Wine Wisdom

Scott Malyon of Ellis Wines shares his expert tips on choosing wine

Ever wondered if decanting red was really worthwhile or if magnums affect the wine inside? How about which glasses to use, or how to choose a wine that all of your guests will enjoy? Here wine expert Scott Malyon of Ellis Wines shares his words of fascinating wine wisdom with TOAST.

Scott Malyon's of Ellis Wines' Expert Wine Wisdom 

First things first – where should we look to buy our wine Scott?

Supermarkets are doing a better job these days, especially the likes of Aldi and Lidl, but you know what? Go and see your local wine merchant. You don’t need to go in with a huge wad of cash either. Head in with a tenner in your back burner and you’ll walk out with a bottle of something special.

Are magnums are good idea when entertaining a crowd?

For a showpiece it’s great and I do it when I can, purely for that reason. Nothing beats pouring glasses of rosé on a hot summer’s day for friends fresh from a magnum! And if you’re entertaining on a Saturday night with a bit of Fleetwood Mac playing in the background and some snacks on the go, reach for the magnum people! Wines tend to age more gracefully in magnum too, which is helpful.

In this day and age of screw top bottles some of us can sometimes struggle to open a cork with ease! Do you have any tips for this?

This is a question that often crops up.  First of all - you only ever need a waiter’s friend.  Secondly, insert the tip of the coil into the top of the cork and remember the magic 6 rule; twist the waiter’s friend clockwise a full 6 times before taking out the cork. Works every time!

Glassware is always an important part of serving any drink – are there any hard and fast rules for wine?

For youthful red wines that are ‘waste no time and crack on with it’ such as Pinot Noirs, Spanish wines other than Rioja, southern Italian reds, the vessel of choice doesn’t really matter too much. In Venice they’ll serve you young local wines in a small tumbler!  For those bigger, richer and more full bodies reds from places like Bordeaux, northern Italy, Portugal serve these in larger, wider topped glasses which allows more oxygen to creep into the glass, softening out the wine a little making it a better guzzle.

Should white always be served chilled, red at room temperature and champagne as cold as possible?

In most cases that is right and that’s what I would recommend to people. That’s not to say though that some red wines cannot be chilled….try it for yourself! Chill down a bottle of red that is light in every way (colour, smell and taste) and see what happens. There is a red wine from Marches, just east of Tuscany called Lacrima that is unreal served chilled.

Is decanting red always necessary?

You know what, it is actually habitual for me to decant most red wines I serve at home simply because it is now second nature to me. For the best part, the wine tastes a bit better and honestly, maybe even sometimes it makes no difference at all. The reason why we decant wine is so that, like having a larger glass, we can soften down any gnarly-ness of the wine and allow it to open up a bit. Would you ever take a ribeye off the grill, plate it up and send it to the table straight away? Like a decent steak, a decent wine needs time to relax, play some cards, have a cigar and reeeelaaaax.

What is the best technique for trying the wine?

The 4S method - Stare, Swirl, Sniff and Sip.

Autumn is traditionally time for cosying up with a bottle of red wine, but are there other wines that hit the same spot?

I love this question, because there is noting quite like sitting in front of an open fire on a chilly British evening with a soul-warming blanket like glass of red wine, is there? If this is the scenario of choice, then please try this with a Barberesco from Piedmont in northern Italy or my personal favourite, a glass of Cabernet Merlot from the Clare Valley in Australia.  For a white, go with a cheeky drop of Verdicchio - if you like white Burgundy, then you’ll have a laugh with this.

Any fizz that you recommend serving this autumn/winter?

Go with something that has a little more guts than a Prosecco, but not Champagne…that would be an easy choice. Cava is coming back big style. My favourite at the moment is from a producer called Mont Marcal, we have been working with them for a little while now and its magic stuff!

When entertaining it’s quite difficult to choose wine that everyone at the table will enjoy as everyone has different tastes…do you have any top tips for this?

This is another tricky one given the pure subjectivity of wine. This is where you ought to go and see your wine merchant with a budget in mind, and as them to select 2-3 bottles for a party and say ‘show me the money!’  If that’s not an option, go with a red and a white from anywhere in Chile. It’s so reliable all year, every year.

A little nibble is always nice with a glass of wine - are there any snacks that you can recommend that work well with certain wines?

Salt does wonders for lifting fruits in wine, so things like salted almonds and pretzels work well.  Acidity craves fat too. Picpoul is famed for having that box-fresh acidity so it needs fat to cut right through it. Little pork belly bites are awesome! For a real quirky one though, get some cubes of strong cheddar, drizzle with honey then sprinkle over some coffee granules.  Weird I know, but you get salt, sweet and bitter all in one hit – it’s amazing!

And if we are serving a full meal – are there any general rules we can follow on that will us choose the best wine to suit our menu?

Food matching is no science, and honestly, push yourself and go with your instincts. That said, remember these 3 little nuggets;

  • High acidity in wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Picpoul de Pinet, Riesling) love fat. 
  • Low acidity in wine (Chardonnay for example) needs creamy flavours. 
  • Finally, where there is plenty of that dry mouth tannin in a red wine, there should be protein. This is why steak and Malbec works so well.

What about dessert? Is pudding wine a must?

I have done lots of little pop up events recently where dessert has been the focus. Pudding wines work really well, for the easy choice. However, remember the flavour compounds that work well together; Salt and Sweet, Bitter and Sweet. So pairing a bitter chocolate tart would go really well with a sweet red wine for example. But on the other hand, flip that around and if your dessert of choice is actually a cheese board, sweet wines go well here too.

If there is leftover wine after a party do we need consider how we store the wine or can we just pop it in the rack?

Leftover wine???!!! An open bottle of wine should last another 3 days providing the cork is firmly placed back in the bottle so that no oxygen can get inside an affect it.  Keep it upright too so that the surface area is reduced, if any of that nasty oxygen wants to knock on the door and come in. By the way, a teaspoon in a bottle of fizz does work…steel repels bubbles!

If we want to learn more about wine – what would you recommend?

Well, other than getting in touch with Ellis Wines, have a peak at the WSET website where you can see what courses they have.  From beginner to super advanced, all of which are really well priced too.  As I always say though, “The more you drink the more you learn and the more you do this the less you’ll yearn”

For more information on Scott and Ellis Wines then check our TOAST’s recent Spotlight interview with the man himself over on TheEdit now, or visit Ellis Wines’ page in TOAST’s Little Black Book


Posted in Inspire Me

by Inspire Me
on on 31 August 2017

  expert wine tips, wine, wine pairing, wine tasting

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