“Why Do You REALLY Like That Bordeaux?”

This piece, from Obi Wine Kenobi himself (aka Joe Fattorini), is really worth a read to find out why American wine drinks arguably prefer bigger, riper wines while Europeans… don’t.

The answer? Heuristics.

When you read his stuff, it’s easy to see why Joe was recently named Wine Communicator of the Year. It’s not just his knowledge of wines, grapes and winemakers, it’s his ability to make Freakonomics-like connections between things entirely unconnected to wine and, well, wine.

When I had lunch with him recently, he had me thinking about not only the subtle triggers restaurants use to encourage us to buy (more) wine, but also the psychology of the wine list itself, and the social pressure it brings with it.

Even so, connecting evolutionary psychology with our choice of tipple is rather inspired. I can’t help thinking that there might be a book in it.

Over to you, Joe.

What The Hell Will It Take To Make Sherry Cool?

One of the most annoying things about January is that it demands of every writer a list of what they think will be on trend in the coming year. Almost all of them are wrong. But everyone does it anyway because… it’s expected.

If you cast your eyes back over these lists, you will notice that, every year since about 1979, there has been at least one “this is the year of the Sherry Resurgence” or some variation on the theme.

The reality has sadly been one of a gradual decline, especially in the UK, whose market has driven the sherry business for generations, to the extent that sherry sales halved between 2006 and 2016.

I find this baffling, because the drinks biz’s biggest open secret is this: if you want value for money, buy sherry. The next biggest is that it’s really hard to find a shit bottle of sherry. More often than not, you’ll find something spectacular.

However, change, perhaps, is in the air. Last year, those clever clogs over at Majestic said something interesting. Their sherry sales were up. By a staggering 41%. Because of hipsters.

Now, I never thought I’d say this, but I think this could be A Very Good Thing™. Like most of my generation, I have something of a visceral loathing of those bearded twats in Hoxton drinking out of jam jars, but they could be exactly what my beloved sherry needs.

Why? Because every one of those Sherry Resurgence articles of yore always leads off with the rather negative apology that says something a bit like this: “Isn’t sherry wonderful… no, really… there’s much more to it than that God-awful bottle of alcoholic sugar-water you remember lurking in your Granny’s cupboard.” Which puts you off before you’ve read any further.

The thing about hipsters is that they don’t care about any of this. They think everything they grow, wear or taste is something they’ve discovered for the very first time and no one has ever ever EVER thought of it before. One of them probably bought a Zippo lighter in a vintage store and then persuaded themselves that they’d invented fire.

Sherry is deserving of all the love it can get. Even Harvey’s Bristol Cream. And I really don’t care who provides it. So, if the hipsters really are pushing up sherry sales, more power to them.

I can see only one downside.

They could push the price up.

Here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Sherries:—

  • La Gitana Manzanilla — bone dry deliciousness with a hint of salinity, this will enhance your best day, and brighten your worst;
  • Tio Pepe — ground zero for fino, a sherry that plays with the straight-batted grace of David Gower;
  • La Ina Fino — formerly made by Domenq, now by Lustau, those great saviours of historic sherry;
  • Valdespino Fino Inocente — as much as I love the others, this is possibly my favorite fino of all time;
  • Gonzalez Byass Del Duque Amontillado — a rich, nutty VOS (very old sherry, seriously), this is a real winner for Gonzalez Byass
  • Valdespino Tio Diego Amontillado — with 12 years under flor and 6 in barrel after oxidation, this packs a flavour punch like no other… it’s just sublime;
  • Williams & Humbert Dos Cortados — supple, spicy and glorious;
  • Waitrose Solera Jerezano Palo Cortado — what, you say, Waitrose? Yes. Made for them by Lustau (from sherrys at another rescued bodega), this might just be the best value for money bottle of wine in the country;
  • Lustau Emperatriz Eugenia Oloroso — so approachably delicious it’s easy to forget how complex this is. It’s also one of the best olorosos I know to convert the doubters;
  • Emilio Hidalgo Oloroso Gobernador — savoury to the point of meatiness, this is serious (and seriously good) stuff.

[Picture credit: Tamin Jones]

Tonight—The Wine Show

The new season of The Wine Show starts this evening on Channel 5 at 7pm. And jolly good it is too. I know this because I’ve seen it. I also know this because Kay (the wife, and all-round top food writer) did the catering and dragged me along to help out. Which meant, among other things, rising at five to drive to the nearest industrial boulangerie for everyone’s breakfast and not driving into the villa’s formal fountain. Which also happened.

This season, Joe Fattorini does his level best to educate Matthew Goode and James Purefoy, and us too. And once you’ve seen him in action, you’ll understand exactly why he is the IWSC Wine Communicator Of The Year. Alas, you won’t get to see his marvellous collection of T-shirts with obscure movie references printed upon them, nor his collection of hats. But hey, you do get to see him in lederhosen, which is surely a win in anyone’s book.