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Choosing wine: advice from Will

Following on from our recent how to choose wine for your wedding article, we’ve come up with a choosing wine Q&A with our beverage manager, Will Irvine. If you’re new to wine or would just like some handy tips, this is the article for you.

1. I am new to wine; how do I choose a good bottle?

My advice would be try lots of different grapes or blends and make a note of the ones you like (and the ones you don’t). Companies such as Naked Wines will send cases of mixed wines they themselves have picked – it’s a useful way to try new styles if you don’t really know where to start. Every palate and wallet is different so I’d suggest being as adventurous as both of those will allow.

2. Which are the most popular white wine choices and why?

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been dominating the white wine market for at least a decade now, although the last few years have seen Picpoul, Albariño and most recently Vinho Verde each have a summer in the spotlight. All this suggests a real thirst for fruit driven, fresh, uncomplicated white wines which are approachable but, most importantly, simply a pleasure to drink.

3. How do I go about choosing a good red wine?

Red wine generally costs more to make and therefore I think it’s worth spending a bit more than you would on a white wine to find a good one. If I’m at a restaurant I’ll always bend the ear of the waiter – there are usually gems on a wine list that are often missed. If you’re lucky enough to live near a wine shop, go in and explain to the staff what you like and ask what they would recommend.

4. What would your recommendations be for wine and pairing food?

Are there any ‘must-have’ combinations? My personal favourite pairing at the moment is Syrah with spicy food such as a curry – it shouldn’t work but it does! In terms of ‘must haves’, it’s very hard when tucking into a steak to not crave a glass of a full-bodied red. Oh, and don’t forget a fuller bodied white wine when it comes to pork or chicken.

5. I’m a vegetarian – what would be your advice on the best wine for non-meat dishes?

More often than not, a light, dry rosé will pair very well with vegetarian dishes. A glass of fizz will also usually pair well. If you’re going for a red, Beaujolais all the way.

6. Typically, how much should a quality glass of red/white wine cost?

This is a tricky one to answer as each venue will have a different mark up and price point. Very broadly speaking, if it’s a quality glass you’re after, I’d say £7 -£11 for 175ml is fairly standard.

7. In your opinion, what qualities should I look for in a Champagne?

For me, it’s all about balance. Champagne has the most incredible acidity of any wine but this has to be balanced with a creaminess and smoothness of bubbles and palate. If your Champagne tastes austere or harsh, something is out of balance.

8. Can you recommend any alternatives to Champagne for those who want to try some ‘fizz’ but prefer to avoid Champagne?

If you’re avoiding Champagne (understandably) because of the price tag, try Cava – from Catalonia in Spain, it’s made the same way as Champagne and can offer great value for money, as does MCC Sparkling wine from South Africa. However, if you’re after something a bit simpler and fruiter, then Prosecco is always a crowd pleaser.

9. Which wines would you pair with seasons?

Which are best to enjoy in the winter and summer and why? Seasonal wines tend to reflect the characteristics of the particular season’s food. For example in Summer we tend to prefer lighter, fresher dishes such as salads or seafood which pair brilliantly with lighter wines such as unoaked whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio) or a rosé. Winter dishes tend to be richer and heavier and demand the same from their wine pairings so the wines don’t get ‘lost’. Medium or full bodied reds and whites tend to pair better with robust, winter dishes.

10. Which wine makes for a perfect present and why?

If you can, secretly find out in advance what the recipients favourite wine is and give them that – and if it’s a belter hope they open it and share it with you!

If you’re looking for a exclusive venue space, in the heart of London and customisable to your exact requirements to make your private dinner, exhibition or awards dinner truly memorable, choose The Grubstreet Author. We know great wine, amazing food and will host an incredible event for you. Find out more about the wines available, chosen by our experts, and contact us to find out more about what we offer.