John Mansfield of The Society of Vintners is our resident wine expert and in recent editions he’s shared his knowledge of wines from around the world. In this edition he talks about wines from the Mediterranean holiday hotspots of Corsica and Sardinia. But before that, he answers a classic question “Why are they never as good as you remember them?”
This is a frequently asked question, especially when a customer has made a special request for us to source a wine. We might have searched high and low, found a couple of bottles, and presented them with high hopes of future business secured by this exceptional customer service… only to be greeted with the damp response “Not the same wine at all…”
Well, it almost certainly is the same wine – so what has gone wrong? Not travelled well? Has the wine been harmed by being moved from a Mediterranean country to the UK? Is the bottle filled with an inferior wine, just for the UK market?
For most wines, the answer to all these questions is no and in fact 99.9% of the time the wine hasn’t been harmed through travel. Granted, there may be the odd exception of course, especially where the wine has been produced by a small artisan winegrower in one of the smaller wine producing regions; but generally modern science (and it is a science) has meant that finished wine in the bottle is pretty stable and capable of withstanding a good degree of transportation and storage.
And with properly and reputable produced wines it’s a fallacy that there are two wines of the same vintage and bearing the same label – one for export and a better one kept for home consumption.
So what has caused the muted response? Well, when a client is thinking about the wine that they had on holiday, all the positive attributes of that holiday are given to the wine – it’s almost a magical feature.
What is being woven into the wine memory is the fact that they are on holiday: relaxed, away from work, not worrying about pressing emails or budgets, and instead enjoying their wine while sitting in some taverna, eating fresh cooked fish – all these things go towards making the evening memorable and yet are accredited to the wine!
So, it is hardly surprising that the same wine, served by a waiter or bartender in the UK, enjoyed with an evening meal after a stressful day and the rain falling outside, sadly fails to deliver the same buoyant and feel good chemicals that were expected.
The solution? When serving a customer’s ‘holiday wine’ explain the scenario to the customer so they are not disappointed by their first sip or try to recreate the ambience of their holiday by offering a wine and food pairing menu.
Here are wines from two wonderful Mediterranean islands to get you started…
The second largest Island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia is 200 miles from the Italian coast. Famed for its clear blue waters and its 135 days of sunshine each year, which, together with the rugged coastline and sea breezes, contributes to the vine-friendly climate. Wine production is not high on the list of economies of the Island, and the wines are not extensively seen around the world, so they’re worth searching out. Main grapes tend to be French or Spanish, rather than Italian, with the most popular being Grenache, Carignan and Vermentino (those three accounting for nearly 70% of production).
The birthplace of Napoleon, the island, although officially part of France, is sufficiently removed (100 miles from the coast) to be considered as a wine producer in its’ own right. Indeed, those visiting the Eleven Madisson Park restaurant in Manhattan can find nearly 50 Corsican wines on just one wine list! There are two main wine producing regions, both officially categorised as AOC, and these are Ajaccio in the South West, and Patrimonio in the North. The Sciaccarello dominates in the former, where it produces spicy, warm, medium bodied reds and roses. Patrimonio is right up in the North of the Island, on the Cap Corso peninsular, where the chalky clays and limestone are more suited to traditional grape varieties like Vermentino for the whites and Nielluccio for the reds.