Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, December 7, 2008: Dinner-party choices

How did I get the idea that wine was supposed to be a source of enjoyment and relaxation? Seventy per cent of people feel intimidated in supermarket wine aisles, 36 per cent worry that they will take an unfashionable bottle to a dinner party and 20 per cent always buy the same wine. If the findings of this research by Sainsbury’s are to be believed, a lot of people find choosing wine a nightmare.

Sainsbury’s solution is to categorise its 163 own-label wines, including the superior Taste the Difference range, in one of seven styles – crisp and delicate, rich and complex, light and fruity, etcetra – and to identify the bottles accordingly. This should appeal to customers who are comfortable displaying the Sainsbury’s name, but those who worry about taking the right bottle to a dinner party may not want to take a supermarket own-label.

There’s no infallible answer to the dinner party dilemna, but, provided you avoid the cheapest, you are unlikely to go far wrong with Chablis, pinot noir or Rioja. Alternatively, if you fancy an upmarket own-brand the Fortnum & Mason selection is impressive.

2004 Viña del Encino Rioja, £10.90
Polished modern Rioja with seductive spicy fruit (Fortnum & Mason, 0845 300 1707).

2006 Ra Nui Pinot Noir, £11.25
Exemplary New Zealand pinot: pure, silky, raspberry-scented (01962 712351).

2006 Domaine Pinson Chablis, £11.90
Classic Chablis - nutty, creamy and mineral (Vine Trail, 0117 921 1770).