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6/1/2022 12:00:00 AM

Why NOW's The Time To Spring Clean Your Wine Rack

Throwing out old clothes, tackling overdue tasks and clearing the cupboards of products long past their sell-by dates – these are the things we tend to associate with spring cleaning.


But what about spring cleaning your wine rack? Not just physically swapping out old bottles for new, but also seizing the arrival of a new season as an opportunity to drastically overhaul your whole thinking on wine?

Because (even if you think you’re happy in your Sauvignon Blanc rut) there are compelling reasons, financial and more, for switching it up and changing your tipple with the change in season.

“It’s not that one wine will be any better than another...but in terms of food choice, your wine should change to complement it.”

JP McCann, Restaurant Manager and Sommelier at Noble Holywood

Seasonality In Wine

We don’t tend to think about seasonality when we talk about wine. Unlike fruit and veg, there’s no right time of year to consume a wine that’s ‘in season’. But that doesn’t mean the seasons have no part to play in what we drink and when.

“In wine you get one harvest a year, but there’s no one time of year to drink Chardonnay for example. As the seasons change, it’s not that one wine will be any better than another, but in terms of food choice, your wine should change to complement it,” explains JP McCann, Restaurant Manager and Sommelier at Noble Holywood.

That big bulky 15% ABV Shiraz might be lovely with a casserole on a winter’s night, but as a rule it’s the lighter reds that will feel preferable as the days lengthen.

“Spring to me means lamb, so that’s a good Rioja or, my all time favourite wine, a Lebanese red, Chateau Musar,” reveals McCann. “If you’re eating spring greens, like peas and asparagus, you’ll probably want a white wine that’s a little bit fresh - try a Grüner, dry Rieslings or, if you want something a little bit softer, a Chardonnay - but move away from the big, buttery ones.”

Serving At The Right Temperature

Whilst you’re reassessing what wine you drink at which time of the year, it might also be wise to rethink the way you’re serving it.

“The rule, and this will throw people’s heads completely away,” laughs McCann, “but the rule is to take your whites out of the fridge 20 minutes before you drink them and put your reds in.”

Reds in the fridge? Surely not?! “All that room temperature stuff is from years ago,” reveals McCann. “When you drink your reds too warm you get more alcohol and less fruit, and with your whites too cold, you get less fruit too.” Particularly as the weather heats up, he recommends chilling reds like Pinot Noirs, Gamays and even some Grenaches for a softer, more flavoursome, summery sip.

“It’s like with a take-away, people tend to stick to what they know. They don’t want to take a chance on something they might not like.”

Talk To The Experts

Having worked for many years in the wine world, McCann is used to seeing people slip into a wine rut. “People tend to stick to what they know,” he says. “I always liken it to a take-away. If people are getting their Chinese on a Friday night, they don’t want to get something new if there’s a chance they won’t like it. Most people buy wine to consume within the next 24 to 48 hours and don’t want to take a chance if there’s nothing else in the house. They get into a rut and there’s only a couple of ways to get them out of that rut.”

His first recommendation is to talk to the experts in independent wine shops. “The easiest way is to go into the shop and talk to people,” he says. “Tell them ‘I like Marlborough Sauvignon but I don’t know what else to try. They’ll be able to suggest something. And if you say to someone ‘I buy a Rioja at £10 and I want to try something different’, they’re not going to recommend something at £20, in fact sometimes it might be something cheaper.”

There’s also a need to cast off the idea that wine is scary. McCann often sees diners plump for wines they know – and can pronounce – rather than be seen to look foolish. “People are afraid to ask questions, they don’t like to look stupid when they’re out,” he says. But sommeliers are happy to help and by letting go of anxiety, and even of what you *think* you know about different wines, you could open up a whole new world of options.

McCann explains: “I worked for years in Muddlers Club in Belfast as sommelier, where we did wine pairing. Many people would say ‘I don’t like Chardonnay’ and I’d always say ‘just try it. If you don’t like it I’ll sort you out with something else’. More often than not people surprised themselves.”

Forget Your Preconceptions

Rosé, McCann says, is perfect for warmer weather but ‘criminally under-drunk’ because of the same image issue. “Domaine de Triennes Rosé is from a winery set up by two of the best wine estates in Burgundy,” he reveals. “It’s beautiful and retails in a shop for around a tenner, but often people are too quick to make up their minds, rather than giving rosé a proper try.”

McCann, who also runs tasting events (he’s on Instagram at @allthewinebelfast), showcasing less well-known wines, suggests tasting events as a good starting point to reassessing what wines really work for you. “I always say to people whatever you taste is what you taste – you’re never wrong. It’s like a plate of food, one person’s ‘too salty’ is another person’s ‘not salty enough’.”

“If the average price of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is going to go up by £2-£3 a bottle, that’s not sustainable.”

By far and away the most popular wine ‘rut’ is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. But global events could be about to impact the price of many people’s favourite tipple.

“I know one supplier whose pallets come from New Zealand and used to cost £2,000 to ship, but are now going up to £6,000,” reveals McCann. “If the average price is going to go up by £2/3 a bottle, that’s not sustainable and price wise, it’ll be interesting to see how things change over the next few years.”

European alternatives could prove more appealing, cost-effective options to NZ Sauvignon Blancs. “Marlborough Sauvignon has that real racy acidity, it’s fresh, so something like Albariño from Northern Spain or Portuguese Vinho Verde for that clean freshness. If you want something more left-field maybe an Austrian Grüner Veltliner or Assyrtiko from Greece – they’ve got that acidity but a little bit more flavour profile,” recommends McCann.

There is of course nothing wrong with having a favourite wine, but by spring cleaning your habits you could be saving yourself some money and open up a whole new world of options. “There’s a world of wine out there,” smiles McCann. “You wouldn’t eat the same thing every night, why drink the same wine?”

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