When I eat out with others it’s very likely that I will be given the job of choosing the wine (unless I’m dining with fellow wino friends, in which case there is a delicate and lengthy negotiation, resolved in the event of disagreement by a fist fight and/or glassing out the back of the restaurant beside the dumpsters). This is, I think, because of a perception that as an enthusiastic wine drinker, I will be better able to choose a wine that everyone will like to drink. This has a number of flawed assumptions behind it, for example that my own taste is the same as that of my friends (if only…), and that I actually know what any of the wines on the list taste like. I mean sure, I have a vague idea about various styles of wine but really, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether any given wine on a list is a good example of its type or whether some weirdo thing that nobody’s ever heard of is an undiscovered gem or a bottle of plonk. I also get unfairly credited with choosing “good” wine a lot of the time. People don’t seem to appreciate that it’s a loaded deck. If it’s a good list, the wine’s going to be good and there’s probably no special talent required to order something good.
The only real advantage in being given custody the wine list (especially in the event that one is dining with people far wealthier than one) is that you can avoid your companions insisting that nothing short of premier cru Burgundy at £120 a bottle will do, thereby avoiding the need to get an overdraft extension just to fund lunch. As one of my more pecunious friends so often says “Gosh it’s cheap having dinner with you” (although it has to be said that other people say quite the opposite).
It is therefore always a pleasure when someone else takes custody of the wine list and chooses something that I would probably not have chosen, and it turns out to be a delight. As much occurred last night at Cigala, a restaurant not far from where I live, and where despite having eaten there many times, I have never ventured into the dustier corners of the wine list.
The wine in question is the 2009 Molí dels Capellans Conca di Barberà. Conca di Barberà is a small region in Catalonia and this particular wine is made from the indigenous Spanish grape Trepat. Trepat is more commonly made into rosé or pink Cava. Zounds! With that pedigree, who would expect in a million years that it could make respectable dry red table wine too? Dry red Trepat wines are few and far between and still a rather novel idea. Having never tried one before last night I don’t know how the Molí des Capellans compares to others. If it it’s anything to go by, though, this is a grape variety to watch out for. The colour is a bright, vivid pink purple, and the aromas really leap from the glass. The nose reminds me of very expressive nebbiolo – loads of roses, violets, liquorice, with an undertow of redcurrants and morello cherries. The palate, whilst not particularly complex, is nevertheless very attractive. Medium weight, it has fresh acidity and decent depth of juicy red fruit. Tannins are very low, which makes it rather easy drinking. Not built to last any great length of time but a great food wine and certainly worth trying for interest’s sake alone. It’s fairly good value too. Not having seen the list, I had to guess how much I would be prepared to pay for it (at healthy restaurant markup of course), and I would happily part with up to £42 for the pleasure. Turns out it was £39, so applying the rule that if you guess it’s more expensive than it is you should go out and buy some, I commend you to buy some. Unfortunately I can’t find an English importer for it so if you want it you will have to go to the restaurant (which is no particular chore – it’s no Moro but it’s still very decent Spanish food). A glass will set you back £9. Have some of the black pudding with migas while you’re at it. An entirely satisfactory way to end the day. Or indeed start it.