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Muddy meets wine guru Susy Atkins

Muddy shares a tipple with The Sunday Telegraph writer for the latest intel on ace spring deals, the new no-no for dinner parties and why we should be drinking wine in cans (yes, really).

Hi Susy, Thanks for chatting to Muddy! Is it too early to crack open a Picpoul?

Ha! Even though I’m surrounded by open bottles of wine for tastings, I’m utterly uninterested in drinking before about 7pm. Which is probably a good thing… but then come early evening a switch is flicked.

What should we be drinking this spring? Any good deals on your radar?

I’m crazy about a wine at Asda at the moment in their Extra Special range, it’s a Fiano from Sicily a nice fruity scented white and it’s £4.75. The Cooperative’s Fair Trade South African Sauvignon is £6.50 and that was on offer recently for £4.75. There are bargains out there – I just have to kiss all the frogs to find them.

How much should we be paying for a good wine these days?

The latest average I heard was £6.50. The more you spend the more is going on the wine, as the costs of the bottle, the label and so on are fixed. Once you hit £8-12 you’re getting so much better than a £4 bottle every time. Once you hit £10 – £15 then a serious amount of money is going on the wine.

What wines are you into right now?

I really like Vermentino, very much the Med, grown in south of France, Italy and Sardinina (it’s about to be renamed Rolle). If you love dry, crisp aromatic whites, like Picpoul, you’ll like it. It has a slight aniseed herbal note with lemon and lime note. For reds, I’m crazy about Pinot Noir, especially from New Zealand – it’s getting better and better. Also Australian reds from the Mornington Peninsula. It’s the perfect red fo people who usually only drink white. The grape has a very thin skin so it’s never heavy – it’s full of summer berry and cherry flavours.

Any failsafes to take round to someones for dinner? Any no-no’s?

Wine

I would veer away from anything too obvious. I love Sauvignon Blanc but I don’t think I’d take it to somebody’s house. And I love Malbec, but it’s a bit obvious, they’re probably drinking it anyway. Maybe go round to a wine merchant and say ‘I know my hosts like (for example) Gavi or Pinot Grigot, is there something more interesting in Italian whites you can recommend?’. They’ll always be able to make good suggestions.

And I tell you what I think is a no-no at the moment – Prosecco. Everyone rocks up with Prosecco and we’re all getting so bored with it. If it’s a big dancy party then fine, but for dinner don’t take Prosecco, it’s just got a bit naff. 

Yay! Champagne all the way?

champagne

Cremant is the name for sparkling wines made in the Champagne method but outside the Champagne region. They tend to be really good and great value for money. A decent Cremant can rival a cheap champagne for sure. Look for good offers in places like Waitrose, I reckon to spend £10- £12 and places like Aldi and Lidl will do decent Cremants probably even cheaper.

What’s trendy in white wine? Is Marlborough Sauvignon getting a bit boring too?

I won’t hear a word against Marlborough Sauvignon but I would say I’ve stopped drinking it as a fridge staple because it’s too strong. It often comes in around 13% vol. If I had a glass while cooking it was making me feel a bit tipsy so now I drink it with food, it’s wonderful with spicy sea food or asparagus season with Hollandaise sauce.

I’ve switched instead to lighter whites, such as from the Loire Valley which are lighter and more lemony, or the French Sauvignon from the Loire, like Sancerre or Poiully Fume. Or for more of an every day the Touraine region makes Sauvignon that are much lighter – and cheaper.

You live in the Teign Valley – where’s your favourite place for a tipple locally? 

Pic credit: The Seahorse, Dartmouth

I spend a lot of time in Dartmouth – it’s such a foodie place, and you can drink really good wine there. If you want to drink really interesting wines then Mitch Tonks’ restaurant, The Seahorse, has an amazing list – it’s easy to do a lot of damage to the credit card there! Andria is my new favourite find. It has very good list and it doesn’t have to be expensive, I drank a fantastic dry Vino Verde there. The small indie, Browns Hotel, has a nice bar and a good wine list with a few wines by the glass too.

Just inland from Dartmouth, Michael Sutton Wine Cellar, run by Jonathan and Suzy Sutton, is absolutely beautiful – there’s a lovely shop, and they do events in a big old marquee attached to the stone barn. Look our for their pop-up suppers and tastings.

Are low alcohol wines any good?

We have a growing adult soft drink market so there are a lot of wines coming out which are 0.5% or power in alcohol, but I’m still not liking them very much. I drink low alcohol beer a lot, but it hasn’t really worked with wine. My favouriite if is Torres Natureo, which tastes like a decent grape juice. It’s £5.99 so I’m probably going to buy the grape juice.

I found a sparkling I like including Belle & Co (Morrisons). Not as low in alcohol, but I can really recommend a range in Waitrose called The Doctors Riesling and The Doctors Sauvignon Blanc. The guys who run the winery pluck the leaves from around the grapes, meaning they don’t develop as much sugar and are around 9% vol.

Natural wines…good or bad?

Some very good, some very bad and some in-between. Natural wines have never been defined properly in any legal way so in the wine world we take it to mean there’s been very little intervention, they’re probably organic and nothing added or taken away in the winery, with wild yeast instead of laboratory and probably very low, if any, sulphur. This last one can be problematic – if you take a bite of an apple and leave it, it’s going to go brown, so if you don’t put a little bit of sulphur in the wine, you’re much more likely to get an oxidised and very funky wine. That said, I have tasted some wonderful natural wines… tread carefully. 

Fave wine for a picnic? And any local picnic spots to recommend?

Pic credit: We Are The Uncommon

Ooh, have you come across canned wines? We Are The Uncommon, English canned wines are good. I like to picnic at the foot of the National Trust’s Castle Drogo, near Fingle Bridge. Across the field and down by the river, there are some great spots with big stones to sit on.

Fave rosé for a summer day?

There are lots of Southern French Provencal rosé wines with similar names so you might have heard of Miraval (until recently owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). Mirabeau is also good, and less expensive. Super, light, dry and it won’t break the bank. They make a rosé gin as well.  

Fancy a top up? Er, always!

Susy is available for private wine tastings, and you can see her talking about English wines at Toby’s Garden Festival on Saturday 30 April. Plus, you can get more advice from Susy – How to be your own Wine Expert.

Find more ideas here

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