Glass matters

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A few nights ago, some friends came over for one of my wine and snacks evenings. It was actually the dogs who persuaded me to arrange it, because they were getting bored with the same old company. As is the custom, every guest brought a bottle of wine, which helped to get things going. Someone even showed up clutching a half-bottle of Mont Clair which in these difficult times seemed touchingly generous.

As the evening’s merriment continued, I couldn’t help but notice that some people didn’t seem to know why glasses have a stem. I’ve explained all this before but in case you weren’t listening, I shall say it again. The stem of the wine glass serves one purpose – to hold it. You see, we simply do not hold our glass by the bowl, at least not in polite company. There are several sensible reasons for this. Firstly, the heat from your hand will push up the temperature of the wine too quickly. If you’re drinking white or sparkling wines which always taste better when they’re cold, this is the last thing you need. Secondly, you’ll almost certainly impart fingerprints to the side of the glass, thus obscuring the colour and appearance of the liquid inside. It also makes the glasses more difficult to wash. It is definitely un-chic to hold the glass by the bowl, as though you’re in some freezing wintry place cradling a mug of cocoa.

While I’m on the subject, champagne and sparkling wines really need a special kind of glass. Forget the traditional saucers-on-a-stick once popular at weddings, because they’re useless for sparklers. The bubbles that create the distinctive character and mouth-feel disappear rapidly and so does the aroma. If you haven’t got some already, buy some proper champagne glasses, also known as flutes. They’re just a thinner, elongated version of the standard wine glass, concentrating the aroma at the top and showing the bubbles at their best. But don’t rush out and buy some yet because in a moment, I’ll tell you how to get six of them absolutely free.

You can buy this week’s wines from World of Wine, based in Naklua on Soi 16. The company offers free delivery in the Pattaya area on any order of six bottles or more (mixed cases included) and you also get a five percent discount. They donate their profits to local charities too. You can order wines direct from their website at www.theworldofwine.co.th/index.php. You can also send an email to [email protected] if you prefer. If for some reason your Internet connection is down, try the electric telephone and dial 038 368 192-3 or 08 77108528.

Charles Steiner NV Brut Sparkling Wine (Bt. 695 @ World of Wine)

Established in 1999, Broken Hills Estate is an excellent small cooperative based in McLaren Vale. This is the Brokenhills house sparkler, and jolly good it is too. Like Champagne, it’s made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but in this case, the grapes hail from Australia’s Barossa Valley. The wine is bright gold with a lively race of fine bubbles and has a refreshing floral aroma of white fruit and a faint hint of boiled sweets. You’ll also get that lovely yeasty smell when you open the bottle, because the wine was left to mature on the lees. Now I don’t want to get too technical about this, but the “lees” are the deposits of residual yeast which drift down to the bottom of the vat of wine after fermentation. Normally at this point, the wine is transferred to another container (a process known as racking), leaving the sediment behind. Some wines are aged on the lees for a time, to create a distinctive and attractive yeasty aroma and taste.

In case you’re wondering about the NV Brut, the abbreviation “NV” stands for “non-vintage” which means that grapes from different years were blended to produce a consistent taste. This approach is quite common in sparkling wines, including Champagne. The word Brut is the French for “raw” and is usually used on sparkling wine labels of all countries to indicate that the wine is off-dry. If you want something as dry as the proverbial bone, look for the words Extra Brut on the label.

Now then, where was I? (Search me – Ed.) Oh yes, the wine has a crisp and refreshing acidity with plenty of lively fruit on the palate and hints of citrus and pineapple. With a long, persistent and fruity finish, this really is a very pleasant and bracing champagne-style wine. It would make the perfect apéritif because the lively touch of acidity will kick the taste-buds into action. This is certainly a cut above the average sparkler but you need to serve it really cold – straight out of the fridge will do fine, because in this climate it will heat up all too quickly, especially if you insist on holding the glass by the bowl.

Now here’s the good news. If you buy a case of six bottles of this excellent sparkler, those nice people at World of Wine will not only give you free delivery and a five percent discount, but also six lovely champagne glasses free, gratis and for nothing (while stocks last). So there’s no excuse any more for slurping your wine out of a plastic mug.

Brokenhills Estate “Amanda’s Brook” Sauvignon Blanc (white) 2012 (Bt. 830 @ World of Wine)

This is a splendid wine with remarkable character and elegance, made with grapes from the Adelaide Hills, a region famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. Adelaide Hills was formerly an apple-growing region and there are still a few orchards to be seen. Grape cultivation is relatively recent and because the area is around a thousand feet above sea level, it’s ideal for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is a very pale straw colour with a lovely fragrant aroma of gooseberries, peas, freshly cut grass, white flowers and herbs. It’s a fairly typical Sauvignon Blanc aroma but with a hint of sweetness and finesse. Unusually, this medium-bodied wine has a seductive, soft mouth-feel and even has the faintest suggestion of sweetness. This is what the Aussies like to call “fruit character” coming through, because there’s no actual sugar in the wine. There’s a good bit of refreshing fruit on the palate with zesty apples, a slight dash of gentle acidity and a long, fruity finish.

This is not a typical dry-and-flinty Sauvignon Blanc because the wine makers have brought out a softer, gentler character of the grape which you don’t often encounter. It’s lovely to drink on its own and would make a perfect apéritif.  But if you prefer your wines with food, this would go a treat with well-flavoured chicken, richly-flavoured fish dishes, quiche or even baked garlic mushrooms. And yes, since you asked, I did bake some garlic mushrooms especially for the occasion.

The recent tax hikes have cranked up the price of this wine significantly, and I noticed that it’s on the wine list of a well-known Bangkok hotel for Bt 1,500. Buy a case from World of Wine and you’ll get free delivery and the usual five percent discount. Now then, I shall walk around to check who’s holding their glass correctly. For those who still haven’t got it right, there will be a severe reprimand and a poke with a pointed wooden stick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.