Having worked in the drinks industry on and off for six years, I am a keen wine, beers and spirits hobbyist. Born and raised in Glasgow, I am always looking to find the best way to enjoy the international world of drinks within Scotland, as well as the finest in local fare.
Yes, the good old Herald goes to great effort to promote our produce and contribution both within our own borders, and in the world. It’s an ongoing, probably endless project. Given that within Scotland we all (sort of) have ‘wee country syndrome’, such appeals often take the form of pieces saying: ‘Look! We can do it just as well as them big countries’, and so on.
Just so everyone was clear, I went to great pains to labour that despite this cultural link between riding bikes and drinking wine, ne’er the twain shall meet! It’s just bad news for everyone involved. To quote myself, I said of cycling under the influence: “It’s just as dangerous as when drivers do it, but even dumber – you are the ‘crumple zone’ on a bike”. This week, there was a news story linking alcoholic drinks and driving. Uh-oh…
Perhaps they are so happy because it’s no surprise they are happy; this is the third year running they have been awarded this particular accolade. For those of you who can’t be bothered looking into it, I’ll give you (my interpretation of) the digested read: the OECD reckons that being rich and/or middle class is the only way to be happy, and according to them, Australia has the farthest reaching and most stable middle class in the world.
How nice of them. By way of a reward, I’m going to recommend some wines that celebrate the bicycle.
This reported ‘health saving’ apparently only accounts for reduced deaths (cycling is safer than driving – who knew?) rather than the savings that other health benefits of cycling (such as improved fitness and less polluted air) provide. One can only imagine how much cycling saves the state once you start to add all of that in. Wooft!
Sir Alex, or Fergie (as he lets me call him), is known for his love of fine wines. When drinking wine, he is especially fond of ‘European matches’, and usually ‘backs the Reds’ (puns intended – but factually true, apparently). He enjoys his wine and he has put this on the record.
So, whether you love him, hate him or are quite indifferent, he was a dominant figure in European (and world) sports for more than thirty years, and that era is over. I expect Fergie will be cracking something special tonight to celebrate a glittering career.
Cue a thousand dodgy jokes, poorly judged gags and borderline racist comments in the British tabloid media. Add in the casual stuff, where commentators don’t even know they are being inappropriate, and you’ve got a recipe for a torrid few weeks in media, akin to when a certain country south of Scotland play Argentina (or for that matter, Germany) at football. Ahem. No bias here!
Apparently, this country has to make some important decisions about the future of everyone’s favourite wee nugget of copper, zinc and nickel – the pound. This got me to thinking about the value of a pound (about half a penny in chemical value, by the way – and happily, the pound notes are also worth more than the paper they’re printed on. For now).
It will come as no surprise to you that Argentina is one of the top wine-producing countries of the world. Wines from the country were few and far between on Scottish (and British) shelves within living memory (let’s say, for talking’s sake, between 1979 and 1990), but Argentina is now one of the top selling wine countries in our market.
At one end of the spectrum, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is scrapping and capping all sorts of benefits, claiming it is reasonable to expect people to live on £53 a week. He even had the gall to suggest that he could do it himself (aye right).
Meanwhile, the UK’s highest-profile benefit claimant, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is getting an annual pay rise to the tune of £5m - wooft! Apparently, she is also escaping the bedroom tax, which is great news for her – have you seen the size of her social housing?
Let’s face it, he kind of has to: I mean, the guy is in charge of a religion that drinks wine as part of its weekly mass!
However, I reckon old Pontifex Maximus slurps a slightly higher calibre of communion wine than the vast majority his flock get… mustn’t grumble though, it is free after all!
This time around, I want to get you all prepped for festival season. No, not that festival season; you can get yer T in the Parks and Glastonburys ‘tae’, as far as I’m concerned. No, I am talking about the spring-to-autumn period in which we see a flurry of events where we get to celebrate, taste and consume the finest drinks we can collate into one, giant room.
As you can imagine, an unforeseen portion of filly can cause havoc with a carefully selected wine match. It’s an absolute nightmare (with an emphasis on the mare).
Yes, wine quality usually rises in proportion with cost, but even more than that, disappointment escalates if you paid more than you normally do, and the wine isn’t quite up to scratch. I’m going to try to offer a few tips on buying the right bottle of wine, but the majority of this advice applies whether it’s wine, spirits, or beers you are looking for.
I don’t know how he was on his drink (maybe he enjoyed a perry?), but the same applies to wine.
I note a few regular wine columns this week have been addressing the issue of what wines are best for drinking and gifting at Valentine’s Day. Despite this annual trend, I’m not going to fall into the same trap. I might as well write about the length of a piece of string, and to be honest, all that pink champagne will sell just fine without my help.
There is such a variety of great Scottish beer out there these days; ales, bitters, lagers, stouts, porters, and many more. Sadly, there are a few longstanding myths about locally produced beer, especially those produced by small and –mid-size breweries. But please, let me dissuade you of these…
The adventurous among us will be familiar with Austrian wines, yes? What about Peruvian wine? Or maybe Japanese? No, Mexican? Moldovan? Algerian..?
If your answer to any of the above was “no”, I have a further question: Why not?
There are a number of arguments in support of giving malt whisky a go. First, is ‘national pride’ (if that’s your thing). Unlike modern kilts, tartanry, pipes and other nonsense introduced to Scotland in the Victorian times, whisky is something that is truly, and historically Scottish. Sure, we make it a little more lavishly than the home-stilled moonshine of old, but the principles, methods and ingredients are all the same.
Second, it is a big industry for us, and great for both local and national economies – we should do what we can to support it!
It has become a huge part of our culinary culture in Scotland, where the range and availability of top Asian, African, South American and Middle Eastern eateries and food stores has become the stuff of legend.
Sadly, the pursuit of spice often presents a spot of turmoil for the wine lover, as a properly hot dish can play havoc with your wine. This is why, when asked what wine might match a really hot meal, I like to joke: “beer”.
If you are known for enjoying a nice glass of wine, it is quite likely that someone will have bought you a decent bottle for your Christmas. Often, it can be worth thinking about giving these bottles some time before you open them, as it can markedly improve the wine. The hard part is knowing how much time, and accepting that it will most likely be measurable in years.
At no other time of year do so many of us indulge in sweet and sticky wines. Perhaps the hedonism and indulgence of the season is already so intense that we think “why the devil not?”
This week, in the last of my end-of-year buying guides, I aim to help you answer that question, with a few ideas for your post-goose sauce.