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At the Bar: Hal Wilson's desert island drinks list




Just imagine that you are on your own desert island and enjoy. . . Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wine Merchants shares some of his favourite wines to enjoy right now, even if it needs to be at a safe distance from your friends

Inspired by lockdown, Cambridge Wine's Hal Wilson writes his desert island drinks list (36170793)
Inspired by lockdown, Cambridge Wine's Hal Wilson writes his desert island drinks list (36170793)

If, like me, you felt marooned during the interminable lockdown period then you may well have decided to treat yourself to something luxurious. For me and many other wine lovers that treat has been a special bottle of wine.

Some people have gone to social media to share their #lockdownwine treasures. I just cooked something nice, opened a special bottle, gave thanks that everyone in my family was safe and breathed a sigh of relief that most of them were far enough away that I didn’t have to share the bottle with them!

My choices of bottle were shaped by the warm weather, the ingredients available and by my mood. It made me think about which wines I would have to take with me to my desert island, or have ready for a second wave lockdown. . .

Some wines have the power to move me in the same way that great poems, literature, acts of sporting brilliance or works of art do. That intense reaction is not about the flavour or the objective elements of the wine. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the occasion at which the wine is tasted. Some wines just have the capacity to make me feel very emotional, even before I’ve swallowed any.

I don’t really understand why but I know I want to have them in my selection of desert island wines. Some of them are undeniably expensive, but others aren’t and that makes me want to recommend them to you all the more.

Moorooduc Pinot Gris on Skins 2018, Mornington Peninsula, Australia, £23.99

Hal Wilson's desert island wines (37198878)
Hal Wilson's desert island wines (37198878)

This wine is unique as far as I know, which adds to its allure, but it is also a brilliant experiment because it is so delicious. Kate McIntyre is a Master of Wine making terrific wines in the premium region of Victoria called Mornington Peninsula. She makes this Pinot Gris as she would her Pinot Noir, fermenting the juice in contact with the skins. If you do this with white grapes the resulting wine is generically called Orange Wine, but Pinot Gris has pink skins so this wine is a gorgeous watermelon pink. Because of the skin contact the wine has some tannin but it is light and adds richness and a slight bitterness. There are flavours of raspberry, redcurrant and orange and it puts a smile on your face.

Rosso del Palazzone Lotto 2019/01, Il Palazzone, Tuscany, £16.99

Hal Wilson's desert island wines (37198867)
Hal Wilson's desert island wines (37198867)

This wine has been a firm favourite in our range for nearly a decade but it never disappoints and the latest ‘edition’ is an absolute delight. It’s made from Sangiovese grapes grown in the super-premium Tuscan region of Brunello do Montalcino and aged in large oak barrels. Some of the wines are selected as the estate Brunello wine, selling at £50 a bottle after being aged and kept for five years. This wine is a blend of wines from different vintages and released younger. As such it has no ‘appellation’ and is just sold as ‘Vino Rosso’. What I absolutely love about this wine is that it tastes really classy but is affordable enough to allow me to just open a bottle to enjoy at any time.

Crozes Hermitage 'Esquisse' Rouge 2018 Dom. des Hauts Chassis, £17.99

Hal Wilson's desert island wines (37198876)
Hal Wilson's desert island wines (37198876)

Some of the most exciting Syrah (or Shiraz) wines come from the Northern part of the Rhone Valley, around the hill of Hermitage. Legendary wines like Hermitage La Chapelle are smoky, sinewy, and reward great patience. The 1978 vintage is superb. You don’t have to wait that long though, and the recent 2018 vintage in this area was truly excellent. I love the wines made by Frank Faugier and his modesty prevents him from charging more for his wine than he might. This Crozes Hermitage is beautifully scented with blackcurrant, potpourri and chocolate and has a wonderful freshness and ripe fruit.

What would be in your desert island drinks cabinet? Whatever it is, cheers!

* Wines available from Cambridge Wine Merchants, see cambridgewine.com

Read more: Bar Fly: How to take cocktail hour up a notch with The Stillery's Tim Blake



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