Peter Ranscombe joins master of wine Rose Murray Brown for her latest online tasting, featuring bottles from De Burgh Wine Merchants.
ONE of the most encouraging aspects of the coronavirus lockdown has been how bottle shops and wine educators have adapted to carry on serving their customers.
Suppliers with shops have stepped up their home delivery services, with my list of outlets continuing to help customers during the lockdown ranking as one of the most popular articles ever posted on The Grape & The Grain drinks blog.
Brown’s masterclasses are top notch – I signed up for several of them when I was studying for some of my earlier Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exams and she was one of my go-to drinks experts when we worked together at The Scotsman.
For last Friday’s virtual wine tasting via Zoom, Brown teamed up with Tarquin de Burgh at Dalkeith-based De Burgh Wine Merchants, which offers all NHS staff a 20% discount on any full-price wines and free delivery.
“My main focus with all this has been to help small independent wine merchants in Scotland who normally sell to restaurants,” explains Brown.
“When this all started, I could see that they were going to really struggle with no restaurants open, so I began a campaign on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook promoting them – recommending a different wine each day from them.
“After a couple of days, one of my customers contacted me asking if I could organise a virtual tasting of these wines for her and others.
“It all developed from there, as it was a way of helping my customers keep their spirits up and helping the merchants sell more wine.”
Less washing up
Each virtual tasting comes in two parts, with three bottles opened during the first week and the other three bottles during the second week.
The wines sell for between £10 and £17, with delivery from Scottish merchants to anywhere on the UK mainland.
Sessions are proving very popular, with the first block on “lesser known grapes” – using bottles supplied by Luvians – selling out, along with the second and third blocks.
Last week and this week’s session with De Burgh has proved so popular that Brown is running overflow classes on Saturday nights as well as her usual Friday-night slot.
She is also hosting private and corporate tastings and is developing a wine quiz.
Brown added: “I have had people joining from across Scotland and the UK; from Inverness down to Norwich, London, and Sussex.
“I do miss my normal tasting sessions, but one bonus of all this is that I don’t have to clear and wash hundreds of glasses,” she laughed.
‘Good value wines’
De Burgh’s wines are always excellent and feature regularly in my Wine to Dine column in the printed and digital versions of Scottish Field magazine.
Friday night’s bottles certainly lived up to their billing as “good value wines”.
Brown’s choice of sparkling wine – a crémant from the Loire Valley – demonstrated that you don’t have to plump for Champagne to enjoy French fizz.
Crémant is made using the same traditional method as Champagne – with the second fermentation that adds the bubbles taking place inside the bottle, instead of a large tank under pressure, as with prosecco – but in parts of France outside the Champagne region.
The De Chanceny Cremant de Loire Rose (£11.99, De Burgh) had the same fresh acidity as Champagne, but plenty of strawberry and lemon flavours for balance, coming from its blend of 90% cabernet franc and 10% grolleau.
Two textured whites were the stars of the show for me, with the Terra Asorei Albarino 2018 (£10.49) bringing back happy memories of last autumn’s Rias Baixas tasting in Edinburgh, while it was fun to be reunited with the Janare La Guardiense Sannio Greco 2018 (£10.49) that I’d enjoyed in the Highlands a couple of summers ago.
The albarino is unusual in that it spends six months on its lees – the dead yeast cells left over from the fermentation that turns the grape sugars into alcohol – to help build up the wine’s texture to complement its peach, red apple and lemon rind flavours, while the greco shone with spicy white pepper and a salt-like tang on its finish.
The lady drinks red
De Burgh’s range is full of treats to explore, including the Champagnes from Henriot, Au Bon Climat’s pinot noir from the Santa Maria Valley in California, and the Saint Veran Domaine de la Croix Senaillet from Burgundy.
After Brown completes the second part of her session this week with good value wines from De Burgh, she’s moving onto springtime wines with L’Art du Vin, which is already sold out.
Then, it’s the turn of organic and biodynamic wines with bottles from Woodwinters, and “small grower wines” with Severine Sloboda at Sevslo Wines, a new Glasgow-based importer with a very exciting range, run by a former sommelier at The Gannet restaurant.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about wine, whisky and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/