How to buy wine that’s fit for a queen! Royal cellar advisor reveals the six rules you need to know – from choosing ‘younger’ cheap wine to storing rose in the dark because it’s at most risk of going off
- Jancis Robinson tastes more than 10,000 wines a year and advises the Queen
- Has revealed the best ways to store wine and what to look out for when buying
- Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL she reveals how to select the right bottle in the shop, and why you should always be wary of offers
A wine critic who helps choose bottles for the Queen has shared her tips on how to buy the best supermarket wine.
Jancis Robinson, 71, tastes more than 10,000 wines a year and as a member of the Royal Household Wine Committee, which helps to select bottles served to guests at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Ms Robinson explained there are simple rules everyone can follow if they want to consistently buy the best quality wine possible, from avoiding ones stored in sunlight to opting for ‘younger’ vintages on cheaper bottles.
She also said it’s important to ask if a supermarket has a wine on special offer – just in case it’s because the wine has gone by.
Here, ahead of the launch of a new course on BBC Maestro about wine, Ms Robinson shares her tips…
A Master of Wine who provides advice to the wine cellar of the Queen has revealed the best ways to store wine and what to look out for when picking up a bottle. Dubbed ‘the world’s most influential wine critic’ Jancis Robinson, 71, tastes more than 10,000 wines a year.
Avoid bottles that have been stored in sunlight
‘A bottle of wine that has been damaged by exposure to strong light is said to have suffered lightstrike,’ Jancis explains.
‘UV light negatively impacts the wine so that fresh, vibrant aromas and flavours are lost and replaced by cooked, stale ones.
If buying cheap wine, younger is better
‘Not all wines get better with age and many, especially less expensive ones, are best drunk when they are first released, when the aromas and flavours are vibrant and fresh.
‘Older vintages will have lost this youthful charm and can taste a little flat or tired.’
‘In extreme examples there might even be notes of cabbage or damp cardboard.
‘Try and avoid buying wine bottled in clear glass bottles as these are the least effective at blocking harmful light.
‘If you are a fan of rosé wine (which is often bottled in clear glass to emphasise its visual appeal) then try and ensure you purchase from a reliable source and once home, store the wine away from light.
‘Sparkling wine is impacted strongly by lightstrike so try not to choose bottles that have been stored in a fridge or in a brightly lit position in a shop.
If the bottle has a natural cork, it should be stored horizontally
‘Corks need to be kept in contact with the wine to keep them damp and airtight so store bottles horizontally.
‘If the bottle is kept upright there is a risk the cork will dry out, lose elasticity and shrink, allowing air to enter the bottle.
‘This causes premature oxidation, which causes the wine to change colour, picking up brown tints and impacts negatively on the aromas and flavours.
Ask the reason why bottles are on special offer
‘A retailer may have secured a parcel of wine at a particularly keen price, but always ask why a wine is on special offer.
‘It may be on promotion to tie in with a celebration (pink wine for Valentine’s Day for example) but if the stock was distressed then it may not be the best purchase.
‘The saying ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware!) is a good phrase to keep in mind.
‘There are various rules that we’ve all grown up with, like with meat or meaty dishes, you drink red wine’ Jancis explained
Check ratings on your smartphone
‘Take a photo of a wine label via your smartphone and upload it to one of the growing number of wine apps.
‘Vivino is the most popular label-scanning app. Or check out CellarTracker for reviews of how fine wines are drinking.
‘You’ll be able to access consumer reviews and critics scores from this wine community.’
Break the rules with food and wine pairings
‘There are various rules that we’ve all grown up with, like with meat or meaty dishes, you drink red wine.
‘With fish, you drink white wine. But rules are there to be broken, aren’t they?
Jancis’ pick for some of the BEST food and wine pairings
There are some classic combinations that have stood the test of time:
- Riesling and smoked fish
- Chablis with oysters
- Cabernet Sauvignon and roast lamb
- Pinot Noir with roast duck
- Goat’s cheese and Sauvignon Blanc
- Blue cheese and really sweet wine, such as a Sauternes
‘Rather than the blanket decree, ‘white wine with fish’, think about the weight and texture of the fish.
‘Delicate white fish probably works best with dry, lighter-bodied whites, such as cool-climate Chardonnay, Albariño or Sauvignon Blanc.
‘Meatier fish such as tuna or swordfish would work well with full-bodied whites but also dry rosés or chilled reds (providing there isn’t too much tannin).
‘Spätburgunder, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Schiava and dry rosé would all work well.
‘Red wines, especially those high in tannin, taste less dry if served alongside some protein.
‘Beef, lamb and venison are great matches for tannic varieties such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Game such as duck and pigeon can have a more delicate flavour that works best with varieties that don’t carry too much tannin, such as Pinot Noir.
‘Many vegetarian dishes are centred around pulses or beans and can often carry a degree of spice.
‘There is a certain ‘meaty’ texture to pulses so youthful, juicy red wines, such as Sangiovese or Tempranillo, can make a great match.
‘Desserts and puddings are probably the most difficult dishes to match. Choose a wine that is sweeter than the dessert; noble Riesling, Sémillon or Moscato. Chocolate is notoriously hard to match but sweet, really strong fortified wine such as PX Sherry, Port or Malmsey Madeira, can be heavenly.
‘Finally, try not to stress out. Being with friends, celebrating a success, or simply creating a meal for the family, should be about the occasion, not worrying whether the food and wine combination is perfect.
‘If you feel like eating X and drinking Y, chances are that, based on your past experience, X will go with Y.’
Jancis Robinson’s BBC Maestro course on An Understanding of Wine is available for £80. Find out more at bbcmaestro.com
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