Bored of Pinot?
Love a cheeky vino but feel you're stuck in a rut? I hear you, sister. Jump off the Pinot-Sauv BlanC bandwagon and uplevel wine o'clock.
Whether you’re a oenophile (ooh get me with my fancy words… I googled it, it means wine expert), a wino, or just look forward to a glass of vino of an evening, the chances are you’ll be drinking the same old, same old. Dare I say it, stuck in wine rut. We are creatures of drinking habit, but before you jump back on the Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon merry-go-round, we thought we’d have a nose at alternatives. Change it up a bit.
We grabbed our corkscrew and met up with Andy Rogers, owner of Bar Fifty Six in Wokingham (he opened his rather cool bar on Rose Street two years ago) to sample the goods. Bar Fifty Six transformed an old man’s boozer into a rather a hip hangout – and they have 56 delcious wines on their heavily researched, ever-evolving list that may entice you to try something new. So over to you Andy, pop that cork, pass the Ibuprofen, let’s hit the cellar…
Take the poshness and pretension out of wine and you start to realise you’re just dealing with a grape, but it’s how it’s used that counts. Champagne is just Chardonnay, as is Chablis and the ABC days “Anything But Chardonnay” are long behind us, and yet it’s still unpopular. How did we go from Chardonnay to Pinot Grigio and now to NZ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc anyway? Why is South Africa considered the finest wine region in the world, yet people have more faith in a Margaux from Bordeaux, for twice the price, or a St Emillion? So many questions. None of us want to look stupid in-front of our mates, colleagues or the sommelier, so we stick to what we know. Not any more.
If you’re a lover of the easy drinking, fruity Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp, dry Pinot Grigio, the easy answer is to play around and find out what you like. Wine fashionistas will try to push you far beyond your comfort zone, but I think you’ll love a crisp cold Gewürztraminer – the Chilean Adobe Gewurztraminer is a corker, a rich full bodied organic wine, with lovely pear, apricot and peach aromas.
Alternatively travel towards a steely German Riesling with its very dry fruit bass, however this is not to everyone’s taste but if you like it, you’ll love it. Try Jordan ‘The Real McCoy’ Riesling, with its intense lemon-lime flavours and crisp fruitiness.
If that’s too far off beam, choose a traditional Sancerre, we stock the delicious Sancerre Domaine Cherrier from France, it’s crisp and dry like a Pinot Grigio, but beautifully constructed with citrus, gooseberry and very low sulphides. A brilliant, great value vino.
Reds are not just a winter tipple, some red wines are lovey to drink slightly chilled in the sunshine. Get away from the Merlot and Malbec this year and start expanding your knowledge. A great alternative would be an amazing Cote du Rhone – soft, subtle and less heady than many Merlots or Malbec’s, this is a firm favourite with Bar Fifty Six management. We serve Cotes du Rhone la Fleur which has a pretty and delicate nose, with hints of hedgerow flowers.
Pinot Noir has a mixed reputation, however a good Pinot Noir is diverse and exciting, peppery and quite light in tannins, this can be slightly chilled, great to quaff over a barbecue or just drink on its own. Try the Horizon de Bichot Pinot Noir, with its juicy cherry flavour and herbal overtones.
For new world wines, head to South Africa – fabulous wines, often using French grapes and traditional wine making methods. The added bonus of a consistent hot climate the grapes become ripe and bloated with flavour, the wines will therefore be softer and a lot more fruity than old world wines, such as French, Spanish and Italian. Pop the cork of a black currenty Kleine Zalze Cellar Merlot and you won’t regret it.
As far as rosé wine is concerned, here’s my advice: do not drink anything which is named white Zinfandel or Pinot Blush. There are many fine rosés out there, if you look towards the dryer varieties: Provence in France is a great go-to area of very good vino, yes you will be paying a little more but not too much. We’re fans of Cette Nuit Grenache Rose’ and Rose and Roll.
Within the world of sparkling wines things have gone prosecco crazy. Try to avoid going for the cheapest bubbles on the wine list. Try Colucci’s range of fine prosecco, made in Italy using traditional by a Berkshire-based producer. There are two whites to choose from and the ever popular rosé. But let’s also give the UK a chance (because this may be all we can get soon). The UK is winning awards hand over fist for its exquisite sparkling wines. When first tried, probably 10 years ago, the grapes were not ready, leading to some quite sharp citrus notes. Over time these have rounded off to create velvety, smooth sparkling, and well balanced, wines. Try a Chapeldown from Kent, or Nyetimber from West Chiltington. English is on their way skyward so over time you will be seeing much more of it.
Work your way through Bar Fifty Six‘s curated wine list or shop the brand new Bottle Shop, offering quality, small vineyard wines at reasonable prices. Turn wine o’clock into your very own tasting session.