Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’ve never been a wine guy, but I do like to get funky. Ok… they probably wouldn’t tell you the funky part, but I’m telling you now.
I’ve never really enjoyed wine, but then again, three years ago, I probably couldn’t have imagined myself enjoying sour beers, let alone my semi-obsession with Gueuze that’s developed since just before my trip to Belgium last May. With my beer tastes developing all the time, in the latter half of last year, I started to wonder whether it might be time for me to try and appreciate wine a bit more.
Funnily enough, around about this time, I started to see the buzzwords of ‘natural wine’ all the time. My curiosity caught and I started to do a little research to find out what it is that makes wine natural.
I learned that the philosophy behind natural wines isn’t all that different to Lambics and other spontaneously fermented beers. Natural wines are produced without added sugars, foreign yeasts or bacteria and in many cases, they’re un-fined and unfiltered. According to what I read (and what I learned from an interesting conversation with a friendly bartender in Copenhagen), the results are often very flavourful and slightly funky wines. Probably worth checking out, I thought.
Consulting the Twittersphere for advice, all arrows pointed to Hop Burns & Black, down in Peckham Rye, London. Known for stocking the combo of awesome beer, hot sauce and records, the shop on East Dulwich Road also supplies a carefully curated selection of wines.
With a trip planned to see my sister in Lewisham in mid-December, I saw the perfect opportunity to make a visit, in search of a perception-altering bottle of vino.
After a Saturday of many beers, I made my way across after breakfast on Sunday morning. After a couple of minutes of staring at the wine shelves without my slightly-hungover brain taking in any information, I consulted a member of staff who helpfully recommended a bottle of 2016 ‘Staring at The Sun’ from Australian wine producers, Momento Mori.
Two months on, I’m about to do the unimaginable and describe my drinking experience. Ready or not, here comes the drop.
Whilst I’ve learned a little bit about what characteristics to expect from different hops, I really don’t know anything about what notes different grape varieties impart on wine, but I can tell you that the 2016 vintage of ‘Staring at The Sun’ is made up of Vermentino, Fiano and Moscato Giallo with the skins kept on.
The result is a wine that’s orange in colour, completely unlike any wine I’ve come across before. However, it’s not only the colour of the wine that’s orange; on the nose, I was getting a lot of sweet orange and clementine, with a hint of farmhouse musk and a little spice. To taste, the sweetness of orange and apricot was perfectly balanced with some gingery spice and tangy orange rind. This combination of flavours is bound together by a funky sourness and cider-like dryness.
All in all, I found this to be a spectacular bottle of wine, if only in my extremely limited opinion. In hindsight, I probably should have found a friend to share the bottle with as I did find the last third of the bottle a little hard going, not being a regular or even occasional wine drinker, until now.
My perceptions of what wine can be have been replaced and I’m very thankful to the team at Hop Burns & Black for providing such a great suggestion for a grape-sceptic like myself. I’ll be treating myself to another (different) bottle at some time in the not so distant future, I reckon.
Wine isn’t so bad after all.