Had some old friends up to college for dinner last night - Guest dinner in the college's v v v old dining hall is a treat I'd forgotten all about.
The food isn't bad at all - and as a "mature" student (it says so on the forms) I'm allowed to go on post-grad night which I think means it's a bit posher.
Anyhow, to business. I said when I started this blog I'd write a bit about wine and I've not done so yet. Normally because I forget what I drank once I've drunk it. Which ain't great for a wine bore in training.
Yesterday however I wrote the names of the wines on the back of a menu - thinking ahead. I've been buying pricey wine at the moment since I'm going out so little and when I do drink it's often over dinner and I want to make it worth it - and the money I save not going to the pub is therefore well spent.
I'm also trying to teach myself about wine - and it's so hard doing that when every bottle of wine for a fiver or less is branded and tastes more or less the same as another - i.e. not bad, and like it tasted last year. There's a place for it - I'll usually pick one of those up without thinking and they do the trick. But if you're trying to get a nose for different grapes, styles and so on you're basically not going to get anywhere.
I'm also only really starting out in my wine odyssey - so if you're a proper wine buff please don't scoff, just post any thoughts in the comments. We learn by doing, or in this case drinking and waffling on about it.
Wine number 1. "Wither Hills" New Zealand Pinot Noir (Oddbins)
This was a cracking wine - but you pay for it. If you really like red Burgundy and you're willing to pay for it - then get a decent red burgundy. I had this Santenay 1er Cru
a few weeks ago when myself and Emily went to London for a meal at a good friend 's. Exactly the same price (£15.99)- and a whole class of different experience.
Pinot Noir from Chile or California isn't really Pinot Noir from Burgundy - it's good, but it's not the one. I'd heard that New Zealand was the place to go if you want that authentic complexity and - and the bloke in Oddbins confirmed that in recommending this. It didn't disappoint - but then if you pay this much for a Burgundy from a good producer (Vincent Girardin, and the Borgeot brothers are the two the Oddbins people- who've not recommended a bad wine to me yet - are raving about) and you're not going to be disappointed either - and you're quite likely to get your head blown off. This didn't quite blow me away.
I loved this though - and a great way to start the meal off. Beardy oddbins man (as opposed to bedraggled oddbins man) recommended it for exactly this purpose - in that it didn't need the same breathing time as the others. Oddbins can waffle about tasting notes far better than I can - so here's what they say:
"The aromas are youthful, complex, and ever evolving in the glass. Look for aromas of ripe black cherry and rich plum, surrounded by blueberry fruit. Spice with hints of licorice and rose petal are compelled with a bouquet reminiscent of being deep in an oak forest in the Autumn."
Wine number 2 is a Chianti Rufina; 'Castello di Nippozano' Riserva Frescobaldi
This came highly highly recommended by beardy oddbins man. Frankly most of the time I've had Chianti it's reminded me a little bit of Haze or Glaze or whatever that airfreshener is called. Very herby and perfumey but none of the oomph you really want from a good red. I was willing to try something new however - I'd had a very drinkable Chianti in Leeds at the beloved's parents (although it was a very Chianty Chianti and hence controversial) and was therefore open to persuasion.
This did the trick - it had all the flowery nonsense I expected but was also really well rounded and flavoursome. I really enjoyed it . But again, I'd go back to the price (£11.99). At the end of it all I could probably have got a reasonable Claret for the price (not a great one - but a decent one) and it would probably have given me more pleasure - but then I'm not really being fair on the wine since that's just what I like. And an Aussie Shiraz for that price (or even less, like this Swan Bay
one for £7.99 which I had in January) would have got me more excited - at least given me the proper "wine tingle" which this didn't.
But if you're a Chianti fan then you'd love this as it's got everything - flowery nonsense and proper grown up wine taste. And I'm probably being unfair since it came after the cracking first wine. So, for those who want a more professional description (if nonsensical) Oddbins says:
"Intensely perfumed with aromas of redcurrant, chocolate and spice. Smooth, finely structured and very long."
And it's won all kinds of awards and stuff.
If you're looking for a wine that's decent value but will go down well over the dinner table you could do worse than go for La Chasse du Pape, Cotes du Rhone
. One of my friends picked up from somewhere where he claimed it was on offer - he had Oddbins plastic bags with him but I can't find it on their website so maybe it was all an elaborate double bluff. It's eminently drinkable- but I have no idea how much it was. But it's on offer. Somewhere.