How To Win Friends With Wine

By Simon Hill
27th May 2013

Twitter's a funny thing. So much information that would usually pass you straight by is suddenly front and centre. Staring you down, tempting you to respond and, in the case of this one particular post, tempting you to bang on the caps lock, go full Gen Y, and type WTF. 

'How to swirl, sniff and spit like a pro' may not seem like the most offensive of tweets, but for some reason this one really hit a nerve.  Not sure whether it was the link to the full educational blog, or the accompanying you tube video of some Canadian plonker teaching you how to 'move your glass in a quick circular motion on the table', but the whole thing left me a little disturbed.

Akin to stating that it's more important to look like you know what you're doing than actually doing it, I was just waiting for the follow up, 'How to talk about art without actually having to see any of it' or, 'Quote Dickens like a pro without having to read a single long, annoying novel.'  To put it simply, in my mind this simple heading personifies everything I hate about wine. Pretension, show, bluff, and bullshit. 

These sorts of articles, and I won't even go in to 'Learn the Trick to Clinking Wine Glasses', constantly reinforce the idea that wine is essentially trainspotting with a dash of elitism—forced etiquette and a bucket load of rules to boot. You know, all about looking the part. 

My introduction into wine was not quite as regimented as this and what made me fall in love with wine was, above everything else, the spirit of generosity shown by its champions. Good wine educators, and I've had a few, are about inspiring and demystifying a subject that, let's face it, has, in the past, been a little stuffy. Winemakers generally like what they do and what they really want is for you to like it too. No matter how well you can swirl your plonk.

Now don't get me wrong—I can swirl wine and have a pretty decent spit. But the idea that someone would actually train themselves to do this is a bit weird.  Surely you should at least start by maybe liking wine a bit and go from there. 

So, it really doesn't matter if you project your wine into the spittoon, onto yourself, or all over the bloke next to you (you can even drink it) as long as you enjoy it and perhaps grasp along the way that you're drinking something that was handmade. That was grown by someone. That bears the thumbprint of a winemaker, a farmer, a family, and a vintage.  And I can assure you none of those people care how well you swirl your wine.

So, on that note, I'm going with three easy ways to learn to love wine without making all of your friends suddenly hate you.

Drink Rosé out of a Porron. 

A Porron is half glass decanter, half teapot, with a tiny focused spout that pours in a long, fine stream. On my second trip to Rioja, we arrived at Bodegus Muga at about 10AM and were quickly whisked away to one of their Tempranillo vineyards. There was an old guy tending a fire made from vine canes, a grill laden with fresh chorizo, and a table with crusty bread, Rosé, and the dreaded Porron. Xavier, our trusty wine merchant who had clearly done this before ripping off his t-shirt, filled the porron, held it about two feet above his mouth and started pouring what is still my favourite Rosé down his throat, on his chest, and then over me. Does this comply with our current liquor licensing laws? Probably not. Is it fun? Absolutely. And this is a wine that's not meant to be an intellectual experience but in the right company, with the right food and in the right location, it's is an experience worth having. And if you can't find a porron, you can borrow mine.

2012 Muga RoséRioja, Spain

Muga built this Rosé using a few different red grapes (Garnacha and Tempranillo) and the white grape of Rioja Viura to give it backbone. The resulting wine is dry, with a crunchy, almost bitter, red twist at the end. Perfect with salty food (read Jamon, prosciutto etc.)  

Wine Experience, Rosalie | $26.00

Have a Barolo and bolognaise night.

I still remember this like it was yesterday. It was eight years ago, and I, along with Nick Stock, (a junior wine writer from Melbourne), and a couple of local wine merchant mates started screaming about who made the best bolognaise, and it was on. After a substantial amount of bluster akin to the ubiquitous BBQ 'you don't do it like that' routine, what resulted was a ridiculously rich (who seriously empties two bottles of red into their sauce?), but pretty good, bolognaise. Decent bread, a bottle of Barolo each and one of the great dinners. Is this a purist's traditional match? Probably not. Is Bolognaise the most overdone home dish of the last 50 years? Who cares. For my money, great Nebbiolo needs richness in food to match its tannin and structure and let's face it, daggy as it may be, who doesn't make the world's best bolognaise.

2008 Giovanni Rosso Barolo Serralunga

Tar, cherry, coffee, and dark fruit aromas—this wine is all about the palate. Classic Nebbiolo structure with grip and astringency but a fine plushness that really sets it apart. It's pricey, but in the right company, and with the right dish, it's worth it.

Craft Wine Store, Red Hill | $80 

Riesling and freshly shucked oysters on the deck.

I love the fact that we are pretty much over the big is better thing and can finally serve and enjoy Kooringal oysters. Sydney rock by species and grown in Moreton bay they are smaller and a bit more austere than the super creamy Tassie Pacific's. They are also pretty easy to shuck, too and, without wanting to be responsible for anyone getting an oyster knife lodged in their palm, the difference between just shucked and pre-shucked is, well, massive. Lemon, lime, cider vinegar, put whatever you like with them but you must be drinking Clare Valley Riesling (Chablis is so last year). O'Leary Walker, Pikes, there's a bundle you can choose from but you only live once and it's my oyster so I'm going straight for the king. 

2012 Grosset 'Springvale' RieslingClare Valley SA 

Lime, lemon, and a chalky mineral nose followed by a long line of citrus on the palate. Effortless power and precision—if it were a dressing, you'd put it on an oyster. Thankfully it's not so you can drink it instead.

Craft Wine Store, Red Hill | The Chalk Cellars, Hamilton | $36.00

TUL Note:  Simon Hill is a food and wine tragic, owner of Bar Alto and Ortiga, and a Gourmet Traveller Winner for his enviable wine list. Apart from being a palate pleaser, he is a keen surfer, very handy with a chainsaw, and on an unwavering quest to make the best XO sauce in the land. Keep up with Simon's antics on Twitter (@ortigawine) and Instagram (@baralto).  

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