Whilst we were at the BBC Good Food show last week, Mum and I were lucky enough to sit down with wine expert Susy Atkins. As well as writing a wine column for the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella Magazine, you may recognised Susy from her regular appearances on Saturday Kitchen. She breaks down the jargon making buying and trying wine easy to understand for all!
Once we’d sat down and got our introductions out the way, I got to asking Susy some questions. She was chatty, friendly and great fun.
Some people would describe what you do as a dream job. How did you get into it and was there a point when you realized you wanted to work with wine?
I wanted to be a journalist so when I finished uni I did a post grad in Journalism. Then I went to work for a business magazine and I learnt on that job that although I enjoyed the journalism, the subject matter didn’t interest me in the slightest. I had to find somehting which did so when a job came up on a magazine called ‘Wine’ I jumped at the chance, spending time at evening classes to learn as I went along. I worked there for several years and then went freelance so that I could travel the world. I even spent 5 weeks as a wine hand in Australia, lugging and washing out barrels (although I was too weak to lift them)! Then I began writing for the Which? Wine Guide and eventually ended up being their co-editor. Since then I’ve been freelancing for a zillion years (not quite Susy!)
I recently read your review on Aldi wines – I don’t think we always realise you can get a very decent wine without spending the earth. Do you have any stand out recommendations for under £10?
Yes, absolutely. The stand out for me from Aldi was their Macon Villages – its £4.99 – how do they do that! Occassionally incredible bargains do come up although I do recommend spending £6 – £7, you’ll often be surprised at what you can get. Tesco Simply Muscadet too.. very nice and things like Chilean Pinot Noir – for £6 or £7 you can get something like a Cono Sur which will be much cheaper than the original Burgundy Pinot Noirs where you’ll pay £11- £12 or more.
What is your up and coming wine tip for this summer?
Give another chance to the old fashioned classic European wine regions – they are reinventing themselves. Eg Beaujolis – its not been good for years but recently its really turned around. Muscadet too and even Vinho Verde (a Portugese wine) which used to be very old fashioned but a new generation wine makers are coming in now with a riper, fresher taste. Plus, at 10% alcohol you can drink it all day!
You’ve talked about wines being enhanced by the food that you are drinking them with – so often I think we just drink the same thing and don’t really think about how it matches what we’re eating. What are your very basic tips for matching different wines with different meals?
When things have very bright flavours, you should crank up the flavours to match. Complex flavours like Asian flavours for example need something big like a new world wine whereas something like fish will need a fresh European wine. The most important thing to remember is to balance like for like. It sounds obvious but people often try to be clever by contrasting flavours and then it goes wrong. Either the food or the wine overwhelms the other. Go for a flavour which compliments the food – eg red wine with blackcurrant flavour goes with lamb – white wine with apple flavours goes with pork.
I find that you make things sound very straightforward and simple. It seems as though the ‘snob factor’ around wine is being broken down – how can people get into it?
I agree, people shouldn’t be intimidated by wine and things have changed alot in the last few years. It should be for everyone. My tips for anyone wanting to teach themselves more about wine are:
1) Make sure you try lots of different wines and don’t get stuck in a rut. Every opportunity – parties, dinners, meals out, always try something different & don’t be scared
2) When you do try someting different, think about it. Is it sweeter, richer, drier – for better or worse, think about what you do or don’t like. How is it different from your usual tipple.
We are so lucky in this country to have such a broad range of wines to try. If you go to France or Australia for example, the majority of the wines on sale will be not only from that country but from that region. Take advantage of what we have here which is huge variety!
If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your days, what would you go for?
It would be something sparkling definitely. I’d feel awful not to have a red or a white wine again but it’d have to be sparkling. England – we make great sparkling wine now, especially down in Devon and Cornwall. We’re not that far from Champagne! It’d have to be a dry bubbly!
You can follow Susy on twitter @SusyAtkins.
We finished the interview by putting Susy’s tips straight into action by enjoying a cold glass of crisp clear Reisling – a variety which neither mum or I would usually go for. All thats left to say is ‘cheers’ and thank you Susy for so many great tips. Heres to trying more new wines in the near future!