelier status, needed if you want to go into this world for work. Also many books on the subject, Berry Bros. & Rudd do a really good book and also run courses, check these out at, they also hold tutored tasting events throughout the year.

If you are anything like me and have trouble remembering the wine, grape, region that you liked and end up with something you haven’t tried before and don’t like because you were sure this was the one you liked then look no further than app Vivino, available on Android and iPhone.  This app has been my saviour, with its vast database linked in, it is the Facebook for wine drinkers.  It works so simply, take a picture of the label/list and the app will search out all the information you need, average price, what others say about it and what grape it is and everything else you may need to know.  It is very clever and also allows you to rate the wines yourself which is the way I am most grateful for this app.  I can rate the wines I like, so when it comes round to buying some for the home cellar (cupboard) then I can easily bring it up on the app to tell the merchant for shop owner what I am after.  It does make you seem like you know exactly what you are talking about, rather than the “now what was it called, it was Red” which is how many buying trips have started, helpful this is not.

So if like a drop of wine, get out of your comfort zone and head out into this world of wine which is much more open than is used to be, and new drinkers are always more than welcome.