I’ve been reading an intriguing article by Miles Thomas in the Psychologist magazine. It’s called ‘On Vines and Minds’, and it discusses many of the ways in which our brains determine the experience of drinking wine.
I’ve been reading an intriguing article by Miles Thomas in the Psychologist magazine. It’s called ‘On Vines and Minds’, and it discusses many of the ways in which our brains determine the experience of drinking wine. For instance, appearances are important — uncomfortably important. Even experts, offered a white wine tinted with a neutral red dye, will often describe it in the way they might talk about a real red wine. We know that if you tell people that a wine is worth, say, £50 a bottle, they will enjoy it more than the identical wine if they believe it cost £5. Research shows that if supermarkets want to push wines from a particular country, they should play the appropriate music. ‘O Sole Mio’ would move Italian wines; ‘Je T’Aime — Moi Non Plus’ would presumably send them racing off home with chilled Champagne. Most surprising of all was the finding that the average wine buyer spends 38 seconds choosing each bottle, and that the choice is mainly influenced by the label.
I see nothing wrong with that. Anticipation is an important part of drinking wine, and if you are serving to your friends, you want a bottle with a label that won’t be confused with WD-40. This offer is from the wonderful new company Private Cellar, which has already scored heavily with Spectator readers. La Monastière Blanc 2007 (1) is a lovely French country wine with an appealing, if not elaborate label. It is fruity and rounded, and balances its acidity with a hint of honey. Reduced to £6.49, it is perfect for summer quaffing.
I really loved the Verdicchio dei Castelli Jesi 2006, made at Monteschiavo (2). Verdicchio is probably the Italian white grape that ages best. It’s been grown in the Marche for many thousands of years — they have found fossilised grapes whose DNA matches the ones used now. It’s partly matured in oak for fullness, but you’ll find pears, pineapple, vanilla and fresh herbs here too. Luscious with food, reduced to £6.96. There’s not a lot left, so get your order in early.
Back to France for two wines from Bordeaux, both by Château de Sours. The Blanc 2005 (3) is yet another indication of how far white Bordeaux has advanced. From being the thin fluid we remember from student days — the kind of thing you would neck in the kitchen at a party only if nothing else was left — it’s become rich, plump and packed with flavours. Glorious with or without food, and reduced to £7.95.
The de Sours pink 2007 (4) is probably the wine that kick-started the present rosé revolution. Pink wines had been made from Cabernet Sauvignon years ago (our word ‘claret’ originally comes from ‘clairet’, because you could see through it), though they were hard to come by, and were usually ignored because rosé was so unfashionable. It isn’t now; I am amazed at how many people lap it up, even in winter. For summer this wine, like a lighter, chilled red Bordeaux, is perfect — refreshing, yet just right for meatier dishes. Reduced to £7.95.
Now two wines which I hope you will try, even though their labels might be slightly off-putting. At just £8.50, the Château Haut Gay 2006 (5) meets my tough value-test for red Bordeaux, being soft, velvety and yet powerful. Ignore the bricky label, which honestly doesn’t matter since you won’t see it until you buy it. And in any case, you’ll want to decant it an hour or so before drinking to elicit its delights.
As you will with the Morellino di Scansano Podere 414, 2005, from Simone Castelli (6). The 414 is plastered over the label, which is strange since the number merely refers to a plot of land. The wine, however, is superb, and reduced by 12 per cent to £10.50, it is remarkable proof of the astonishing work being done in Tuscany these days. It’s mostly Sangiovese, and you’ll find plums, cherries, and a heady richness which is quite delightful. Not one of the most famous names, but due to become one.
The wines are all available by the case, or you can buy the taster case containing two of each. Delivery, as ever, is free.