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Follow Your Nose: Andy Clarke's Wine Tasting Tips


Elizabeth Lloyd-Owen06 May 2016

When Andy Clarke landed his dream job producing Saturday Kitchen, (filmed in the same building as the cookery school), his friends likened it to putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank! He realised his relationship with wine was getting serious when the show's resident wine experts started listening to his opinions. Here Andy shares his tips and recommendations for matching food and wine and his favourite London wine bars.

Having now left Saturday Kitchen, Andy continues to host fun and informative wine tastings as part of our A Taste of Saturday Kitchen Experience, has his own wine blog and writes a bi-monthly column for Crumbs Magazine.

How did you discover your nose for wine?
I've always been able to smell or taste something and put the description into words. Every episode of Saturday Kitchen has four wine recommendations, so each week for several years, I learnt a few facts about four different wines, (about region, climate, grape variety or taste for example) until I had accumulated a huge store of knowledge and developed a good palate. When the show's wine experts started asking my opinion I really started to enjoy myself and my love of wine escalated from there.

How can I learn more about what I'm drinking?
Most of the Saturday Kitchen wine experts have produced easy to use guides. Make notes as you watch the Saturday Kitchen wine pieces and use them to help you buy. Keep a note of what you've enjoyed drinking and an open mind. Don't be afraid to ask for advice in wine shops. If there's a tasting counter, make use of it! Use your nose and your taste buds and take photos of the wine you like, that way you'll know what to buy again.

Tell us something about the wine tasting experience at A Taste of Saturday Kitchen.
I want each wine to be distinctive and different. I select wines to go with specific foods so we can all appreciate the food and wine matching experience just like the guests do in the studio. We have a real laugh with it too, it's informal and fun just like the TV programme.

Are some wines better suited to drinking with food?
Wines can taste very different with food and there are wines that I class as 'easy drinking wines' - which I can happily sip without food.  Then there are 'foodie wines' which benefit from being imbibed with a meal. Drier, lighter wines are great on their own, but it's the sweeter wines that really come into their own with food. Spicy food, particularly Indian and Far Eastern dishes go fantastically well with wines, like your Rieslings and Gewürztraminers, that contain a dash of sweetness because of all the chilli and spices the food contains

What about dessert wines?
Matching wine with dessert is an interesting one. A lot of people shy away from dessert wines yet if you taste a dry white or a rich red with pudding, it will taste like vinegar.  Always make sure your dessert wine is sweeter than your pud! A retro, sweet sparkler favourite I'll be enjoying this summer with creamy desserts like pavlova is Asda's Asti.



Does wine need to "breathe" before you drink it?
Not always. Richer red wines benefit from breathing. If you don't have time, pour the wine into a jug and then into a decanter as it will expose the wine to air which can help. Young and zingy whites don't need much attention, but please don't drink your whites too cold, you'll never appreciate the real flavour if you are drinking them below 5 degrees centigrade.

Do you ever tire of wine and what are your particular favourites?
I never tire of wine, but it is good to abstain from time to time. I appreciate it even more when I take my next sip! If I'm feeling indecisive I'll turn to an old favourite. An unoaked Chardonnay like Chablis is always a good bet if I want white (also very versatile with food) or good Pinot Noir, often German. It's juicy and tangy but not so heavy that it needs food alongside.

You are celebrating a special occasion. What's your top choice to drink?
Champagne all the way! But good Champagne. I love English fizz too! There's so much variety in bubbles from England now and all worth exploring.

It's London Wine Week coming up, do you have a favourite spot to sip wine?
Gordon's Wine Bar (where I first tried white Rioja!) has always been my favourite. It's old fashioned and slightly disheveled, but the wine list is top notch and the pâté and cheese plates are simple but delicious. It's a real experience if you're in London.

Another favourite is Vagabond Wine on Charlotte Street where you can buy wine by the 'sip' from dispensing machines. It's a great way to try new things. You can take home pocket sized tasting notes.

If you want to learn more about wine tasting you can join Andy Clarke on one of our A Taste of Saturday Kitchen Experiences here.