So I have a friend who loves French wine, in fact if it says Bordeaux on it then all the better. They’ll cope with Spanish too if it comes to it but France is really where it’s at. And so I’ve taken it upon myself to slowly and gently try to find wines from around the world that they might like.
As with all things the key has been to try to get to grips with why they like French wine, what is it that makes it stand out and what is it that turns them off New World wines in particular.
So the first thing is that they don’t want something too overtly filled with fruit – I get that there are plenty of people who don’t want that sort of wine, and the alcohol needs to be kept in balance too. What they are looking for is structure, they don’t realise it but the texture of the wine, its tannic structure, mouthfeel, the amount of glycerol in the wine are all important factors to them. They want a wine whose fruit is natural and fresh not baked or jammy or dried in style. And because of all these things they’ve ended up tarring all New World wines with one brush. And it’s a fair point because when they gave up on New World wines the first time around that is exactly what most of them were like.
Of course my job is made harder because my friend doesn’t actually realise what it is that they’re looking for, it’s complex but it makes sense and there are rules to follow and now that I’ve understood them it makes it interesting to find new and exciting things for them to try. It could very easily open up a whole world of wine to them – which is exciting.
It’s been a great process for me too, I have had to understand more about wine than I have before in order to get to grips with why they have likes and dislikes – I couldn’t ask them because the vagaries are such that they probably didn’t understand them all. And yet what they want is not random it holds together as an argument and it is easy to see how they have ended up only drinking wines from north western europe and France particularly.
There are certain places I’m never going to go with them, Barossa is one – wrong flavour profile and Chile is another – it lacks the texture they seem to prefer in a red wine. But there are loads of opportunities to seek out more and more wines for them – and I love it.
I started them off in Tasmania where Jansz NV had them purring in delight – and then moved off to Stellenbosch and put a glass of Meerlust Rubicon 2006 decanted for several hours in front of them -and it was delicious. Purer fruit than many clarets – but they didn’t object to that, a little more alcohol too – not a problem. But what they found was texture, acidity, minerality, complexity, a touch of green bell pepper or tomato leaf, cigar box and fantastic length. In other words everything that good modern Bordeaux is – it clearly wasn’t modern Bordeaux but my friend did like it!