Drinks writer and consultant Bert Blaize learned his craft at some top notch addresses: La Belle Epoque in Manchester, Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, and the Clove Club in Shoreditch. He then went on to open the Mandrake Hotel as Head of Wine. In 2017 Bert was named the UK’s Top Young Sommelier by Flint Wines and nominated by GQ Magazine, Drinks Business and Imbibe as ‘Sommelier of the year’.
What led him to put all this experience into a book?
“Claire and I get daily messages from friends, and friends of friends, asking what to drink. We quickly realised there was no fun, easy to read reference. So after many pints of Guinness and drunken talk about writing a wine book, we finally did”! In 2020 they published ‘Which Wine When’, dedicated to ‘all of our friends who have ever asked us what to drink’. “We wanted to combine our practical food and drink knowledge so a reader could quickly and easily find a wine pairing and why it works for most lunch and dinner options.
“We drink and eat together all the time, but well-matched wine and food are so much more than the sum of their parts.
“When you pair food and wine thoughtfully, you elevate two already brilliant things to next-level deliciousness – without necessarily spending much more or going to much additional effort”.
“But beyond these immediately practically, short-term fixes, there’s also the fact that approaching wine through the food you love to eat is a great way into a world that can often feel vast, impenetrable and riddled with snobbism”.
Bert has looked through our list and cherry picked some of his favourite, fun and seasonal pairings to try out over the summer months.
Scampi Fries + Muscadet – For when you’re next in a sunny beer garden and fancy wine
The locals of the Loire Valley love to drink their Muscadet with oysters and other fishy treats: the refreshing, citrussy flavours and beautiful, slightly salty minerality makes it the perfect match for anything for anything that tastes of the sea … even scampi fries. You could also try it with little fried fish, such as whitebait, salt cod or fish croquettes, or, of course, oysters.
TRY Domaine de la Pepiere, Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, 2019: A refreshing, feather light wine that mirrors its Atlantic home: juicy lemon, stony minerality, crunchy green apples and distinct hint of the seaside.
Nachos + English Sparkling – Sunday night on the sofa when you’ve had too much sun.
Lots of big flavours in the nachos, especially if you like to load them with all the toppings, a wine with lots of complexity is needed. English Sparkling seems to have turned a corner recently and the wines are increasingly expressive and impressive. The mouth-watering acidity will easily deal with the spice of jalapenos and also cut through the rich molten cheese. The crunchy fresh apples will complement the tart notes in the salsa and the toasty notes will work wonders with the nacho chips.
TRY Busi Jacobsohn, Brut Classic Cuvee, 2018: New to the Sourcing Table but a firm staff favourite already. Elegant, refined and crisp, bursting with fresh green apple, buttery pastry and a richness on the finish, it sets a high bar for English sparkling wine.
Barbecue Chicken + Ribera del Duero – BBQ classic for the weekend.
A Ribera del Duero wine tends to have plenty of acidity but it also has bold levels of tannins which help break down the food in your mouth and heighten it’s flavours. Because of the oak ageing, a good Ribera will have incredible chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla notes, plus sticky, dark, dried-fruit flavours, all of which work a treat with the rich molasses-based sauce.
TRY Quinta Milu, Ribera del Duero 2020: This fresh, juicy red with a lovely nose of cherries and plums and cracked pepper will keep all your guests happy.
Padron Peppers + Albarino – A little taste of Spain while we’re stuck here.
Padron peppers are one of Spain’s most iconic snacks. They’re named after the town of Padron, which is also found in Galicia, so, as is so often the case, what grows together goes together. These little green peppers are mild nine times out of ten, with bright grassy flavours enhanced by the oil, salt and heat. Albariños slightly salty, ocean-breeze tang and herbaceous notes will take those simple but addictive flavours to the next level.
TRY Zarate, Albarino, 2020: A charming Albariño from one of Rias Baixas' finest, producers, overflowing with zippy citrus, crunchy green apple and a stony minerality.
Sausage Roll + Alsace White– A park picnic staple.
Alsatian food is heavily influenced by Germany, thanks to its history. There’s no nation that loves sausages more than Germany, so it’s not surprising to find that Alsatian wines are brilliant with any sausage-based snack. The fresh acidity of the region’s white wines cut through the deliciously fatty meat and pastry like a dream.
TRY Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Roche Granitique, 2018: Pimp your picnic with this ‘baby Grand Cru’ from top producer Zind Humbrecht's Sommerberg vineyard.
Ratatouille + Provence Rose – Super seasonal, packed full of summer flavours.
This classic dish also originates from Provence and is all about simplicity. The fresh vegetables, summer herbs and really good olive oil need a relatively simple and refreshing wine to wash them down. You’ll also benefit from a wine with a bit of texture – and this is what you’ll get from a rose (especially a darker-hued one) that you wouldn’t find from most wines.
TRY Domaine des Lauriers, 'Line' Rose, 2020: A stones throw from Provence, this rosé from the Languedoc gives big name brands a serious run for their money. Bursting with berry fruit and mouth-watering acidity, it will take you straight to the Mediterranean.
'Which Wine When' has been shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards best debut drinks book. You can buy the book HERE.
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