In this strange time of enforced offspring homeschooling, I think it only fair that parents who have suffered such a seemingly endless (and often thankless) task should get to expand their own horizons of an evening (or an afternoon depending on how the day's "teaching" has gone) in the form of an educational subscription service that happens to involve wine. The Wine List is, of course, the perfect subscription box for those of you sans enfants too - you might just get the added bonus of not fearing for the box's contents once it lands on your doorstep, and not have to search the house for the handy notes for each bottle before you can open it.
The Wine List offers a twelve-month wine education course with two bottles (one red, one white) and learning materials delivered each month for £39. Whilst initially you might question that cost, can we just hark back to the glory days where pubs and bars were open for a moment here and think about how much we could be charged for a bog-standard bottle of wine on a night out? Wine List wines are definitely not bog-standard, they take pride in selecting unusual and characteristic wines from around the world, and from regions and makers you may well not have heard of. Both of the bottles in our gifted Introductory box were way above average and both of them had aspects that we had not tried/seen in a wine before. I should also mention that a subscription also includes access to an online community of other learners.
Firstly, I thought the packaging was great. It felt like you were receiving a lesson that you could look forward to as well as two decent bottles of wine. Our box contained a bottle of Massaya White from Lebanon, and a Cara Sucia by the Durigutti Family from Argentina. It came together with introductory notes about The Wine List, a guide on how to taste the wine, what to look for, smell and think about, plus extensive tasting notes on each bottle. I appreciated the fact that the notes also suggested what to pair food-wise.
Our tastings were spread out over two evenings (homeschooling was obviously going well last week), starting with the Massaya White. I have tried wines from all over the world and in all kinds of vineyards (the most unusual yet in Santorini where the vines are curled in a wreath shape on the ground so as to collect every last dewdrop where water can be scarce), but Lebanese wine was a completely new experience and this particular bottle was beautiful. Massaya is made with grapes grown on the foothills of Mount Lebanon by two vintner Brothers with strong winemaking heritage. They have overcome many a challenge (including war) to make their wines. This bottle was full of hints of apricots and honey, the tiniest suggestion of lemon and (as the notes explain) white flowers. Summer in a glass. The notes suggested the wine should be served with seafood pasta or grilled fish of some kind, so we made do with a big bowl of freshly made crispy squid with Korean spice with a salad on the side. If all Lebanese wines are this good, it is somewhere we will be putting on our future travel list.
The second bottle, Cara Sucia Cereza comes from a vineyard in Argentina run by two brothers who made wine all over the world before returning home to Mendoza. It's the most beautiful colour - a light pinky red, made with Cereza grapes that are pink-skinned. The notes took us on a journey of how to taste it, what to expect, and how it's fermented and matured in concrete eggs which means nothing else can impart a flavour. It's probably best enjoyed lightly chilled on a warm summer's evening. The food pairing called for hearty dishes of smoky cured meats. A local Argentinian food pairing would be Choripan, a sandwich of barbecued chorizo with chimichurri. We opted for pan-fried cod with chorizo. It went perfectly. The wine was delicious, full of red berry flavours whilst still being light and fresh.
I really liked the fact that notes on each wine were unpretentious and interesting. The man behind The Wine List Josh Lachkovic firmly believes that the world of wine shouldn't be intimidating. He launched the Wine List as a start-up in August last year after he spotted a gap in the market for a wine course that would empower amateur wine enthusiasts and give them the confidence to explore wines from around the world. He wanted people to understand why wine tastes the way it does and have fun at the same time - perfect for those who might find "real life" tastings a little intimidating (although if you do fancy a local tasting, we love a Toscanaccio tasting night which have been fun on Zoom in recent weeks!). The Wine List is a great way to learn about wine from the comfort of your own home, and if the wine they select for you is this good each month (and by the looks of the reviews online, it consistently is), I believe it's good value too.
If at this late stage you are still thinking of a suitable gift for Father's Day (and you happen to like your Dad, and he happens to like wine) a subscription to The Wine List course would make the perfect gift. You can't teach an old dog new tricks and all that but you can teach him something new about wine...
Disclaimer: We were gifted an introductory box from The Wine List, and will probably continue with a subscription from our own pockets we enjoyed it so much.