Sunday, 1 November 2009

Two Heathers are better than one

On the premise that “two heads are better than one”, I am pleased to introduce Heather Aitken (two Heathers are better than one) who shares my passion for all things vinoculous!

From her debut in the Good Wine Guide in 1977, Heather went on to own a string of shops, delis and restaurants in London, before succumbing to the lure of the sun and “the good life” in Portugal. Now, like the Terminator, SHE’S BACK, and will regale you with her own particular brand of wine, food and fashion psychology. Together we are devising all sorts of entertaining ways with wine and we'll be keeping you updated on all the excitement on our website and here in this column.

Heather A: To misquote Barry Manilow, “Music and fashion is always the passion” – and so too is food and wine. “The enjoyment of wine is part of a stylish lifestyle”, says Georges Deboeuf, who produces the No.1 French wine brand in USA and is the most popular producer of Beaujolais in the world. I had the good fortune to meet Georges back in the late 70’s, then a charming young fellow with a steely determination to succeed. His interest in art and design has been in evidence ever since a bouquet of English wildflowers inspired him to sketch the first of his “flower labels”, now a trademark of his Beaujolais Crus. Every year artists are commissioned to create a new label. In November I will tell you the exciting story of Beaujolais Nouveau, Alan Hall and the jolly band that popularized the race to get this new wine to England.

On the subject of Georges Deboeuf's flowery labels: after copious amounts of scientific research (by many many people), it was found by one Professor Larry Lockshin that the average time for wine consumers to decide which bottle to buy is 38 seconds. Decisions are mainly influenced by the label!

Wine makers are therefore trying to produce accessibly named wines such as “Good red” (boring), or bottles illustrated with recognizable symbols or celebrities they want customers to associate with the wine. In America I am told some of the popular choices for labels are “chateau traileur parc”, “white trashfindel” and “peanut noir”. On this basis I think we can do better, how about “Simon Cowell Syrah” – “an acerbic taste, but good body and extremely rich”. Or “ Cheryl Cole Chardonnay” – appears a sweet crowd pleaser, but with complex undertones. Very popular”. We could go on!

Let's now get past the label (before we get sued!), and find what else attracts us to the “noble rot”. It is sensuous: perceived by the nose (aroma), and the mouth (taste), and unlike food is held in the mouth to savour. (OK, I know we all quaff and gulp as well!) Wine is so often linked to the idea of seduction and the feel good factor that it must be deduced that from the lowliest supermarket plonk to the finest vintages, we are titillated and desirous of tasting and enjoying the effects.

There has grown up a real connection between women and wine which I will elaborate and report on in more depth at another time. Suffice it to say most women I talk to have a real relationship with a glass or two of sauvignon or shiraz, and see it as a form of reward at the end of the day/lunchtime/whenever. Forget the old maxim “tea and sympathy”, today it’s all about “chardonnay and cheers”. I look forward to hearing your comments on this phenomenon and to continue to carry out my own research.

Heather and I can give you the opportunity to try and to appreciate widely differing styles of wine, and to go to places where wine is matched harmoniously with food. Coming up soon (watch this space) – Wine, Food and Fashion events - yes, all rolled into one as of course all the best parties are. But whatever we can do for you don’t forget to drink it, revel in it, enjoy it, it's good for you....all those vitamins and minerals. Have you heard about “the French Paradox”?

Heather D: Perhaps that's something for another time, I think we need to wind up...

Heather A: OK, here's a recipe for meditation: select a glass, carefully pour your chosen tipple two thirds full (enjoy the feeling of restraint), note the colours and texture before lifting to your nose...then breathe in the aromas and smile. Take a sip and let the liquid linger for a moment on your tongue, feel the sensation as it glides down your throat and sets off a little ping of pleasure in your brain. ...Feeling good? History, fruit of the earth, life and romance in a bottle.
Chin chin, keep your pheromones up!

Weekly wine picks

Hallowe’en is upon us and Guy Fawkes night is just around the corner. This can mean only one thing (well, apart from children eating their own body weight in sweets and candy floss) – eating outdoors, when really we know it’s just too cold. Warming red wines are what you need:

Hospices de Beaujeu 2007, Beaujolais-Villages, £7.99 at Waitrose
We’ll be talking more about Beaujolais another time, but if there’s one thing that these wines do well, it’s generous, juicy fruit and soft tannins – a perfect foil for a honey mustard sausage.

The Society’s Argentine Malbec 2008, £6.25 The Wine Society (
Enough savoury beefiness to stand up to meaty barbecue fare, with a whack of warming black fruit.

Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007 - £7.99 Taurus Wines near Bramley
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo may be a bit of a mouthful, but the wine itself slips down a treat and its smoky fruit is the ideal accompaniment for rockets and Catherine wheels.

Originally published in the Surrey Advertiser, but this is much longer (and funnier).

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