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Grape wisdom: how to know good wine, with Mother Vine’s experts

What wine do you drink with a Sunday roast? And when should you open a vintage? The team at Mother Vine on Pavilion Road share their know-how with Sloane Street

31 October 2022

Mother Vine, the wine merchant on Pavilion Road, may have only opened in 2021, but it has swiftly become the go-to bottle shop for Sloane Streeters, thanks to the small team’s excellent suggestions and a curated selection of wines from every price point. 

So, as Sunday roast season commences, we sat down with the team to find out what grapes we should be pairing with the comforting classic – whether beef, lamb or chicken – as well as how to discover your own taste in wine, and what bottles to buy now.


What defines a ‘good’ wine and how do you pick one?

A good wine, for us, is one that over-delivers on typicality and performance for the price point. It doesn’t have to be expensive, as long as it is, ultimately, a pleasure to drink. 

Some experience is helpful in picking a good wine but, for us at Mother Vine, it’s also about knowing what our customers want. And knowing the region and the grape that you’re tasting, and deciding from there.


Let’s talk about vintage wines – how do you source them, and how do you know what’s worth investing in?

We are very vintage and producer-led. So we will consider the season and the region we’re buying from, like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, or wherever it is. We will look at the vintage and the producer and decide if it is something that our customers will want and buy accordingly.

It’s also about experience and research. You read things and you hear people talk. And wines develop, so 2009 and 2010 vintages from Bordeaux were lauded and considered legendary, but something like 2012 coming after that may have slipped under the radar because it wasn’t quite as good. And then the prices went down a bit. But, 10 years on, they’re really starting to come into their own.


What vintage wines would you recommend from Mother Vine at the moment?

We’ve got a great 2003 vintage Penfolds Grange, which is Australia’s iconic wine; it’s lovely. It costs £380, which is a lot, but an absolute bargain for that wine. On a more budget level, Château Batailley 2012 is an under-the-radar vintage, which will come into its own over the next few years.


How do you know when it’s a good time to drink a certain bottle? Of a specific age, for instance.

It depends on what your tastes are. So, for example, some people like fruit-forward, younger wines and don’t mind tannins. That means that they can tolerate the bigger Bordeaux and Italian wines when they’re a lot younger, even though they can be quite tough, with lots of tannins that give that dry mouthfeel.

But some people prefer to leave them for a long time to really, really mellow out. And then there are more tertiary developed flavours. So it depends on what you want from the wine.


Aside from drinking lots of it, how can people discover their ‘taste’ in wine?

A great place to start is to go to your local wine merchant. We are all very passionate about wine, we taste a lot of it, and we’ll be able to advise you on the kind of wine that we think you will like, at any price point. 

Wine can be intimidating, from the labels to the grapes, so people tend to stick to what they know. But if you go to a wine merchant, and allow them to guide you, you can discover some really interesting stuff.


“Don’t feel you have to like certain wines just because you’re told that you should.”


What are your rules for pairing wine with food?

There’s a saying – “what grows together, goes together”. Approaching it like that can definitely make for a more harmonious and pleasurable experience. That being said, a lot of food pairings are overthought. For example, those who don’t enjoy white wine might drink a red, like malbec, with fish (which is classically paired with white). Malbec is traditionally a steak wine, but you can still enjoy it with other things.

It becomes a little trickier with spicy food. “Sweet and heat,” is another saying – the residual sugar in certain wines, such as an off-dry riesling, will offset the heat of spicy food. You can also pair spice with spice, so a syrah (also known as shiraz), which has peppery notes, shouldn’t necessarily work with hot food, but actually it does.

If you’re not sure what to pair with a dish, perhaps a salad or something, then go for rosé because it is a very, very food-friendly wine.


What about Sunday roasts?

Sunday roasts, like Christmas meals, have a lot of components and are quite rich, so it can be hard, but we would advise pairing the main part of the dish with the wine. 

A good full-bodied red would work well if the meat is beef – there is an incredible value Bordeaux blend from South Africa by Gabriëlskloof called ‘The Blend 2019’ for £16.95, which will be perfect. For lamb, go for a medium red, like a pinot noir or Rioja. We suggest a gorgeous Aussie 2020 pinot noir from the Adelaide Hills called Murdoch Hill ‘Phaeton’ for £36. 

For chicken, try a lighter red or quite a full-bodied white, like an oaked chardonnay from Burgundy, for example. Something to complement the richness of the chicken. Château Philippe le Hardi Mercurey’s ‘Les Bois de Lalier’ from 2018 is a good one. It’s £27.45.

For something like a vegetarian Wellington, you could take a nice medium red or even a lovely savoury white like soave from Italy. 


What tip would you give to people who want to enhance their enjoyment of wine?

Don’t feel you have to like certain wines just because you’re told that you should – your own tastes are correct. But keep trying and experimenting, because there’s a wonderful world out there. 


Mother Vine is at 255 Pavilion Road, SW1X 0BP

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