Friday, 16 July 2010

Wine: the red-white divide

This post comes as something of a diversion from sewing. Scary, I know, but I wanted to write about it as I wonder how many other people might appreciate a solution to this conundrum. When my sister and I went to Paris in May one of the things that came up in conversation was wine drinking. I mentioned how sad I found it that Mr Teacakes only likes to drink red wine, while I only like white as it means we never get to open a bottle of wine together with a meal, which seems like such a good, sociable thing to do. We do share a love of champagne, but sometimes I crave the stillness of wine and our collective wallet craves that we drink water...and sometimes one doesn't feel quite jolly enough to be popping champagne corks.

Laura instantly said that she'd ask her good friend Victoria Moore, who writes a drinks column for The Guardian each week, if she could recommend anything that might appeal to us both. A couple of weeks later, after finding out which country we tend to buy from and where we do our weekly shop, my sister posted me a wine prescription from Victoria - I loved reading her reasons for choosing each bottle - along with the gift of a copy of Victoria's book How to Drink, which is rather wonderful. It talks about drinking (not just alcohol - it covers everything from cocktails, tea and coffee, to lemonade and all that's liquidy that lies inbetween) in the most unpretentious, but charming way. Victoria goes into great detail about so many of the tiny nuances of how the experience of drinking something can be made more perfect, that it's completely fascinating. It's a book that I never knew I was lacking, but 10 pages in, realised I'd been missing out by never having had it on my book shelves until now.

I was thrilled to learn that you can freeze unfinished wine as ice cubes and then use them in well as finding that, when having a party, the best way to serve ice is by taking a pick axe to a roasting pan full of solid ice (Victoria obtains this gem meeting the head bartender overseeing venues such as Milk & Honey, who asserts this after having studied the science of ice-cubes in drinks (temperatures, surface areas etc...nothing is suggested without a good reason). The book is also gorgeous and won the V&A Best Illustrated Book of the Year.

It happened that the morning the book and prescription arrived in the post I had just had my delivery of shopping from Ocado, so I was quick to deny that it was for me when just half an hour later another Ocado delivery driver knocked at the door. But he shook his head in the face of my refusals and raised the clinking bags to me and told me, with a delighted grin, that they were from my sister, almost at the exact moment that the clinking reminded me of the parcel that I'd just received and I asked 'my sister?'.

I nearly cried when I opened the bags to discover that my sister had bought a bottle of each of the wines on Victoria's list for us to sample. I do feel so thoroughly spoilt to have a sister who plans so many thoughtful surprises for us. So in the warmth of the summer evenings Mr Teacakes and I have taken to the garden and been enjoying working our way slowly through the bottles (hence the candle holder at the top of the post, which has accumulated several winter's worth of rust, but at one point it was shiny and new, a gift from Mr Teacakes). We are yet to start on any of the reds as the weather feels just too good to open them yet, but have picked a favourite from the whites, which was the Verdelho. With all of them I could taste exactly why Victoria would have picked them out sensing that they might appeal to the red wine drinker. Each has a heaviness and lack of acidity to it that feels less typical of white wine, while retaining all the flavours that I love.

So bottles can now be shared and somehow finding one or two whites that he found palatable, has given Mr Teacakes a new-found tolerance for drinking white, even though the non-Victoria bottles that we have drunk since haven't been as well received. She also included a bottle of Prosecco San Leo as an inexpensive sparkly option which was delicious. I will share my own thoughts on the reds as and when we open them as I'm guessing this red-white divide might be a common issue among couples and friends. I thought I'd write up Victoria's prescription here for you, just in case you might find it useful too.

Victoria Moore's Wine Prescription for Ian & Florence - May 2010

'So, I think we need to go Beaujolais for the red because it will be relatively light and refreshingly acidic (in a good way). Also, you can tell them that everyone is going nuts about 2009 Beaujolais, it is an exceptional vintage so the wines will be stunning. I love Henry Fessy 2009 Brouilly, Beaujolais, France. it's a real artisan wine. Second choice would be Bouchard Pere et Fils 2009 Fleurie.

For the the white, as they like to buy Australian you could try them on De Bortoli Selection Verdelho 2009 South East Australia, which reminds me of broad, flat blades of grass. It's sharp like icicles but sort of flatly juicy at the same time. Verdhelo is something I would try people on if they said they liked sauvignon blanc, though it does have 10% chardonnay in the blend, broadening it out, as well as 4% arneis which is a very poky little herbaceous grape from north-west Italy. An alternative would be Apremont Les Roacilles 2009 Vin de Savoie France which has the distinction of being from a little-seen-here wine region and a little-known grape (jacquere). It is a bit lemony and a bit stony and clear and refreshing like drinking from a mountain stream.'


  1. What a fab sister you have. The book sounds interesting. My husband doesn't really drink either although he occasionally goes for a glass of red. I prefer white, and am quite happy to open a bottle and keep it in the fridge for a few days before it is devoured!!

  2. Wow, now I really wish I had a sister! What a thoughtful gift. To me though, there's only one answer to the question, "red or white?" And that is, "yes, please!"

    :) A

  3. I'm just struggling with the concept of unused wine!

    (But enjoy your wonderful treat)

  4. Would your sister fancy swapping places with mine? She turned up with 4 cans of lager the last time she came to stay - typical student.

    Is blush a mid-way point? I used to only drink white, but turned to red when it was the only wine in the house!! Ahem.

  5. Julie, I think that is yet another height issue that was much talked of in the comments of last post. At 5ft 1", one either has unused wine...or is comotose for an entire week. Thankfully I normally have lots of unused wine!

    For some reason I don't like blush...we're a picky pair.

  6. One of my sons bought me that book and I love it! Thanks for the wine recommendations... I know what will be in my next Ocado delivery!

  7. I had the Fleurie recommended to me by Denise at the Wine Sleuth ( - another handy person to know for wine help!) for our Christmas lunch and we've had it several times since, it's lovely. I'm definitely going to check out Victoria Moore's book, I really enjoy her column.

  8. Hi Florence! Sometimes I think there are compensations to being single....glug, glug, glug.... xxxxxx

  9. What a lovely sister you have - I may have to direct mine over here to "get some ideas"...

    I bought the "How to Drink" book as a gift for Mr Rosie last year and it's a firm favourite in our house. As you've discovered there are some great tips - we made some truly delicious sloe gin from a recipe in the book, even as a confirmed gin hater I recommend it!

    We also have the Red/White divide in our house so I'll definitely be hunting out some of those wines - thank you Florence!

  10. Hi Flossie
    I think I loved about every single book that your sister recommended to you. This looks fabulous, and I think it will go straight on my amazon wishlist ;)
    Thanks for sharing!


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

A few of the books/products that I link to on Amazon from my blog contain affiliate links and very occasionally, I'll mention a product that I've been given free of charge. I choose the things that I recommend carefully and my priority is to only share things that I love.