We recently spent a long weekend away with friends in Leyburn, Yorkshire to recharge our batteries and celebrate our wedding anniversary. We booked into a couple of very nice restaurants while we were there and an incident at one of them reminded us of a fundamental principle when ordering wine in a restaurant.
Our friend ordered a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc off the wine list. When the waiter brought the wine, he opened it, poured it in our glasses and put it in an ice bucket. Considering this was a very good restaurant, I was a little surprised he had not asked us to taste it prior to pouring, but they were very busy that evening.
When we tasted the wine we were very surprised, as it was sweet. I didn’t say anything, as I didn’t want to offend my friend and Chenin Blanc can sometimes be sweet. I just thought I would save mine for the desert course instead.
Fortunately, my friend also noticed and so we then looked a little closer at the bottle. We discovered it was a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc - the waiter had brought us the wrong wine completely. When we mentioned it, he apologised and went to get us the correct wine and we could see where the mistake was made, as the labels on both bottles looked almost identical. Unfortunately, he took the wrong one away (even though we’d all had a sip of it!)
The moral of the story is always check the label before the wine is opened and taste the wine before agreeing to accept it. You’re not a wine snob – but just making sure it’s what you’re paying for. This tasting is not to check if you like the wine, but to see if the wine is tainted, or corked. If it is corked, it will smell like moldy newspaper, wet dog, damp cloth or damp basement; the wine's native aromas are reduced significantly.
Nowadays many wines are being served in screw cap bottles which means there is less risk of the wine being tainted after it is bottled, hence why the screw cap is becoming more commonly used by producers.
The Chenin Blanc we had in Leyburn, was in fact a very nice wine, so I have selected a Chenin Blanc for you to try this month - not from South Africa, but from New Zealand. This is not a widely grown grape down there, so it was interesting to try.
Brand: Esk Valley
Type: Vineyard Selection
Region: Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Grape: Chenin Blanc
Alcohol Strength: 14%
Style – White
Bouquet – Delightful fresh nose of crisp melon and softer tropical fruits
Flavour - Honey, quince and stone-fruit with a mineral-like acidity. The palate is full with a touch of residual sugar balancing the acidity
Price: £7.99, H Smith, Ashbourne.
Ideal with seafood, Asian and Indian-style dishes
Catch a great wine review in every edition of All Things Local - the Community Magazine for Kilburn, Belper and Ripley, Derbyshire.