How to have a cool, happening palate. Advice from a master!


How to have a cool, happening palate. Advice from a master!

Scared of being labelled as an old-timer has-been with yesterday’s palate? Want to stay relevant in the modern world of wine? Want to be able to hang with the cool kids?

You have come to the right place. I’m here to help.

By following my essential guide to cool wine, you will be able to recalibrate your tired, and – let’s face it – out-of-date palate. Welcome to today, folks, because this is where it’s at in the world of wine.

So what’s in and what’s out?

First, let’s start with Bordeaux. Nothing gives away your age like a cellar full of Bordeaux. I’m afraid you are going to have to stop going to Primeurs, too. All those pictures of fancy Châteaux and people in sharp suits you post on your social media feed identify you as a definite has been. Bordeaux is only cool if it’s very old, or it’s obscure, or it is white. Left bank only allowed; there’s just too much spoof on the right.

Burgundy. Not a problem. You are allowed to like Burgundy, because it’s happening and small scale. But what might be even cooler is Cru Beaujolais. Gamay is tomorrow’s grape, especially if it is made quite naturally. Something to consider?

Jura and the Loire are both in, as is Alsace. Look for smaller producers, people doing biodynamics, that sort of thing. In the Loire, Chenin is seriously cool, as is Cabernet Franc, but even cooler still are Pineau d’Aunis and Cot. In Alsace, Riesling is super cool, and Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc gain points for surprise value. In the Jura, everything is cool.

Italy? Avoid the Brunello bandwagon. This could hit your reputation. It’s one of Suckling’s favourite regions. Piedmont is as cool as ever. Mount Etna is probably cooler still. Friuli can be pretty smart, especially if clay is involved.

That brings me round to clay. Anything that is fermented in any type of clay vessel, be they Tinajas or Qvevri or just plain old amphorae, is super-cool and you should probably be drinking it conspicuously or at the very least professing love for it on instagram.

Australia? Australia is full of some really cool wines these days, but beware, because there is a serious amount of uncool stuff there and you could confirm people’s worst suspicions that you are washed up and irrelevant if you get it wrong. Now nothing screams ‘has been’ louder than Grange, or anything from Penfolds, for that matter. It’s not that they are bad wines – and you need to realize that this is a theme running through all my advice – it’s just that the image is wrong. Besides, they’ve set their sights on rich dudes in Asia. Look at the ampoule wine: $100K and you have to have Peter Gago at your party to open it for you. Totally uncool. If you are going to get involved with Australia, then let it be with the cool guys: Mac Forbes, Ochota Barrels, Wendouree, Yarra Yering, Mount Mary, Ngeringa, Luke Lambert and so on. Be very careful.

Chile. You might be surprised, but you can drink Chilean wine and still be cool. Most Chilean stuff is a total no-no, especially if the word icon has been used in association with a wine. But there are now some cool guys. Check out De Martino for starters, or the crazy Tara stuff that Ventisquero are doing in the desert. But, as with Australia, exercise extreme caution.

California. It’s kind of easy in California, because although the spoof is everywhere, it is super-obvious. If you for a moment think that the big, high-points, spoofulated international-style reds that are so successful in Califonia are even vaguely drinkable, then there is little hope for you. Look for the In Pursuit of Balance crowd, or anything that Roberson Wine sell, and you’ll be OK. The uncool stuff in California is very uncool, but the cool stuff is super-cool. It’s a polarizing sort of state.

Time to talk natural wine. Natural wine is a sort of fast pass to hipsterdom, and so it’s something that you need to get into, and quickly. Natural wine transcends boundaries, so even uncool regions or grape varieties are suddenly cool when a natural approach is taken. The really smart take on natural wine is to be a little selective though, rather than just accepting all of them. But if you start mentioning the term ‘fault’ then you’ve gone too far and you have exposed yourself as a fraud.

Colour. If you like your reds dark and inky and your whites pale and translucent, then you’re pretty much a washed-up wreck, and you need to take action fast. Same is true if you insist on wines being bright and clear. Dude, pale reds are in. As are deeper coloured whites. And cloudy is good, not bad.

Grape varieties? Riesling is in, obviously, as is Chenin. Anything obscure is good: think Rufete, Bastardo, Counoise, Godello. For reds, Cinsault is super cool. Grenache can be both good and evil, depending on who makes it. Cabernet Franc is cool while Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t. Merlot remains uncool. Syrah is in while Shiraz is out. Nerello Mascalese rocks, and Mencia is brilliant. You get the idea. But remember: any variety is cool if it is made naturally by the right person.

I think that’s enough for now. I hope that this has helped start you on your journey from obscurity and failure to relevance and hipsterdom. I’m happy to have been some help.

21 Comments on How to have a cool, happening palate. Advice from a master!
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

21 thoughts on “How to have a cool, happening palate. Advice from a master!

  1. That’s the second article today (the first being Elin McCoy in Decanter July 2015) that attempts to attribute Bordeaux’s unpopularity with young people to their fickle tastes in wine fashion.

    As McCoy says, ‘a new generation doesn’t regard Bordeaux as a benchmark of anything’. I’d agree; it’s too expensive to drink regularly (which is what’s required to develop a taste for it), and for a generation of wine drinkers brought up with a whole planet’s worth of fresh, fun wine to drink from right away, seems like an anachronism to pay lots of money to drink something old that tastes, well, old.

    Complaining that young people are fickle to not want to drink Bordeaux is like moaning that they won’t spend £250 to see La Traviata at the Glyneboure. The fact is, they are having much more fun paying £35 to watch Patti Smith in Victoria Park.

    It’s not about fashion, or being a hipster. It’s about the world of wine being opened up, made more accessible. And they’ll drink whatever they want to, in pop-up wine bars, at home, in clubs; not in some wood-panelled embassy with the same people they see at every other invite-only tasting.

  2. My cellar has Burgundy galore, Bordeaux, Jura, NZ chard, Vouvray etc but, embarrassingly, one wine I really like is Wolf Blass yellow label Cabernet which I buy on discount at Tesco. I mean that is properly uncool.

  3. You omitted the fortified wines of Madeira and Sherry; the former a surprise, because of connotations that it’s a drink for older generations (irony likely to be the appeal here, of course).

    And Austro-Hungarian wines. And those of Tenerife.

    On Bordeaux, sources tell me that Somms and the wine-loving community in New York are giving it a reappraisal. The truism that something is so uncool that it must be cool obviously applies here then.

  4. I did go to the De Martino site, but the first thing I read was that Robert Parker loves their wines. I thought I knew where you were going with this – but now I’m confused – is Parker so out he’s in??

  5. Sorry Jamie, but you’re well behind the times.

    The super-cool kids drink nothing but super-spoofy wines these days, but they drink them ironically – irony being the sweetest taste (which is in itself ironic, since no one likes sweetness in wines, which is why they like it… do keep up).

    Gallo, Paul Masson and Yellow Tail are the wines du jour, all three being even hipper than sitting on a penny-farthing while watching The Golden Girls on LaserDisc and drinking a tankard of cafe cortado.

  6. I am proud to be uncool and I have not seen you sniffing your nose up at the great mature Bordeaux I serve up at the various lunches you attend as my guest Jamie 🙂
    You can keep all your weird obscure wine and I am more than content with fine Bordeaux and Burgundy with the odd NRhone and Cape wine thrown in.

  7. It does rather beg the question as to which are the world’s least cool wines. My list, for what it’s worth (i.e. nothing), is as follows:

    1. Lafleur, Mouton, La Mission Haut-Brion (joint)
    2. Angelus
    3. Lafite
    4. Petrus
    5. Latour

    1. Roumier
    2. Leroy

    1. Benjamin Romeo
    2. Contino (Vina del Olivio only)

    Where to begin? A veritable Who’s Who of the planet’s saddest wines, including (but certainly not limited to) Harlan Estate, Sine Qua Non, Mondavi and Peter Michael

    South America:
    1. Sena
    2. Nicolas Catena Zapata

    All have more than a whiff of the boardroom about them, but “Best in Show” has to go to Sena, which just pips La Mission to the post.

  8. I hate to disagree (wrong, I love to disagree) but much of this list is looking quite dated to me – more like what, “People trying to be cool,” would drink? Not a cool look.

  9. Agree Victoria. To use a musical analogy, saying “Mencia is brilliant” is exactly the same as saying “the Black Eyed Peas are brilliant”. They never were – not now, not ever.

    Anyway, forget wines. These days it’s all about what vintage you drink. Cool vintages are: 1990, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2010. Lame vintages are: 1982, 2000, 2005, 2009. The producer is practically irrelevant.

  10. anyone who thinks the producer is irrelevant is nuts not uncool 🙂 especially in Burgundy

  11. I’m probably too cool to comment on any of this. But I’d just like to point out that I have a beard.

  12. Penfolds wines simply ignored changing tastes and new ways at table. The wines don’t match what most of us now eat most of the time. Bordeaux priced itself out of a younger market.

  13. This is article has some wit & humour to it, but it is also useful I think for people that need to get out of their wine comfort zone. I do agree somewhat with Victoria Moore that it’s a bit dated in some respects; but that’s maybe where the irony is.

    I also have to agree with Tony Rogers comments, in that you missed Austria, Portugal, Hungary as well as Sherry & Madeira. As to Australia, I think Margaret River, Great Southern, Yarra, Mornington, etc. Sadly South Africa was also completely missed; I think a how to have a cool happening palate might need a Part 2.

  14. I like the way you set the ball rolling. I also like the way you purposefully avoid the obvious truth that it’s the person not the wine who determines how cool the wine is. So the sanctimonious t*rd who raves about natural wine at the expense of everything else is uncool and the generous easy-going host who pours classed growth claret down your neck while acknowledging the glory of all wine is cool. You can change the wines around and get the same result, but not the people. Datta dayadhvam damyata, clearly (joke).

  15. If it’s over $150, to me it’s very uncool. If my wine books devote the longest chapters or sections to it, it’s uncool. If it’s owned by a Hollywood star, it’s definitely not cool. The hardest part about the cool wines I drink, is finding them. So I would be so much cooler if I would trust buying them on line. Please pass me the Aglianico, the Montefalco Sagrantino and some racy Rielsing and I’ll be fine.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top