Organic, vegan, non-GMO, locally grown, Gluten-free, farm-to-tableI’m sure these phrases look familiar. They are, after all, just about everywhere you look in our current culture. There is so much varying exposure we’ve come to expect from our food industry and grocery stores and - even now - our restaurant. But what about wine?Has anyone noticed that the back of your wine bottle contains no helpful information regarding the ingredients and nutritional gain? Granted, I suppose we don’t expect to gain much nutrition from consuming a bottle of our favorite Cabernet, but as consumers that have come to anticipate so much, how is it we’re satisfied to receive so little info when it comes to what’s in the bottle? The CEO of a successful new wine brand that’s taking the UK by storm - Thomson & Scott’s Amanda Thomson - has certainly taken notice of this lack of straightforwardness. “When it comes to wine,” she says, “many of the bottles consumers are purchasing are full of chemicals and greatly lacking in story and context.” Thomson & Scott is one wine producer on the market that is making strides to change that.Amanda grew up near London with a very forward-thinking mother, one who implanted strong values of food health from an early age. “It was normal to not have processed food while growing up. We were to have respect for sugar and have respect for food in general.” And it was due to this mindset being instilled at a young age, that when Amanda began building a career in broadcasting with the BBC, she developed a palate for Champagne. However, after waking up time again feeling less than tip top after a night of sipping her beloved bubbles, she began to question the contents of her favorite beverages. This very conscious thought caused Amanda to dream that perhaps there was more to uncover in regards to the unknown ingredients of wine and, just maybe, she could create a brand that led the public to understand more as well through intentional transparency at the helm. Just like that, she was off and running; leaving her broadcasting career behind to move her family to Paris and begin her education in wine. Shortly after getting her hands dirty in the wine world, she began meeting with and forging relationships with some of the brightest winemakers in Champagne, France and Prosecco, Italy. It was these relationships with like-minded, quality-driven industry professionals that enabled the brand to develop their distinct product line of Sparkling wines that proudly possess little to no sugar, are certified Vegan & 100% organic. Truly their wines being labelled as “Skinny” has much more of a well-rounded meaning that certainly falls in line with the needs and desires of society. Outside of their tight handle on quality control, Thomson & Scott hardly loses sight of what their audience desires, a product they can have fun with; after all, it is wine! “We truly don’t compare to any other wine company in terms of marketing; we are a lifestyle brand. We focus on being very clear with who we are--our wines are fun! But they had to be top quality as well. Amanda specified taking a lot of inspiration from American culture, specifying that “aiming for a top quality product, doesn’t mean you can’t have an attractive, relatable brand!”Thomson & Scott Prosecco is reasonably priced for the incredible flavor profile & mouthfeel. At just $25/bottle with 7 grams of sugar per liter, the wine is a home-run and quite simply, a no brainer! Lots of bright fruit greet you on the nose as the consistent bubbles meet your palate and wake up your senses.As for their more prestigious sparkling--Champagne Extra Brut from the hands of winemaker Alexandre Penet--offers consumers a very well-balanced blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir to blow their socks off. Approachable and satisfying, no need to sacrifice health for desire with this drop as it’s certified Vegan and contains up to 6 grams of sugar per liter.Needless to say, Thomson & Scott is making waves in the industry by willing to curate a product of status, cleanliness & upfront honesty, without sacrificing a drop of fun, and we certainly have Amanda Thomson to thank for her boldness in making such headway and setting a new bar for wines worldwide. So let’s drink to health! Cheers, sparkling lovers!
Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on?Didn’t even have a drink. It was the introductory lecture given in my first wine course. Our sommelier said, “you either get bitten by the wine bug or you don’t”. I really think I caught it when he went on to describe the various countries, techniques, and applications for wine. Considering all the places & cultures wine is found in, I honestly found the subject to have a powerful gravity about it – one that pulls in the soul (or the amygdala, to be less mystical). I still firmly love the subject of course but, looking back on it, I think you know you’re bitten when you continue to study it, being fully aware of how much information you actually have to learn.What drew you to working in the wine industry?After pursuing the field in subsequent classes & books, I came to see it (and alcohol in a broader sense) as a necessary lubricant to society. Wine lightens the mind and warms the soul. It elevates jokes, conversations, and intimacy.Since we escape the stresses of work at the dinner table, it only makes sense to have a potion that brightens the mood and makes your food taste better on hand. If we didn’t have pleasures like that to look forward to, freeway traffic (no matter how many podcasts & audiobooks you have) would be a lot more miserable.What do you see as the next trend in wine? Will it be overrated or underrated? A trend I think I see coming up is a rise in popularity for more obscure countries like Portugal, Austria, and South Africa. The current heavy hitters like major French, Spanish, and Italian regions will only continue to rise in price & popularity. I predict audiences will, over time, fatigue from the current choices that saturate the market, and diffuse into countries/regions that offer better value. However, the most immediate countries that I think will receive this effect are Argentina & Chile, as they are seeing plenty of foreign investment. Ratings from reviewers will be somewhat accurate, but how proportionate the market will react, I can’t say. All it takes is one overly exaggerated endorsement to set a craze in either direction.Favorite varietal that is uncommon to find?Although it's no secret to Somms, Austrian Gruner Veltliner is a fantastic find. I like to think of it like Sauvignon Blanc, but w/ a dash of spice and a fruit profile that isn’t as eccentric. Its mostly super easy to drink, and pairs w/ a broad range of seafoods, salads, and white meats. The serious examples deliver an amazing level of complexity and weight, and feature esoteric aromas/flavors of legume, watercress and white pepper.What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?When I had leftover orange chicken from Panda Express and Rias Baixas Albarino. Before then I’ve almost never experienced such a stark contrast from “ehh just ok” to amazing. For me it was the bit of tangible proof of how a much better drink & food can improve each other when they match just right.What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly. The book introduced me to the wine world and not only gave me enough worldly depth, without becoming too dense, but also perfectly highlighted the aesthetic romance of wine that captured my imagination when I was just beginning. I consider it the perfect intro to wine book and its my first recommendation to newcomers.Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein. Wine is great. Food is great. Wine + food can be fantastic (or terrible) given the pairing. The foundational knowledge from this book has never left the corners of my mind, and I consider it a must, as the art & science of pairing yields the true potential of wine and food.The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. My absolute go to for any wine question, no matter how obscure. The amount of information in it is dizzying and all-encompassing. Whenever I’ve needed to buckle down and study, this encyclopedia has never let me down.Pick a favorite bottle of Burgundian Pinot. What band or musician do you pair it with?Hmmm. Well, there’s a lot of choices when it comes down to Burgundian Pinots, but my top choice would have to be a bottle from the village of Gevrey-Chambertin (of course Premier or Grand Cru if given the opportunity, but can’t be too picky in this economy!). The Pinots there tend to be firmer, deeper in color, and age longer. Music pairing for sensuality & elegance contrasted w/ power & depth? Definitely A Tribe Called Quest. Their samples are always jazzy and silky smooth, while their lyricism is the right mix of romance and vivacity - classy and full if soul, w/ a balanced hand of playful aggression (just like how I imagine good Pinot). And speaking on long aging regimens, Tribe’s music has definitely stood the test of time as well.
In October, after checking out more than 100 wines, my choice for November is a red Sicilian: "Helios" from Di Giovanna Di Giovanna - one of the oldest wine families in Sicily - is located in the province of Agrigento. If I have to describe the wine for what it is, I would say: “The quiet before the storm". This blend of Nero d’Avola and Syrah opens slowly and quietly. It then releases incredible sensations - like a storm! Helios takes its name from the father, Aurelio, and represents the best expression of the vineyards of the winery. It has a ruby red color with notes of berries and black cherry. The tannins are very soft with an incredibly long persistence.This wine also awarded by James Suckling with 91 points, deserves all the pride of the Sicilian lands!
Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? Most of my early wine experiences involve my grandad in Galicia. I would spend 6 weeks a year at my grandparents' house in a small village just outside of the Rias Baixas region called Pobra do Caraminal. We had a daily ritual there. My grandma would stay home to prepare lunch and I would walk to the town centre with my grandad and my twin brother for drinks and tapas. My grandad would always drink Albarino and sometimes let us have a sip. Even today, some 25-30 years later I will taste some Albarinos that immediately transport me back to those small wine bars with my grandad, watching him drink and argue with people about politics.Also, Christmas was always a great early wine memory for me. My parents would always buy bottles of Faustino I for our Christmas dinner. Back in those days it was quite expensive and people didn’t often spend lots of wine so it was always a massive treat. Even today when I smell a bottle of Faustino I it takes me back to some great Christmas memories.When and how did you realize Spanish wine is your thing? I’ve always had an affinity for anything and everything Spanish. I loved the food, the wine, the football, the history and the laid back lifestyle even from a fairly early age. I was fascinated with The Spanish Civil war and The Republicans. My family in Galicia were deeply connected, particularly after the Civil War, so it was an area that intrigued me. As I grew older I became fascinated with Spanish food; paella, calamari, octopus, croquettes, etc. My parents were a big part of that and we’d watch people like Keith Floyd and Rick Stein travel to Galicia and cook the local cuisine. To this day I don’t think we will find a better ‘celebrity’ chef than Keith Floyd! My nan in Spain and my mum were both amazing cooks so we regularly had home cooked Spanish meals with Spanish wine.I’d always enjoyed the wine but as it was always such a natural part of any of our meals I’d never thought too much about it. It wasn’t until I started my WSET studies a couple of years ago that the passion really took off. I’d grown up drinking Albarino during the year and Rioja at Christmas…that was essentially it! The WSET showed me how diverse and varied it was as a wine region and from then on I became obsessed with exploring as much as I could.What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning? Discovery. I love discovering hidden gems and hearing winemakers’ stories. I rarely take much notice to critics’ scores when reading about wines. They’re great as a guideline but wine is such a personal and subjective experience I prefer to consider other factors when looking for a new wine. What resonates with me is learning about the winery, the vineyards, the winemaker, their story to becoming a winemaker, the local people that pick grapes at harvest time, the dog that lives on site!…essentially anything and everything that gives me an insight into who and what is involved during the winemaking process. All of these things are linked and have an impact into the final product.Most underrated grape in Spain?Godello. It is such a diverse grape and has the ability to produce wines with the structural finesse of a white Burgundy combined with the aromatic complexity of an Albarino.If you’re yet to try Godello you’re seriously missing out!What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?It’s a difficult one. The natural wine scene has exploded in recent years, not just in London, and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.I do think people will continue to explore unknown grapes and regions as well as ancient wine making methods and low-intervention wines. Words like "pet-nat", "qvevri", "amphora" and "wild-ferment" are now common knowledge to even the most casual wine enthusiasts – which is a good thing.I do also think that the more affordable iconic, traditional and old-school wineries will increase in popularity. Guys like Tondonia, Rinaldi, Chateau Musar, Emidio Pepe and some of the 2nd and 3rd wines from some of the top houses.Wine drinkers are looking for a combination of a wine ‘experience’ and the ability to ‘flex’ on Instagram without needing a second mortgage – these sorts of wines fit those criteria perfectly.In terms of regions, I think people should be looking out for still wines from England. There are some amazing producers around such as Ben Walgate from Tillingham, Jon Worontschak from Litmus and John Rowe at Westwell Wines. The weather has been kind in England in 2018 so fingers crossed it produces some amazing fruit.What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?I’m a sucker for a food and wine tasting experience…the more courses the better.I love the way that wine and food interacts, for me the simpler the combination the better. It’s also the perfect excuse to eat and drink your body weight!What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?I’m currently reading “The Dirty Guide to Wine” from Alice Feiring which I’m really enjoying. It’s an area of wine that baffles me the most but she puts a great spin on it and I love the way she categorises the regions by soil type. It’s fascinating how wines from completely different regions in the world have similar soils and tasting characteristics despite being thousands of miles apart.I also love “The New Vignerons” from Luis Gutierrez. He focuses on 14 key wineries/winemakers from around Spain to discuss their history, landscape and traditions and also ties them in with the typical food of the regions. I’m not a huge podcast fan but I really enjoy the UK podcast “Interpreting Wine” from Lawrence Francis. He’s had some great guests on there from all over the wine world and it’s always relaxed and interesting conversations.We’ll give you 3 Spanish actors/actresses. You tell us the wine they match with: Javier Bardem – Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5oBoth often play a supporting role but frequently win awards for that performance. Lots going on with plenty of complexity which somehow combines into something elegant and though-provoking.Penélope Cruz – Alavaro Palacios L’Ermita Both leaders in their fields with the ability to inspire others. Natural beauty and class…subtle but powerful.Antonio Banderas – Vina Tondonia ReservaBoth are dark, smouldering and traditional, but with the odd curve-ball thrown in. And ages really well!Take a peek at Jaime's blog and give him a follow in Instagram.
A step-by-step guide...1. AppearanceMC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This Checking out the appearance of wine is kind of like judging a book by its cover. Is it a shitty romance novel from the 80's that you probably don't want to read anymore or the latest Gillian Flynn novel? Look for things like brown color, haziness. If you see them, consider asking that cute bartender for a new glass (though this doesn't always mean they're bad–more on that later). Hint: lighter colors tend to indicate youth aka the opposite of how we feel when looking back at these old videos.2. NoseNirvana – Smells Like Teen SpiritStick your nose in there. Swirl your glass to let some oxygen get cozy with your wine to bring out its aromas. Do you smell the grungy basement featured in Nirvana’s video? Again, maybe want to ask for a new glass. Do you smell fruits, flowers, spices, veggies, oak, etc. etc.? Take ‘em all in and make sure it aligns with your expectations - does this smell like a Golden Corral buffet or a 5-star meal coming at you?BOTTOMS UP! Let’s start drinking already...3. PalateUsher – Nice & SlowHere’s the fun part. Start drinking! And in the words of our dear friend, Usher, you ain’t gotta rush. Take it nice & slow, baby. Use both your senses of taste and smell to break down what you’re savoring. The next five songs will take us through what to look for while we taste.4. SweetnessTyrese – Sweet Lady90% of the time, you’re not going to be finding your “sweet lady.” Even if you’re tasting flavors that generally remind you of sweet things, most wines are dry, aka not sweet, aka don’t have sugar. Just like that word you’re trying to find to describe what you’re tasting, sweetness is most easily identified on the tip of your tongue. 5. AcidityTLC – WaterfallsDoes your mouth start watering like your dog’s on a 90 degree day? Bam: that’s acidity! It’s what makes lemons sour and wine taste refreshing. Acidity helps cut through things like sweetness and fat.6. TanninsDarude – SandstormThis is a cheat guys ‘cause the song technically came out in 2000, but let’s be real, it’s 🔥. Do you drink black tea? You know that feeling your mouth gets from it? Like your mouth is literally filled with sand? That’s the tannins. They come from the skins of the grape, so you typically find ‘em in red and orange wines. They’re most easily sensed at the back of your mouth or on your gums and their strength depends on the amount of skin contact during grapemaking. ;) 7. BodySir Mix A Lot – Baby Got BackDoes this baby have back? The easiest comparison to help you guess the body (light, medium, full) is to compare to milk. Does it feel super light like skim milk or more like straight-up cream? A lot of factors contribute to a wine’s body, but alcohol is one of the bigger ones. Fun party trick to know how boozy your wine might be without checking the label.8. FlavorsSeal – Kiss from a RoseMariah Carey – HoneySpice Girls – Spice Up Your LifeWe’re going in on the song variety for this one because this is the part where you just attempt to rattle off whatever you’re tasting. Spices? Floral notes? Herbs? Honey, creaminess, dairy notes? Earth? Animals (yes, seriously)? Colors of the world? And most importantly, do you actually like these things you’re tasting?9. FinishThe Cranberries – LingerNotice if the flavors linger and hang around like your deadbeat ex boyfriend (but in a good way this time) or if they’re gone in a flash like a one night stand. Sometimes they can be like that one guy you dated who turned into a completely different person overnight.Now’s time to act like Simon Cowell and give this guy a brutally honest final verdict. 10. BalanceThe Verve – Bittersweet SymphonyIn really, really good wines, all of these things – flavor, acidity, finish, body, tannins – are going to come together in perfect harmony. Does one seem out of whack like Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions? Or do you feel like Reese Witherspoon driving down the highway in the convertible during the end credits when you drink this?11. LengthFoo Fighters – EverlongWe visited the finish above. The longer the finish, typically, the better quality the wine.12. IntensityBackstreet Boys – Larger than LifeHow intense are the aromas you smell and flavors you taste? If they’re larger than life, that often indicates good quality.13. ComplexitySarah McLachlan – Building a MysteryIs there so much going on with this wine in terms of flavors that it feels like you’re unraveling a mystery as you drink it? Complexity is a solid indication that this wine is like a boss. 14. Final ConclusionChristina Aguilera – What a Girl WantsN*Sync – Bye, Bye, ByeCongratulations, you’ve made it to the end of your glass and better news: there’s still a whole bottle to go. So tell us: Is it “what a girl wants” or is this “bye, bye, bye?”
We sat down with ILTG's newest contributor, Georgia's own Aleah James, to learn about the overlap of bourbon and wine, and why Portugal needs your attention ASAP. Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? The earliest wine memory I can recall is when I was studying abroad in Spain junior year of college. I can remember sitting at an Italian restaurant, La Tagliatella, across from Santiago Bernabeu (the football stadium) with some of my classmates as we ordered a bottle of red wine to share...because why not? The restaurant was mostly empty at the time and we had a wonderful time just being together, in Spain!When did you realize you wanted to make a career in wine? This is a relatively new realization for me. I took some "Introduction to Wine" classes at the Atlanta Wine School two years ago, and enjoyed them so much that I picked up a side hustle selling and performing in-home tastings for ONEHOPE wine. I enjoyed that so much, I decided to pursue my WSET Level II certification. Once that was achieved, I started to consider where to go from there. My professional background is in corporate learning, and I love encouraging people to learn new things. A career in wine education seemed like the perfect blend of skill and passion!What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning? There is something for everyone. I believe that 100%! And you don't need to "know" everything about wine to enjoy it - I'm constantly discovering new grapes, wineries, wine regions I knew nothing about. The wine world is vast and dynamic, growing and changing. Opportunities and new wines to try are endless!Most underrated wine region?Portugal in general has a lot to offer that I feel we rarely hear anything about, particularly in contrast to its neighbors Spain and France. Vinho Verdes are so refreshing and usually wildly affordable, it's a wonder more people aren't talking about them. What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?I'd personally love to see more cross collaboration with whiskey/bourbon distilleries to yield more whiskey/bourbon-barrel aged wines - bring the spirit drinkers into the wine space, and vice versa. I know a local brewery that is making a pinot noir barrel-aged belgian tripel, so cross collaborations with craft breweries seems quite likely too. That, and I want to see more sparkling red wine!! I've never tried it and I'm so intrigued. Who doesn't love a good bubble?What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?I love visiting wineries (the tastings! the learning! the views!), but truly any experience where a bottle is shared among friends and/or family is beautiful to me. Your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs and why?“What to Drink with What you Eat” - Andrew Dornenburg and Karen PageParticularly for those who are just learning to pair food with wine (or beer or spirits for that matter!), this is a great guide to have on-hand. There is a section organized by beverage, as well as a section organized by food, so no matter what you're building your meal around you have a guide to help you pair the perfect food or beverage with it. I love that it's helpful for wine-o's and foodies alike. “The World Atlas of Wine” - Hugh Johnson and Jancis RobinsonMy husband gave me the 7th edition of this incredible encyclopedia a few Christmases ago. For the true wine enthusiast, this atlas is a great way to familiarize yourself with the wine regions of the world including current maps, geographical information, native varietals, and more. Wine Spectator Magazine & Online I received this magazine subscription as a gift, and I follow WS on social media as well. My favorite aspect of what they offer (and they offer a LOT) is actually the bi-weekly "What Am I Tasting?" wine quiz on the Learn Wine section of their website. These quizzes are a fun way to test your knowledge to identify a wine's varietal, country of origin, age, and appellation solely based off of the tasting notes. Let’s play a quick game. We’ll give you 3 actors/actresses. You tell us the grape they match with: - Kristen Wiig - Chardonnay - The most versatile white wine for the lady that could play probably any character.- Tom Hardy - Syrah - Broody, tannic and formidable. A Cote Rotie Syrah could include flavors of smoked meat, tar, and leather...which basically describes Fury Road, so...- Jennifer Lawrence - Brut Rose - Bright and quirky with dry sass and sarcasm, but also may be elegant when the situation calls for it.