Follow wine growers on social media for a taste of the good life

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Wine buffs used to pledge loyalty to places – now, in the Twitter age, we’re invested in people 

There’s a particular pleasure in drinking wines you know well. Part of it is anticipation – there’s a frenzy of activity in the reward centres of our brain when we anticipate eating or drinking things we like – and part of it is an intellectual interest in knowing a wine through its different vintages and moods.

A wine merchant recently complained to me that we didn’t follow and support wines any more. He meant that drinkers no longer formed this sort of relationship with certain domaines, buying their wines year in, year out, through thick and thin, good vintage and bad, curious to know how the wine performed, like a trenchant football fan turning up to watch their team play Accrington Stanley away when they’ve been relegated to League Two.

Social media has given wine lovers much more choice Credit: AFP PHOTO / KAREN BLEIERKAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

In one sense he is right. And I remember privately feeling quite torn on the subject. On the one hand, it’s a good thing to support individual growers, and it fits with today’s ethos of nurturing small, independent producers and creating space for them to flourish. On the other, while it’s bad news for the wine merchant that we’re now reluctant to buy his wines in duff years, it’s part of my job to steer drinkers on a course away from wines that aren’t performing, and towards something better.

There’s just so much choice at our fingertips today. Why should we put up with a duff vintage of sancerre when we can wait for a better one and drink picpoul in the meantime? And what’s the point in spending good money on a floppy, over-ripe soup of a Rhône from a producer whose grapes have seen too much sun when we can head to cooler-climate Australia instead for a more controlled, sunny shiraz?

But in another sense, my wine merchant friend is wrong. There is now a growing trend to follow particular domaines. But whereas in the old days it was the wine that people followed, rather intellectually, pontificating as they went, now we are more likely to follow the people. Social media has made this possible. Naked Wines doesn’t sell the old-fashioned idea of a patch of soil, a little vineyard, an expression of the terroir; it sells its winemakers, many of whom buy in grapes and have only the loosest allegiance to place.

Through Twitter, I recently learnt that at Cullen Wines on the west coast of Australia they finished pruning in early August under grey skies and a double rainbow

This kind of following is like a wine version of the copies of Reader’s Digest I used to consume as a child, keen to follow the roller-coasting fortunes and emotions of the people whose stories were being told. It’s also a way in to a world that once seemed impenetrable and remote. 

I love to follow winemakers on Twitter. Through Twitter, I recently learnt that at Cullen Wines on the west coast of Australia they finished pruning in early August under grey skies and a double rainbow. That in California, Randall Grahm has been pressing carignan to make rosé: “Carignan is putatively a 'rustic’ variety, but juice expressed for pink seemed pretty elegant. Lots of seductive cherry notes.” That at Camel Valley in Cornwall, Bob Lindo has recently sent two pallets of his wine to Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai, where it will be on the menu at Nathan Outlaw’s new restaurant.

Smart phones are playing an increasing role in the wine world Credit: Alamy

A swipe of the screen on my phone, and a tiny, gleaming fragment of their worlds comes to life before my eyes. Some of it is lifestyle porn; who wouldn’t be tempted by a glorious sunset over a craggy vineyard, to see if the wine made there had captured some of the beauty of the landscape? There’s also a curiosity to try the wines made by those whose updates, images and fragments of news become part of my daily information diet..

Of course, there are still lots of wines it’s not possible to follow on social media. I’m quite glad of that

Facebook and Instagram perform similar roles. I love seeing the world through someone else’s lens, both figuratively and literally: Kevin Judd (Greywacke in New Zealand) is a must-follow for the superb photographs he takes of Marlborough. Plus there’s the nosy-parkerish pleasure of eavesdropping on chats…

Of course, there are still lots of wines it’s not possible to follow on social media. I’m quite glad of that. Because however much I enjoy it, there is also a gaudy feel to social media. I love to go to places like Piedmont, where for so many of the winemakers the idea of jabbing at their phone as they go about their daily business, or worrying about how much screen time they’re getting, is as alien as it might have been before phones were invented. Here, you still follow the wines in that very old-fashioned, steady way.

Wine of the week

Disznóko Tokaji Dry Furmint 2015 Hungary (13.5%, Lea & ​​Sandeman £12.95​ or ​11.95​ in a​ mixed case)

An exceedingly elegant dry white made from Hungary’s furmint grape, this has a gentle tinge of apricot skins and citrus but is defined by its glacial calm and sleek control. Love the chic glass stopper, too.

Les Closiers Lirac 2015 France (14%, M&S, £10)

For my money this southern Rhône red made next door to Chateauneuf du Pape from a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault is one of the best wines on M&S’s shelves. All black and red fruit with wafts of dried herbs carried on a late summer breeze. Delicious.

Morande One to One Old Vines País Maule Valley 2015 Chile (13.5%, Majestic, £8.99 or £6.99 ​in a mixed six)

País hails from Castilla-La Mancha in Spain but is widely planted in Chile and experiencing a fashion resurgence. Think of this as a beaujolais with a bit more Chilean oomph – lightish, red, reminiscent of sour cherries, raspberries and dry earth. Great slightly chilled.