Samui Wining & Dining
New Wine List

Forget about all those antiquated wine rules – here are 10 brand new guidelines to follow.


New Wine List1) Don’t worry about others’ opinions.

If you don’t pick up those subtle hints of ‘kaffir lime leaf’, ‘mouldy blackcurrant tones’ and ‘the sweet muskiness reminiscent of Grandma’s bottom drawer’ when you put your nose into the glass at a pretentiously serious wine tasting, never mind. Take a look at two different tasting notes for the same bottle of wine, same vineyard, same vintage – but written by two different critics and you’ll find huge differences of opinion. The critics hardly ever taste or smell the same things. Which means that your guess is as good as anyone’s, even wine critics. So drink. Decide what you like. But if you detect a hint of cat’s pee in an expensive Sauvignon Blanc, best keep it to yourself!


2) Forget the arty-farty label.

It’s what on the back of the bottle that will tell you the most about the wine inside. Buying a bottle of wine can sometimes feel like playing Russian roulette, but the odds can be tipped in your favour by knowing who the importers and distributors are, especially here in Thailand. Also, you will see which grape varieties are used and in what percentages. Alcohol content can be a vital clue as well; too high, particularly in a white wine, is not a good thing. And 15% is just too much in any wine.


3) Don’t buy another corkscrew.

That cheap lever-style corkscrew (stamped with the company logo of the sales representative who gifted it to you) is all you will ever need. It works well enough. And soon corkscrews, along with corks, will be museum pieces. The Aussies and Kiwis have blazed that trail, and won the argument, once and for all. Now just a few die-hard traditionalists need to be superannuated and then we’ll all be free from disease-ridden tree bark ruining our wine. Oh, and in the meantime, for the love of God, please don’t sniff the cork!


4) Save on expensive decanters.

Whilst you may need to decant on some occasions, you don’t need an expensive wine decanter. Even when you have wine that needs to breathe a little to come alive (like big, young reds and high end Bordeaux) save the money you would have spent on a designer wine decanter at a posh shop and buy some more wine instead. Because a simple glass jug or a carafe will do the job just as well. In fact a glass vase will work, just as long as you get life-giving oxygen into the wine, which is all that matters.


5) Learn to love red wines colder.

Don’t be afraid to chill red wines, especially the lighter bodied ones such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Zinfandel. Even medium-bodied red wines are best served at the temperatures experienced in the Loire Valley on a late September’s afternoon. That’s around 15 degrees Centigrade.


6) Redraw your wine map.

This is a challenge, I know. We easily slip into safe wine-buying habits which are often geographically based. But there are exciting new wine-producing regions appearing all the time. In Europe, newcomers Turkey and Croatia are making waves. Whilst Austria is fast gaining a reputation for producing some of the most interesting and least pronounceable wines in Europe. New areas are being developed in Australia and South America, and Long Island in New York State shocked the wine world recently with its exceptional Sauvignon Blanc. And, somewhat bizarrely, some innovative vineyards in southern France are now producing some excellent ‘New World’ style wines.


7) Don’t believe what’s said in the movies.

Sorry, but Merlot does not suck. The Merlot business took a huge hit in the States, and beyond, because of the Hollywood wine tour movie, ‘Sideways’, in which Paul Giamatti’s character barks the immortal line, “I’m not drinking any f*****g Merlot!” To be fair, California probably doesn’t produce the best Merlot around, it’s far more interested in cultivating its favoured Pinot Noir. But at its best – typically Italian – Merlot is amongst the noblest of grapes. Lush, subtle but powerful; gorgeously smooth and delicately perfumed. And let’s not forget, it’s the stuff of the highly-sought-after Chateau Petrus.


8) Don’t be a slave to the ratings.

Sure, wine ratings are useful when you have nothing else to go on, but all those 90+ stickers are just someone else’s opinion (and anyone in the business will tell you how incestuous the wine world can be). If you already know you don’t like Barbaresco, or more probably, Pinotage, all the points Robert Parker can lavish on it won’t make it taste any better to you. And it’s only your palate that really counts, as you’re the one drinking the wine.


9) Realise that acidity isn’t bad.

In fact, when accompanying food it can be key. Think of it as a lime sorbet for your palate, it wipes it clean, refreshing it for the next course. If enjoying a meal with many different strong flavours and choices, antipasto for example, a wine like Chianti enlivens your taste-buds (try it with blue cheeses and dark chocolate). How do know if a wine is acidic? Grape varieties give a clue, but it’s best to simply ask your wine waiter or wine storekeeper.


10) Be open to changes in wine containers.

Let’s not resist radical changes in the way we contain wine. Curiously, many people are yet to be convinced on the merits of keg (a.k.a. box) wine, let alone the newest Aussie innovation –tinnies! It’s worth remembering that between the stopper, label and glass we are spending at least a dollar on dry goods for every bottle. Why? We know wine stores well in kegs – the larger the format, the better the wine is protected. And for fresh young wines, the primary aromas are best preserved in something bigger than a bottle. Once you break the wine into smaller lots, it starts evolving quickly, so the keg is a real bonus for a Riesling or a delicate rosé. And with kegs, you never have to face that age-old dilemma: ‘Should I finish the bottle?’


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