Event • November 2015
To celebrate the Spanish-themed After Hours Club, which took place in October, The Club spoke to Peyton & Byrne’s wine expert, Alison Taffs. Here she shares her must-visit destinations for oenophiles
1. Most rewarding region for wine
It has to be Reims, Epernay and Troyes in the Champagne region of France. There’s a real sense of romance and history when you visit the Champagne vineyards and caves. Plus, the local cuisine is fabulous. Try flamiche – an egg pie cooked with cream in a pastry crust – with a glass of biscuity fizz. It’s fun not to need an excuse to drink one of the most famous wines in the world.
2. Unexpectedly great place to drink wine
On a recent trip to Sicily, I didn’t have a single glass that wasn’t incredibly drinkable. There are some native varieties, including Nero D’Avola, Perricone, and Calabrese, that are particularly rich and fascinating. While you’re there, try and get hold of some proper Marsala. You may have already tried a sweet version after dinner, but seek out a drier variety and try it as an aperitif.
3. The “it’s going to be huge” wine destination
Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, with the first cultivated grapevines dating back more than 8,000 years. These days, it’s attracting serious attention for its traditional and natural wines, and their unusual flavours. The country has a great tradition of wine, food and hospitality – get yourself invited to a traditional banquet, presided over by a tamada, who proposes numerous toasts throughout the meal.
Wine tasting in 1970s America
4. Deserving award-winner
California produces some truly amazing wines, made with a blend of love and eccentricity. The results are sublime. At a competition known as the “Judgement of Paris” in the 1970s, a blind taste testing by experts saw Californian wines beat the French classics. When this competition was repeated a few years ago, the results were the same. Avoid the cheap imports and take a drive through Napa and Sonoma for the really good stuff – fruity zinfandels, ripe pinot noirs and bright sauvignon blancs.
5. Where wine experts go on holiday
It’s a short and worthwhile trip over to Jerez and Sanlucar to drink proper, fabulous sherry. From dry and tangy fino, to salty manzanilla, or rich and powerful olorosos – the warmth of Andalucia is the perfect antidote to damp and chilly British weather. Plus, it’s so easy to match sherry with food. Pile up a plate with almonds, jamon and anchovies and you’re set.
6. Most-improved wine country
You may be surprised, but Germany has some delicious whites and a few high-quality reds. Forget any memories you have of cheap, semi-sweet Liebfraumilch, and don’t be afraid to try some of the rich, racy, slightly off-dry whites. They have great acidity and flavour.