In his latest article Michelin-starred chef and influential wine buyer Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn looks at the areas of the world that are most exciting and interesting him when it comes to looking for new wines on the list to match with changing food styles.
Buying wine to suit changing food styles and consumer palates
I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality we are seeing coming from countries like Greece and Turkey, which like Sake, are not restricted to match with food from their country of origin. Sake is now regularly turning up on wine lists in great bars and restaurants, as are wines from Eastern Europe, and of course the great South African rebirth is growing at a huge speed.
English and Welsh sparkling wine has suddenly become everyone’s darling, and consumers are happy to pay Champagne prices for their own brew. Again these should be encouraged by the glass. The quality is getting better and better and it is essential to get everyone on board with something that can help us fly the British flag worldwide.
Stylistically as with food, the style of wine that consumers are requesting is changing, food has become in general much lighter in weight, less fussy, more focused, more intense in flavour, more vibrant. Likewise to match with this style we need lighter wines that are no longer flabby or host a boxing match in the mouth.
New Zealand has grabbed the change and has been working hard over the last few years in refining its Sauvignon Blanc (all to do with the wrong yeast and ultra sun rays). It is now producing wines that resembles fresh asparagus and peas rather than tinned food. It is now lime and lychees, not tinned gooseberries, delicate white flowers not a wedding bouquet.
Fine food is highlighted by fine wine and one has to applaud growers like Neudorf and Kumeu River for producing superlative Chardonnays that can challenge Burgundy.
Over in South Africa we see white blends making a huge impression, whilst the Pinot Noir from Hemel-en -Aarde can challenge Mornington Peninsula and Martinborough. Central Otago’s Pinot is becoming more refined, this naturally happens with the vines getting older and we are seeing a much more refreshed style, not a negative to the earlier releases but a positive swing with current taste and preference.
Australia continues to impress, diversify and of course has worked well to pamper to the needs of the UK market. The excitement of Tasmania continues with great Pinot and Chardonnay as well as sparkling, but we must not forget Australia brought Riesling to the public and I see Grenache coming out as a more Pinot style. There is of course only one Bordeaux but Margaret River does make sublime Cabernet.
In Europe it’s great to see the interest in both Alsace and Germany grow, both these countries produce perfect wine for food matching as well as an alternative appetiser.
This is a great industry to be involved in, which has many challenges but most of these are good productive challenges, it is also one of the friendliest industries to be in. The biggest challenge is choice, there is too much of it, but we need to embrace this and work it to our benefit, and share it.