If you like to drink wine but find the whole subject daunting this is the book for you.
WILL CHAMPION, COLDPLAY
Vinceremos is a play on the Spanish and Italian for “we will win”. I called it that because everyone told me the business would fail. Thirty years later it is still going strong, run by a friend of mine, and a great source of organic wines. I went on to create another wine business, sending young winemakers all over the world to custom make wines for the UK market. We became a major supplier to the supermarkets and high street wine shops.
I tell this tale because I have never been a wine geek. I wasn’t then and am not now. I am a normal wine drinker who happened to have a business idea that allowed me to travel the world visiting all the major wine producing countries and a long list of minor ones, learning along the way.
I couldn’t understand a word the winemaker said in Greece; I was bamboozled by the bottling line manager in Hungary; I felt ignorant in Argentina. But really, that wasn’t so important. Because whatever the language, everyone speaks wine. Pointing, touching, seeing, tasting, smiling, scowling and exclaiming works wonders. Wherever in the world it is made, wine is always fermented grapes. Which was all that I knew at the beginning. And it’s all that matters in the end.
When I told a friend that I had written this book she said “Why? There are loads of wine books already”. And she is right. But most of them focus on the wine rather than the wine drinker. They have lots of information about grapes, regions, methods of production and explanations of wine terminology. That’s all good stuff if you want a mini wine course. But it’s not answering the questions asked by everyday drinkers. Questions like:
What is Cabernet Sauvignon?
Are supermarket own label wines any good?
Is it true that red wine is good for you?
Should you trust the medals on wine?
What is the best wine?
I thought it would be helpful to provide the answers, and to write about them in the language of normal humans not wine geeks. Wine is fun, so I got a great young artist in London to hand draw some funky illustrations to go with the words. Then actress and wine drinker Amanda Redman kindly wrote a foreword to the book. She talks about it being for a good cause – that’s because all of the money I receive from sales will be used to build primary schools in Sierra Leone.
The title of each of the 25 short chapters is one of the most commonly asked questions. Some are factual, answering questions such as what it means when a wine is ‘corked’. Others – such as whether red wine is good for health – are open to different interpretations and opinions. I give mine.
The questions are explored and answered in less time than it takes to drink a small glass. At the end of each chapter, IN ONE GULP gives the nub of the answer in the time it takes to swallow a mouthful.
My objective is to leave you feeling better equipped to make the decisions that matter to you when choosing, buying and drinking wine. Do use the contact link to let me know what you thought, or to tell me any other questions you would like answers to.
All the money I receive from sales of this book will be used to build primary schools in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
In 2010 I visited Sierra Leone with international development charity ActionAid. Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries and education is fundamental to improving lives. When I came back from the trip I suggested to two wine business friends that we create a wine brand and give all our profits to finance the building of primary schools. We set up the Millione Foundation, created the Millione brand, sourced a lovely lightly sparkling Rosé from Italy, and set about selling it.
So far we have financed the building of five schools, educating 1500 children. The more books and wine we sell, the more schools we will build.
When we launched the Millione wine some well-known people lent us their support. The link between enjoying a nice glass of wine and helping to educate kids in Africa might not seem obvious. But listen to Emma Thompson:
“Oh that’s lovely, that tastes of thousands of school children getting an education they would otherwise not receive and having lives of their own, full of hope and joy, and that’s the best taste I have ever tasted in a wine”
Millione Rosé is available in selected Sainsbury’s. Visit Millionewine for a list of stores and information about the Millione project.
A great book which brings the world of wine to life in a brilliantly understandable way.
CLEM YATES, MASTER OF WINE
For best results
Keep the wine in a sealed bottle standing up in the fridge. If your fridge is big enough, keep it on a shelf. If it’s in the door, the wine and air slosh around a bit every time it is opened.
For better results, separate the wine from the air altogether. A great method is to pour it into a small empty mineral water bottle. Keep 25cl, 33cl and 50cl rinsed plastic bottles ready and fill them as close to the top as possible, screw the cap on, and put them in the fridge. If the bottles are full the wine will keep for many weeks – as long as it hasn’t already been sitting around open by the cooker for ages.
If the wine you have stored in the fridge is red take the chill off it before drinking by standing the bottle in warm water. For quicker results take the top off the bottle, stand it in a bowl, and give it a short spin in the microwave. Short spin means a few seconds not minutes.
If the DIY option doesn’t appeal to you, there are several commercial devices that aim to separate wine from oxygen. Vacu Vin pumps the air out and has been around for many years. It works but only for two or three days, much the same as resealing with screwcap or cork, except that the wine quality and fresh flavours should be better preserved.
Private Preserve works by injecting a layer of harmless gas (a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and argon) that creates a protective layer over the wine. It keeps the wine good for much longer and works on any quantity left in the bottle, even a glassful. One user on the company’s website reports a half bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon tasting as good as new after six months. With consistently excellent reviews this seems to be the choice of the moment.
Coravin is a device targeting expensive bottles of wine. It allows you to drink a glass at a time over many months. A medical grade needle pierces the cork and inserts Argon gas into the bottle when wine is poured out. It’s far from cheap but apparently works well.
For longer-term storage use the freezer. Put the wine in a plastic mineral water bottle with enough space for it to expand a little. It will keep for many months. Once defrosted the wine should be nice and fresh. If you need to defrost in a hurry carefully use the microwave. Don’t be alarmed if you find crystals or a powdery like residue at the bottom of your glass. They are usually removed by the chilling or storage process when wine is made, but may otherwise ‘fall out’ when the wine is frozen. They are natural and harmless.
If there is only a little wine left in the bottle, fill some ice cube shapes and freeze them. These are good to suck as refreshing wine cubes or to use in sauces.
In one gulp
A partially-empty bottle left open overnight will be losing its freshness by the next morning. Kept in the fridge with the cork or screwcap on it will last for up to 3 days. Transferred to completely fill a small plastic bottle it can last for several weeks.
What not to do
• Don’t leave the top off the bottle at the end of the evening
• Don’t leave the bottle out in the kitchen, living room or any warm place. Heat hastens the chemical process that changes the taste
• Don’t keep the bottle on its side. This exposes more surface of the wine to air
• Don’t expect as good results from a bottle that is almost empty as one that is almost full. Wine and air are in a zero sum game. Less wine means more air, making it harder to stay fresh
How long Will Wine Keep In An Open Bottle?
The usual answer to this question is “Not more than half an hour round at our house !” Finishing the bottle certainly ensures you drink the wine while it’s fresh. But for those rare occasions when a night with friends leaves a bottle unfinished, or you’ve had a glass or two on your own, there are alternatives.
Oxygen changes wine. For a few hours after the wine has been opened and poured, the oxygen gets in and ‘releases’ the flavour. This is a good thing. But the oxygen keeps working away and after about 24 hours the taste begins to lose freshness, until weeks later it tastes vinegary.
A normal half-full bottle of wine with a cork or screwcap which is kept in the fridge (reds too) will taste OK for up to three days. ‘OK’ doesn’t mean identical to when it was opened, but nice enough to drink. Wine quality does not turn on and off like a light switch, but changes gradually like the tide. As oxygen gets a grip, the flavours begin to fade and dull, until eventually they die.
The secret to preserving good flavours in an opened bottle is to keep the oxygen out and the temperature down. The more you follow this rule the longer it will last.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine
Keeping bubbly alive is different. The only proven method to preserve bubbles and freshness is to use one of the special pressure resisting clip-on Champagne corks. As always, keep the wine in the fridge. In my experience, the next day is good; the one after that is very much touch and go. The old wives’ tales don’t work. The idea that an upside-down spoon in the bottle neck will preserve the fizz is a dud. Some people get excited by the restorative powers of raisins. They believe dropping two or three into a bottle that has lost its fizz will get the bubbles bouncing again. Others think putting a raisin in a glass before filling it with wine from an overnight bottle works even better.
Alas the joy, if any, is short-lived. The raisin can’t create additional bubbles – it’s just a raisin – but it can attract the remaining carbon dioxide and then release it. Once the bubbles have been released, the wine is even flatter than before. What does create a show is doing the same when the bubbly is fresh and fizzy. The raisin bobs up and down in the glass as it attracts and then releases the carbon dioxide.
I hope you enjoyed reading the free chapter.
If you enjoy it please tell your friends and family, or give it as a gift. 100% of my revenue from sales will be used to fund the building of primary schools in Sierra Leone.
Thank you for your interest