Posts In: tips
March 18, 2018
Wine novice to not such a wine novice, an evolution.
As we build up to our first ever, exclusive wine event I thought it might be worth showing just how good our Sommelier Duncan is. If you have missed any of the previous posts you can find out about the main characteristics of wine and which grapes are my personal favourites.
Take little old me. A chef that was always locked in the kitchen far away from the excitement of the sommelier section. We very rarely got to try wines that complimented the food that we would work so hard to create. This meant I was developing all the skills you would expect in a Michelin Star kitchen but didn’t have clue about wine.
Fast forward to the day we opened Crockers Chef’s Table in Potten End and the introduction of Duncan Gammie from the Wine Service Trainer Co to the team. Duncan would spend time with me before we launched each new menu to go through the wines in detail and really simplify why they went together. Not only this but we would intersperse these sessions with “the basics” to build my basic knowledge. Trust me this really was the basics!
We would go through the wine making process, the most common grapes and of course we would taste them. He made it such a great learning experience that I quickly picked up the basics and went from someone with very little confidence to someone that can hold a conversation about wine. Now I’m no expert, that takes far more years to achieve but the fact is I am now so confident that I can match wines to food and also order wine with confidence when I’m out for dinner.
I’m incredibly excited to be able to offer a limited number of people the chance to experience the same rapid increase in knowledge and confidence soon. I am excited to finally announce this great opportunity in tomorrow’s post so keep an eye out for the next email.
If you have any questions about the upcoming opportunities please leave them below in the comments and I will do my best to answer them ask quickly as possible.
March 16, 2018
Our favourite grape varieties
One of the trickiest things about wine is understanding the grapes that are used. Let me get out a little disclaimer first, I still get so lost when it comes to the grapes around the world! The beauty of working in this industry and with our fantastic Sommelier Duncan is that I get to try a lot of different wines. This enables me to experience so many different grapes and see what I really like.
I thought it might be helpful and possibly interesting if I put together my favourite grapes used on their own but also blended. This is my personal choice and I’m sure we all have our favourites. I’d love to hear from you all if you have certain grapes you like in the comments below.
The superstar grape of the Piemonte region of Italy, Nebbiolo is the grape behind Barolo. It packs complex flavours and aromas like rose, cherry, truffle, tobacco and leather making it a very enjoyable drink. Nebbiolo has high tannin and acidity enabling it to be paired with some nice big flavours including roasted meats, garlic and herbs. I love a Barolo and we will certainly be seeing them again in Tring.
The darker cousin of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah is packed with antioxidants so it’s basically a health drink. Accented by blackberry, blueberry, pepper and herbs it’s a great match for red meat. Often found in the Rhone valley in France but also being produced by some fantastic New World vineyards. We sometimes have a Jim Barry Shiraz on the menu which is easily the best Shiraz(Syrah) I’ve tasted.
Pinot Noir is the lightest of the red grapes and probably my favourite wine at the moment. It’s nice and light yet packed full of amazing flavours like cherry, raspberry, vanilla and mushrooms. It does tend to spend a little bit of time in French oak which helps give it that wonderful vanilla edge. A relatively mild tannin and acidity level make it a very drinkable wine with or without food.
Oh dear another one of my favourite wines, sounds like I may have a problem. Let’s just accept I love wine. Cabernet is the totally opposite end of the scale to Pinot Noir. Big and juicy, packed with dark fruit like black cherry, black currant and blackberry it really does suit a nice juicy steak. Add in the bold tannins and it just gets better.
An often over looked wine but one that has featured on our list for a long time now, Viognier really does give amazing value for money. A nice full bodied wine with apple, citrus, pear and peach it’s one of those wines that you can easily drink with or without food. We often put it alongside a slightly more complex fish dish but it also works well with food with a little spice in it.
Oh Reisling, what did Blue Nun do to you? Much like Chardonnay this fantastic wine has been given a bad reputation by some shocking wine making practices. Did you know they aren’t all super sweet? This grape can pack some fantastic fruit flavours including apricot, peach, apple and lime making it an obvious choice for a nice light fish dish. A common scent to get from Riesling and possibly why some people get put off is petrol. Yes you heard it right, the stuff you stick in your car. Don’t let this put you off as it really is a stunning drink.
Yet another wine with a bad reputation due some dodgy techniques. Gone are the day of steeping the wine with oak chips or even adding oak essence. A good chardonnay with have great lemon, apple, pear and pineapple, followed up with vanilla, baked tarts and butter. Not all Chardonnay goes into oak either but when it does and it’s done properly it is a stunning, big, bold wine. Oh and don’t forget, that chablis and champagne you love? Yeah, that has chardonnay in it.
Known at Crockers as the white wine drinkers safe choice. We absolutely love Sauvignon Blanc and it’s wide array of flavours and scents. We have a particularly good one on at the moment from New Zealand which will be following us to Tring. Packed with lime, green apple, lemon grass and elderflower it really does tick a lot of boxes. Add in a bit of vanilla and butter if it’s spent some time in oak it really is a great rounded wine.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look into the wines that I love and we sell at Crockers. Don’t forget I want to hear what your favourite grapes are and why so please leave a comment below.
March 10, 2018
The five main characteristics of wine
Thank you so much to everyone that commented on our last post, a little favour.
The response was amazing and all your comments will really help to tailor our upcoming, exclusive experience.
We thought we’d give you a little bit of information to help when ordering and buying wines. Hopefully this little bit of knowledge may go some way to giving you all a little more confidence.
Sweetness refers to the level of residual sugar that is left in the wine after the making process. A wine that is considered dry has had all of it’s sugars converted to alcohol during fermentation. Sweet wines will have a higher level of residual sugars left in order to create a sweeter taste.
This can get a little tricky as each persons sensitivity to sweetness is different. You may have a dry wine that has spent some time in oak that some people may be able to pick up caramel notes from. This could give the impression of a slight level of sweetness in what is actually a dry wine. A common mis-conception with sweet wine is the good old Riesling. We have had plenty of guests turn their nose up because they’re used to some really sweet ones. We however tend to use quite dry variations to complement savoury dishes.
The acidity of a wine is an important part of the quality and taste of a wine. It adds a sharpness to the wine and can most commonly be identified by a tingle on the side of the tongue and a mouthwatering after taste. When we talk about a well balanced wine we refer to a wine that has acidity, sweetness and tannin in perfect harmony. If you taste a wine that makes your mouth pucker like you just licked a lemon you may want to consider a slightly high quality option.
We often use wines in the restaurant with slightly higher acid profiles, not to the level of a lemon, to complement a rich dish. If Scott creates something that has quite a lot of butter in it we use the acidity of the wine to create that mouthwatering effect. This will help cleanse the guests mouth ready to get the full taste of the next mouthful.
Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol that adds bitterness, astringency and complexity to a wine. You can expect to find most tannins in red wines although if a white wine has spent time in Oak it may have picked up some tannin. Be careful not to confuse tannin with the sweetness of the wine as tannin can be known to give a dry feeling to your mouth.
We often serve a wine high in tannin with a rich, red meat main course. This is because the tannins actually work with the meat proteins helping them break down and almost tenderise the meat further. Another lovely side effect of this interaction of meat and protein is the roasted flavour that comes from it enhancing a stunning piece of meat.
The alcohol level in the wine will greatly effect it’s character, body and ultimately it’s classification. The higher alcohol wines tend to be fortified or dessert wines with the lower options more table wines.
The alcohol content will also effect the feel of the wine when it’s in your mouth. A lower alcohol content will feel lighter, more towards that of water. A higher alcohol content will create more viscosity in the wine leading the wine coating your mouth and giving a longer finish. The alcohol content also helps us decide how to match to the food. We don’t want a high alcohol wine with a very light fish dish as it would totally over power the dish.
The body of the wine gives us a little snap shot of the wine. It reflects the grape used, the growing conditions and the production methods. A really easy way to describe the body of wine would be to think in terms of milk. A light wine would be like skimmed milk, very light. A medium body would be like whole milk and a full bodied wine would be like cream. You may even get that creamy feeling from a full bodied wine like a really good chardonnay.
Again we certainly take the body into account when matching with food. You wouldn’t want something light bodied like a Pinot Noir with a buttery steak as the wine is likely to get lost in the food.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short snippet into the main characteristics of wine. Wine is such a massive subject and this isn’t even the tip of the Iceberg. I would love to hear your comments and questions so please leave them below and I’ll reply as soon as I can.