The first rule of wine club is… there are no rules. Wine is here to be enjoyed, talked about, and, most importantly, drunk. The state of the wine industry over the last thousand years has, however, instilled the thought that wine is something of a secret, reserved only for those who know enough about it.
Thanks to this idea, many people are put off delving into wine. Maybe the indecipherable wine lists in restaurants, dozens of grape varietals and wine terms, and complicated wine labels have intimidated your wine ego – before you moved over to the beer section. After all, beer doesn’t judge you.
There’s only one person your choice of wine should delight – and that’s you
Despite being a self-professed wine geek, I won’t deny that the industry comes with a certain degree of snobbery. But that’s changing. A new breed of wine hero is emerging – from the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, to Cathy Marston (with her awesome book Love Your Wine) and the Young Gun winemakers. Wine writer Ryan Opaz echoes my thoughts exactly when he says, ‘Who should care what you’re drinking? Only you should!’ in this brilliant blog on Medium.
Here’s the thing: there’s nothing to get when you’re drinking wine. Sure, wine is a bottomless and ever-expanding pit of knowledge (part of why I love it), but all that knowledge is optional. And anyone who sneers at your choice or opinion of a wine just doesn’t get the point.
How to select wine to make it appear as if you know everything about wine
It’s taken me over a decade of drinking wine, several wine qualifications and a lot of learning to finally get to the point where I can confidently peruse and choose from a wine list. If you had a Merlot last week and enjoyed it, try a different Merlot. If you enjoyed that Sauvignon Blanc from a specific wine farm, try another wine from the same farm, or same region. Or you could choose one at random and see what happens.
How to drink wine to make it appear as if you know everything about wine
I’m not going to tell you how to drink your wine – if you feel like mixing it with coke, or adding ice cubes to your port: do it! I will offer some advice on how to really savour wine. Before taking a swig, have a quick look and smell of your wine, taking note of any remarkable aromas. Then dive in and get tasting. As well as noticing how your wine tastes, notice how it feels. Is it full-bodied? Is it tannic (does it dry your mouth)? Of course, all this ritualistic tasting is also optional. If you prefer your wine mainlined straight into your stomach, go wild.
With that, I’ll leave you with a few amazing wines I’ve drunk over the last few weeks:
Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2015
This wine (along with Graham Beck’s Waterside Chardonnay) has persuaded me not to write off all unwooded Chardonnays. Delicious and balanced, with an ever-so-slight creaminess to go with the lively apple and peach aromas, this wine is a steal at R69.
Altydgedacht Merlot 2014
Like Limestone Hill, this wine has also changed my mind about a type of wine I was quick to dismiss – single varietal Merlots. American oak (as opposed to French oak, which a large portion of SA winemakers favour) gives this lively fruit-concentrated Merlot a decent body and an awesomely sweet, nutty finish.
Welgemeend Sauvignon Blanc 2015
I was surprised that this Sauvignon Blanc from Paarl was as young as it is. The acid has mellowed out to make it a delicate alternative to the many eye-watering Sauvignon Blancs out there. The flavour intensity is also subtle, with a touch of smokiness. If you don’t usually like Sauvignon Blanc, or want a change from all the generic ones, try this. Serve very cold.
Fryer’s Cove Pinot Noir 2013
Whenever I buy Pinot Noir, I have an image in my mind about how I want it to be. Sometimes I get lucky; most of the time I have to make do with reality. This one is pure perfection. It’s light bodied, but not too light bodied. Its fruitiness is fresh, but not too ripe. And it’s got those meaty, leathery aromas that I think complete a Pinot Noir.
MAN Vintners Pinotage 2014
Pinotage is another grape that’s a bit hit-or-miss with me. Sometimes it’s too jammy and ‘sweet’ (even though it’s a dry wine, with little residual sugar). But once again, I had my prejudices reversed after tasting MAN Vintner’s Pinotage. This is more akin to a Pinot Noir (one of Pinotage’s parents); deeper in flavour, but just as refined.
Nitida Coronata Integration 2014
Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (the white Bordeaux blend) are a satisfying double act. Sauvignon Blanc gives sprightliness and acidity while Semillon gives weight and a touch of grandeur. Usually, the two wines are made and matured separately, and then blended and bottled. Not this one. The two varietals are fermented together, creating a wonderfully integrated wine (the clue is in the name).