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Tasting with Travaglini
One of the things that these past 18 months have taught us is that there’s an abundance of beauty to be found in paying attention to the smaller things, like watching the gradual evolution of the seasons. From January to July, as the seasonal conveyor belt carried us into summer, with it, the colours on our plate morphed from browns, reds, and oranges, to whites, yellows, and greens. The plants that dot our walking routes blossomed while the produce that decorates our food market stalls changed completely and so did the dishes on restaurant menus.
When it comes to wine, we were hardly surprised when, around the time that broad beans and fennel started poking their heads up, we started to see those pasty pink rosé bottles everywhere we turned. But have you ever stopped to think why that is? Why is it that the wines we’re recommended change along with the foods and the seasons? Sure, lighter wines are nicer in the summer, and fuller-bodied wines are great in the winter, but beyond that, why do restaurants spend so much time curating a list that matches their food and its seasonal rhythms? Is it because some wine bottles actually taste better at different times of the year?
Well, the simple answer to the last question is no (at least not 95% of the time, but that’s one for another conversation). Think of a delicious bottle of wine as a bit like a great song, U2’s 'A Beautiful Day' for example (who doesn’t like glass of wine on a beautiful day?!) Now, on any day of the week, at any time of the year, U2’s iconic guitar riff will lift your mood and have you humming (or belting) along. Consider now that it’s a Saturday morning in April, you stayed in on Friday night so you’re feeling fresh, it’s the first warm weekend of the year, the sun is blazing down on the street outside your house, warming the pavements, and U2’s A Beautiful Day comes on the radio. The perfect marriage of song, mood, and surroundings lifts Bono’s tones to new heights, and you’re set up for a mighty fine 16 hours ahead.
A seasonal approach to wine drinking takes its leaf from a similar book. The wine world gifts us so many delicious bottles, each with its own character, structure, and flavour profile, and when there is harmony between wine, season, and food, well we think it’s one of life’s truest pleasures.
Johanneshof Winery Vineyard in the mist
Although the actual flavour composition of a bottle of wine isn’t affected by the season in which you pull the cork, the grapes that went into your bottle are hugely impacted by the climatic changes that the seasons bring each year.
Grapevines are an annual plant which means they gift us fruit once a year, and the grapes from any given year (or vintage as wine folk prefer) are like sponges. They’re the product of the past four seasons’ characteristics and complexities which are all packed into their delicate skins. Whether there was a particularly cold Winter and the roots had to use all their energy to survive, or if it was rainy during the first budding season in Spring and the quantity of flowers was impacted, or it was dry later in Summer and the vine struggled for hydration…. the grapes that arrive in the winery come late summer will bear the hallmarks of their journey of development over the past 12 months.
This is even more true for the small producers that we work with. There are dozens of tools, chemicals, and processes that can neutralise the individuality that each new vintage brings but small producers who respect their land and shun these interventions in favour of sustainable agriculture embrace the annual differences and proudly showcase the personality that each new year brings to their wines.
There are notable points in the year that are associated with certain wine styles. In the Northern Hemisphere, grapes are picked between August and October, this happens six months later in the southern hemisphere. White wines whose intention is to be drunk young - you know those crisp, zippy, refreshing whites that you crave in a pub garden on a Saturday lunchtime in August – don’t need much time to age or refine in the winery before they reach their playful best.
This means that come Springtime, we see lots of the vintages (years) on bottles of white wines change. Watch out next March to May for your favourite Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Soave changing from 2020 to 2021!
Beaujolais Nouveau is another firm date in the vinous calendar when this cult-like wine style comes in and goes out of fashion much quicker than a season changing. Producers of Northern France’s famously light red Beaujolais wine made from the crunchy Gamay grape race to get their youngest, freshest bottles onto the market by the third Thursday in November. Known as Beaujolais Nouveau day, these fresh, tangy reds don’t stick around for long and watch out this November, you’ll probably catch the Noble Rot guys throwing a party for the occasion.
Noble Rot also know a thing or two about seasonal cooking and moving with the seasons is something that our nation’s best chefs have been doing for decades. Thankfully we’re seeing it more and more as a new generation of young chefs take the reins with a refreshing care for cooking sustainably.
In so many of our favourite spots, we see seasonal produce in the spotlight, delighting our palates in the prime of their life. Take Perilla in Newington Green, whose July Whole Grilled Sea Bream with Tomatoes, Herbs, and Garlic is an absolute joy, or Bocca di Lupo’s Spaghetti with Raw Tomato, Taggiasche Olives, Basil, and Anchovy in which the humble tomato has never tasted so sweet. Come back in November though, and these dishes will have given way to Whole Roasted Pheasant and Tajarin with Egg Yolk and shavings of Truffle, as the available local produce moves on.
Oysters and Albariño are a summer favourite
The wine list needs to mirror this change in flavour, this undulation of personality that the seasons bring to dishes. It is a wine’s job to complement and not overpower food, to highlight flavours, to augment textures. When paired with the right wine, a dish can lift a wine too, softening tannins, brightening fruit flavours, and bringing out delicate herbal notes. It’s no wonder, then, that the wine selection in a seasonally focused restaurant will change almost as frequently as the food. One of the best things about an evening at your favourite restaurant is that feeling of comfort as you sit down in your corner seat - yes there’s excellent, ergonomic padding, but looking down at the menu for the first time to peer over the By The Glass offering you exhale knowing, you’re in safe hands (whether you choose your own wine, or wing a photo of it to the Sociovino team for a little help...)
In Winter, you might find a spicy, aged Sangiovese wine, whose earthiness and acidic backbone will dance perfectly with slow-cooked meat, the dried herb undertones picking out the aromats in the rich sauce.
In Spring, it could be a fragrant, delicately oaked Sauvignon Blanc, whose lush notes of tangy fruits complement your Asparagus perfectly, the firm acidity and smooth body combining with the hollandaise sauce for a match made in heaven.
In Summer, maybe it’s a skipping and lifted Corvina whose juicy cranberry fruit and smoky, peppery edge will be a great match to your barbecued flank steak, the soft tannins leaving the door open for the beef to sing loud and clear - louder, even, than Bono...
In Autumn, possibly a dark yet floral Nebbiolo, whose combination of fungal, earthy tones and lifted violet notes is a delightful partner to Grouse, the sweetness of the meat enhanced by the bright acidity and persistent fruit.
When the food and wine list moves hand-in-hand with the season, ingredients at their pinnacle paired with considered wines full of personality, it makes for a different experience every time you visit. But while seasons come and go, the memory you'll have of that perfect harmony moment will stick with you because you, my friend, just made a 'wine memory'.
Autumn, this mysteriously colourful time of the year, is where we begin our first Seasonal wine case. Sociovino’s origins lie in hospitality and in restaurants, where we have spent some seriously fun times advising restaurants on their wine pairings, picking out our tips for the season, and helping them curate a list that complements dishes of the moment.
But why should this experience be limited to restaurants? This is what we want to recreate with our Seasonal Case of 12 wines, which we’ll release once a quarter. We’re opening a corner seat for you to sit on for the next three months, with our curated wine selection matched to the dishes you’re going to be cooking in the restaurant’s next best thing, your own home.
We’ve poured over (and tasted…someone’s got to!) our wine selection to pick out the best wines for the season, to accompany the smells, flavours, and textures gracing your plate. We’ve even gone one step further and partnered with an upcoming chef who’s curated two dishes just for this box and for these wines, recipes for you to recreate at home, to celebrate the beauty of Autumn and the flavours it brings. There is so much cooking talent in this country, and right now more than at any moment in recent memory, hospitality deserves a spotlight. That's why for each Seasonal Case, we’ve handpicked a young chef who puts seasonality front and centre, whose food deserves shouting about, and whose name is one to watch. You’ll receive their unique recipes alongside the wines, and you can taste some of our favourite flavour combinations of the moment.
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