GRAPEVINE with LIZ SAGUES: When ignorance isn't bliss

PUBLISHED: 12:06 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:09 07 September 2010

Some time ago, the export boss of a leading French co-operative told me that while the British happily associated the Loire Valley with splendid chateaux, very few indeed recognised it as a wine region. Really? Surely the pollsters involved made a big m

Some time ago, the export boss of a leading French co-operative told me that while the British happily associated the Loire Valley with splendid chateaux, very few indeed recognised it as a wine region.

Really? Surely the pollsters involved made a big mistake? Seemingly not. There is now more evidence which supports the case that UK wine drinkers have very little knowledge of the origin or grape varieties of the wines they enjoy in some quantity.

Figures just issued by the wine giant Constellation show that only one in three of nearly 12,000 UK wine drinkers questioned knew that rioja is a wine-producing region. Cabernet sauvignon did better, but hardly brilliantly - 52 per cent identified it as a red grape variety. But only 21 per cent recognised chablis as a wine-producing region, and a mere 16 per cent correctly answered that malbec is a red grape variety (a very sorry result for Argentina, currently promoting its premier grape enthusiastically and - so I thought - effectively).

Even worse, 60 per cent of those polled scored lower on the whole multiple-choice questionnaire than someone who systematically ticked the same box each time. So much for the hundreds of thousands of words on wine which are published each year in newspaper and magazine columns and in books or are spoken, accompanied by memorable images, on TV and in films.

Obviously, if you're reading this, you're not one of those many wine-drinking ostriches who steadfastly ignore all such information. Do please read on, and urge those you share a bottle with to expand their wine knowledge just a bit. Set what's in the glass in context, and it should become even more enjoyable.

For the people who communicate about wine - and, indeed, for the majority of people involved the trade in any way - it's a passion as well as a profession. We want to share our knowledge and enthusiasm, and thus increase every wine drinker's pleasure.

But enough philosophy. Now, and over the next few weeks, this column is going to make a lot of specific recommendations. The round of tastings previewing the summer retail offering is over, and I've enjoyed so many of the wines that I'm determined you should too.

This time, there is room only for two highlight bottles, but plenty more will follow.

Chile's annual wine awards throw up some real stars, and Anakena viognier 2007 from the Rapel Valley (Thresher, £8.49, or £5.66 on the three-for-two offer) richly deserves the gold medal and "other white" trophy it won in this year's competition. It's wonderfully scented with apricots, nuts, flowers and more and has a similar aromatic complexity as you drink it.

Let me leave the last word with a friend, not normally a fan of white wine, after we sampled it before settling down to tasting some very good reds: "It was the best wine of the evening."

The La Grille range has won friends for sound French wines at very fair prices. But Philippe Germain La Grille Classic Barrel Fermented chenin blanc 2006 (exclusive to Waitrose, £8.25) stands out above the rest.

It has all the best chenin qualities - scents of flowers and honey followed by superb crispness and rich baked apple fruit - and the oak adds an elegant smoothness. Very classy indeed.


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