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Wine Masterclass with George Bergier

Get to know your wine…

George Bergier has been in wines all his working life. There to save you time and money, George is the Google of the wine list world!

Here, he has teamed up with Breville to introduce you to the basics and to help you take the steps towards becoming a wine expert yourself – certainly enough to impress your family and friends .

Red Wine

    • Merlot

A grape variety originating from the Bordeaux region in France, but one that has also branched into the New World in countries such as South Africa, Australia, the USA and Chile.The specific flavours and tastes of note are: ripe, dark fruit berries with hints of black cherries.

    • Cabernet Sauvignon

This is the common grape variety which is a base for many quality Bordeaux Clarets and one which is also emerging from New World countries. Look for flavours of blackcurrants, peppery undertones and dark berries.

  • Pinot Noir

The very distinguished grape variety of Pinot Noir is mostly associated with the region of Burgundy in France where it produces one of the most outstanding wines, some of which demand extortionate prices.

Its also established itself in places such as Oregon and Nappa Vally, and produces equally high quality red wines in New Zealand, in Central Otago where climatic conditions are very close to those in Burgundy, you can find some outstanding examples of this grape variety. Flavours of the farmyard, mushrooms and vegetation are predominant.

The interesting fact about Pinot Noir is that, despite being a black grape variety, it is one of the 3 grape varieties that go into making Champagne. The other two are Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (also a black grape variety).

  • Syrah

This grape is better known by its Aussie name of Shiraz. As a single grape variety wine, it is predominantly associated with the Northern Rhône Valley in France and is the home of the world famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the southern part, it goes into a typical blend with other grape varieties such as Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.

As a single grape variety, Syrah has a great ageing potential and makes deep, dark, dense, full bodied and spicy red wines. Similarly, Australia and Chile produce some interesting examples of high quality.

  • Malbec

Argentina is not only famous for the quality of its footballers and beef, but also for its dark, full bodied, rich Malbec grape variety. The region where most of the high quality Malbec wine is produced is that of Mendoza.

  • Italy

There is huge interest and respect for wines produced in Italy of a number of grape varieties, the most well known of which ware: Barbera, Brunello, Primitivo, Montepulciano and Nebbiolo.

No doubt we all have heard of and perhaps sampled the most famous of Italian wines, Chinati. This is made from the Sangiovese grape variety only, and is the most planted one in Italy.

On a recent visit to Sicily, I experienced some outstanding wines made from a grape named Nero d’Avola and these are readily available here.

Let’s not forget about the smaller, less well known grape varieties which also produce very high quality wines in the old and New World. These are:

Gamay – associated with the region of Beaujolais.
Tempranillo – associated with the famous Spanish regions of Rioja, Navarra, Ribera del Duero and La Mancha.
Pinotage – famous for its South African wine.
Cabernet Franc – goes into a blend of classic Bordeaux wines.
Tannant – an interesting grape, most common in the South West of France and Uraguay.
Zinfandel – well associated grape variety with California.


White Wine

  • Sauvignon Blanc

A grape variety that made New Zealand famous for white wine worldwide. No doubt everyone knows the iconic Cloudy Bay, but the price of this wine puts it beyond certain budgets. Worry not however, as there are some superb Sauvignon Blanc’s from New Zealand.

The origins of Sauvignon Blanc are close to use, coming from the Loire Valley in France where in the 60s, 70s and 80s, a famous Sancerre featured on our wine lists and on the shelves of our supermarkets. You still find some outstanding Sancerre wines at reasonable prices competing in quality to the likes of Cloudy Bay. Look out also for some Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region, Monetou-Salon and other in the Loire Valley. South Africa also produces some outstanding Sauvignon Blanc at very accessible prices, a favourite to try is False Bay.

  • Riesling

Many people will be familiar with Liebfraumilch, Blue Nun and Black Tower…for many of us this was the start of our wine journey. Riesling hails from Germany but many other countries especially Alsace in France and Clare Valley in Australia produce outstanding examples of Riesling. Those from Alsace are famous for the fruitiness, longevity and as an exceptional food friendly wine. This is a grape variety that gives the wine enormous ageing potential and one can experience this not only as an old wine but also as a young wine with various stages of sweetness. Riesling has a fantastic minerality, fruitiness, lemon and lime flavours and can be a great accompaniment to some interesting dishes.

  • Chardonnay

The abbreviations ‘ABC’ and ‘ADC’ refer to two very different opinions about this grape variety. Anything But Chardonnay or, Always Drink Chardonnay – it’s a bit of a Marmite story, you either love it or hate it. Traditionalists were opposed to the production of high volume, oaky, high alcohol content Chardonnays from the New World, which was a far cry from the high quality, fine white wine from Burgandy, France. However, the trends are now changing and the New World produces some outstanding Chardonnays from Australia, Chile, USA and South Africa.

It’s not only the famous Burgundy region of France where wines like Chablis, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet represent outstanding quality from this grape variety and command very high prices. The smaller sub regions of Burgundy like Montagny, Mâcon and Pouilly-Fuissé can give us a wine that is great value for money. It is worthwhile knowing that this grape variety is one of the three that goes into the production of Champagne. The others are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

  • Semillon

When we think about Bordeaux, we automatically think of red wine. But the region also produces some high quality white wines, especially from the region of Graves where this grape variety is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and produces a high quality white Bordeaux. In the New World, Semillon is very happily blended with Chardonnay, especially in Australia where again we can find some outstanding examples of this blend. The wine has beautiful fruit flavours, dominated by tropical flavours of mango, banana and pineapple.

  • Pinot Grigio

An Italian Grape variety which, in my mind, has been over-exposed and for no good reason. The wine is quaffable and light; however, it wouldn’t find a suitable place in most food and wine matching combinations. I would rather match it with a handful of peanuts and some crisps. Despite this, it is one of the most consumed wines to be found in supermarkets and bars. I have tasted some very high quality Pinot Grigios, but their high prices would exclude them from most restaurants and from competing with cheaper versions.

Let’s not shy away from high quality white wines produced from grape varieties such as Gewurztraminer from Alsace and Tasmania.
Pino Gris – again from Alsace, Australia and New Zealand
Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, France and South Africa
Muscat – from Alsace and a few of the New World countries where it van vary between a medium to a very sweet white wine.


Celebration Drinks

What a better way to start or end a celebration such as a wedding, anniversary or birthday party than with a lively flute of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco? 

All 3 sparkling white wines have their place on a wine list and supermarket shelf and are governed by their price tag. We all know that Champagne is an expensive drink and has a long standing association with the wealthy and famous for whom price is not an issue. The modestly-priced high quality Cavas from Spain and Proseccos from Italy, not to mention some British sparkling white wines, should not be over-looked. Each serves a purpose.

The cost of the production of Champagne is governed by the cost of grapes which the majority of the Champagne houses must purchase from the local growers, as land in the Champagne region is an expensive commodity.

Food & Wine Matching

It takes wine makers and producers an enormous amount of time, effort and commitment in order to produce a quality wine. Careful attention to the vineyards, vinification and process of maturation all take a very long time and painstaking efforts for us finally to find in a bottle a quality that we are after.

Similarly, the chefs put a lot of time, planning, preparation and effort into the dishes that find their way to our table. The link that then needs to be made between the meal and the wine of choice is the responsibility of the wine waiter/sommelier.

There is no formula for food and wine matching but personal tastes should not be ignored and with the experience of the sommelier, by choosing an appropriate wine with a dish, this can only enhance our dining experience. If one thinks of a harmonious pairing, you must consider the wine intensity, acidity and tannins. Alcohol, sweetness and usage of oak also can make a difference to a dish.

There are a lot of food and wine matches made in heaven and one of those is fois gras and Sauterne. But this does not mean that other styles of desert wines won’t work with this dish – it is down to the individual.


Matching white wine with food

Wine Styles Food Types
Subtle, delicate white wines with very dry flavours such as Italian wines and French from the Loire Valley. Fish, seafood, pasta, salads and vegetables and also with some spicy food and cheeses.
Dry, aromatic, herbaceous Loire Valley and some of the dry Rieslings. Asparagus, avocado, goat’s cheese, some shellfish, and some white meat.
Oaky, nutty white wines like big Burgundy, Chardonnay from California, South Africa and Australia. Meaty fish with creamy sauces and also some cheeses.
Ripe, fruity white wines such as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. Seafood, grilled white meats, some soft cheeses and Chinese, Thai and Indian food.


Matching red wine with food

Wine Styles Food Types
Light, soft, delicate reds like Beaujolais and some Italian wines such as Chianti. Summer barbecues, salads, cold meats, pork, and poultry dishes.
Fruity red medium bodied wines like Pinot Noir, some Rioja’s. Mushroom based dishes, meat based pasta and hard mature cheeses.
Full bodied, spicy red wines. Roasted and grilled game, beef and lamb.
Oak driven, intense rich reds Game casseroles, and mature cheeses.

About George Bergier

George-BergierGeorge Bergier has been in wines all his working life. There to save you time and money, George is the Google of the wine list world!

Starting as a waiting in the Swedish Embassy in Warsaw in 1962, George first came to Britain in 1988 to work at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. The Midland hotel was a Mecca for oenologists in those days. It boated one of the best lists in the country, shared by 35 of the UK’s leading hotels. Bergier’s mentor was legendary Master of Wine Clive Coates, the Midland’s wine buyer, who appointed him to run the group’s first ever wine bar, The Goblet, in 1973. He has since been the General Manager of the legendary St James’ Club and Food & Beverage Services Manager of the midland amongst other senior positions in the trade.

George is a three times semi-finalist in the UK Sommelier of the Year Competition. He won the Award for Excellence from the Academy of Food & Wine in 1999 and he has chaired the Guild of Sommeliers (founded in 1953 to train wine service professionals in the UK) since 1986.

George is now the wine-buying professional and Sommelier for Manchester’s legendary eating and drinking establishing Sam’s Chophouse. Like the best wines, he too has matured with age. And he used the years to boost his expertise for the benefit of his customers. You want to know what goes with what, and why? Ask George. You want to know which vintage is best? Likewise.