I love wine. Slight problem: I'm kind of allergic to it. Not in a "oh, you're such a lightweight!" kind of way, but in a oh-my-goodness-I've-had-one-sip-and-I'm-sloshed-and-turning-red-and-oh-look-I'm-completely-hungover-now kind of way. That way.
So, I can't really drink on my own. Or finish a drink on my own. Like, ever. Luckily, my friends' arrivals last week meant that I had an excuse to break out the good stuff from Humble Grape - an indie, boutique wine merchant in London that's on a mission to make wine "socially inclusive and approachable by anyone".
Which is funny, because coincidentally, my first landlord in London (whom I adored, and also lived with) was a sommelier at one of London's top restaurants. And boy, did he know a LOT about wine!
Due to my, erm, inconvenient wine allergy, his explanations were kind of lost on me, though he let me sample a lot of delicious (not to mention, insanely expensive!) wines and he also passionately believed that good wine should be accessible to all - and that, as long as you liked it, it was good.
John orders wine with confidence (and he always chooses the best ones!) but insists he doesn't really know what he's doing. I tend to go for what I know I like (practically any Rioja, Brunello di Montalcino, and on occasion, a Pinot Grigio), so I love trying new recommendations, like the bottles that Humble Grape selected for me: Galfano Nero d'Avola, 2011, Sicily and a First Drop Mother's Milk Shiraz, 2012, Barossa Valley, Australia. With a carefully curated selection of wine imported from 44 vineyards across 7 countries (!!!), Humble Grape a pretty special little place - somewhere I'd turn to when I'm next in a dinner party oh-what-should-I-bring rut, rather than a desperate grab-and-go from my local Tesco. Not that I do that. Sort of.
Before we unscrewed the cork to the Galfano Nero d'Avola, however, my friends and I collected "supplies" from Borough Market i.e. meats, cheese, and olives (duh!).
Borough Market is one of my favorite places to explore in London: the sights, the smells, the sounds! I can never leave without at least sampling three different kinds of cheeses and walking away with jamon Iberico that cost more than my weekly lunch allowance - fact.
After some hilarious banter with stall holders (Deborah: "Oh wait, let me pay, you guys! I have SO MUCH CASH!" Cashier: "Great! That will be five million pounds, please.") we walked away with links of saucisson from Une Normande a Londres, a hunk of mortadella (my favorite!), and two delicious, garlicky pots of olives from Borough Olives, and two types of cheese.
It was kind of an amazing spread (it also gave me an excuse to use our new Laguiole cheese knives, plus the gorgeous charcuterie board Kara gave us!).
We held a mini wine-tasting party at our flat, which was so much fun. We kind of just huddled around in the kitchen instead of heading to the dining room - I forgot how social nibbling and sipping wine in a kitchen can be!
The first wine we tried was a 2011 Galfano Nero d'Avola - a beautiful, fruity (think: cherries) red wine from Sicily, where John and I had visited last year. We fell in love with the cuisine and wine while we were there, and this particular Nero d'Avola (which is Sicily's most important grape variety, according to Humble Grape!) went really well with the saucisson and olives.
I'll admit: I was a little intimidated by the tongue-in-cheek name and comic-strip label of the second wine ... 2012 First Drop Mother's Milk Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Australia (apparently, the winemaker behind Mother's Milk, Matt, was about to join the army when he broke his wrist and decided to make wine instead. As you do.).
But ohmygoodness, it was SO GOOD.
Super full-bodied, smoky, and powerful (plus, it has a hilarious tasting note on Humble Grape: "a hint of wombat rolled in allspice"). Really easy to drink and it went like a dream with the cheese we bought. Most of us liked the Nero d'Avola, but we all loved the Mother's Milk Shiraz.
I had a few too many slurps of this delicious red and ... yup, ended up drunkenly stumbling to our local pizza hangout, where afterwards, we decided to walk home while balancing pizza boxes on our heads - just to see who would last the longest. No joke.
Such a fun evening (though I can barely remember it). Just kidding. (Not really.)
Our delicious wines were generously provided by Humble Grape, whose mission and ethos I love! Check out their wines and wine-tasting events here. All opinions are my own.