Now that the lean month of January has passed, you might consider investing in something wine related. I'm talking about wine books. Google any of the top sellers before Christmas, and you are likely to see them for half price, 'used', but as new.
One that I would recommend is the new World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. Just be sure to check that it's the eighth edition and not the previous book. Considered by most of the world's wine writers to be the single most important book on wine, see it as an inexpensive wine course. If you own just one wine book, this is it.
Jancis Robinson often describes wine as "geography in a bottle", and that's why learning this way makes it so interesting. But before getting into all of this, you'll find sections on the history of wine and a look at the most common varieties, with a guide to how each grape typically tastes.
This is followed by numerous sections which highlight the importance of climate where vines are grown, the impact of temperature and sunlight, water availability, and climate change. Looking beneath the vines, geology is discussed, how different soil profiles and rock formations influence wine and the threats that are posed by pests and diseases.
If you've ever wondered how a vineyard is created, you'll get an insight into it here, the importance of site and aspect, organic and biodynamic practices, and a really interesting look at a year in the vineyard, tracking the progress of the vine from the time the sap rises to start the new year's growth to harvest time. Then it moves on to the production of wine, wine labels explained, and a guide on how to taste and discuss wine.
After you've done this, you'll be ready to delve into each country, learn what grapes belong where, and why the same grape makes a different tasting wine in another place. There are 220 maps in total, and reading about the soil, climate, and the grapes of different regions, brings it alive. If you want to get geeky, the fact boxes detail latitude, average growing-season temperature, average annual rainfall, harvest month, and principal viticultural hazards.
Don't be put off by the amount of detail in each section. France runs for 100 pages, so rather than dive into the intricacies of Burgundy, skip ahead to more familiar territory, perhaps somewhere you've visited on holidays. This is a book you will get through in a few weeks. It is a true tome, a reference book that you can dip into for years to come.
There are other ways you can add to your wine knowledge, and many of them are free. The Wine Folly blog is well worth checking out, and if you're a podcast fan, subscribe to The UK Wine Show, GuildSomm, and I'll Drink to That, and, on YouTube, I like the Unknown Winecaster.
There are two great winemaker dinners coming up. On February 6, Emeline Borie of Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste will be at The Wild Goose in Ranelagh, Dublin, with six wines ranging from Lacoste-Borie 2012 to Grand Puy Lacoste 1985. Tickets, €110, searsons.com. And on February 5, Bruce Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley, will be visiting The Westbury to host a WILDE exclusive winemaker dinner with his Napa Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Tickets €125, wilde.ie
Delheim Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
€13.95, or €10.46 buy one and get second half price, 13.5pc, from O'Briens nationwide
About 50km outside Cape Town, the family-owned Delheim estate has two vineyards, growing white grapes on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, and red grapes in the slightly warmer Vera Cruz vineyard. This red blend is packed with fresh flavours and ripe forest fruit; with blackberry, blackcurrant and redcurrants, kissed with a gentle bit of spice. Great with roast aubergine, winter casseroles and roast meat.
Albet I Noya Curiós Tempranillo
€14.50 approx, 14pc, from O'Donovan's, Cork; Field's, Skibbereen; Morton's, Galway; The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny
An organic wine from Penedès in Spain, this 100pc Tempranillo has a touch of rose on the nose, with fresh, juicy flavours of lush red cherries, blackberries and red plums. Beautiful with pizza, stews and grilled meat.
Tesco Finest Passerina
€10, 13pc, from Tesco
From the Abruzzo region of Italy, the Passerina grape is named after the sparrow that is particularly fond of eating it. Fresh, with fruity citrus flavours and a note of peach, it works nicely with fish, seafood and roast chicken.
Poggio Al Casone Chianti DOCG Riserva 2015
€12.99, 12.5pc, from Spar, Eurospar, Londis and Mace
Italian Chianti is familiar to most of us, and it pairs particularly well with food. As a Riserva, this has got a bit more complexity from longer aging, so notes of balsamic, spice and prune combine with bright cherry and red fruit.
Petite Arvine Domaine René Favre et Fils 2018
€28.95, 14pc, from Searsons
For something more unusual, Petite Arvine is a grape that is indigenous to Switzerland. This has a perfumed nose with a touch of honey, is broad yet mineral on the palate, rolling around the mouth with ripe citrus flavours.