Wine expert Jane Boyce talks to Amanda Ferguson about her career and shares hints and tips with Belfast Times readers.
MEET Jane Boyce.
She is one of just 300 people in the world to hold the Master of Wine title and the only person in Northern Ireland with the qualification.
The mother-of-two from Banbridge explained her love affair with wine began as a student at Bath University and she is proud to have been one of the first women to sell wine here back in the 80s.
“As part of my European Studies degrees at Bath University I spent a year in France,” Jane said.
“My dissertation was on Cognac and it was an enlightenment to me.
“I was really interested in languages, and food and geography too, so I decided I would like to go into wine business.”
Jane (55) worked in London for a few years before moving home “to marry the boy next door” and since then her work life has been all about wine, including gaining the internationally respected Master of Wine title in 2000.
She was appointed to James Nicholson Wine Merchant in Crossgar a couple of years ago and is on hand to train staff and guide consumers through the wonderful world of wine.
“People tend to be so baffled by wine and the choices available, they often buy big brands or whatever is advertised or on promotion,” Jane said.
“I think that is where a specialist wine merchant comes in.
“We are there to tell people about the small growers. They don’t have big marketing budgets, so the money tends to go back into the wine. Because of that they need people to tell the story of their wine, which is where I think the independents are so good.”
Jane explained her personal wine favourite depends on her mood and what she is eating, but that “a really good red Burgundy is hard to beat” if budget was no object.
“If I had to pick a country it would be probably have to be France,” she said.
“The Rhone is a fantastic area. You can get a really nice Cote de Rhone from a small grower, for £8/£9.”
And in general, she says there is a difference in the type of wine that men and women prefer.
“There does tend to be a difference in wine that men and women drink.
“I hate to generalise, but Sauvignon Blanc is so, so popular with women. By far the most popular grape variety at the the moment and it does seem to be women drinking it, particularly New Zealand.
“Where in general,more men go for red wine.
“Rose tends to be popular with younger females, but Sauvignon Blanc is popular with women of all ages.”
Jane is very conscious of the health messages and societal debate surrounding the consumption of alcohol.
Her message is, “everything in moderation”.
“I would rather go for one glass of something really, really nice,” she said.
“People have remember you can put the cork back in or the screw cap back on.
“Wine does keep very well for three or four days.
“Most people can enjoy a small glass of wine with their evening meal.”
Jane’s hints and tips for Belfast Times readers about buying and enjoying wine.
Get to know grape varieties and regions rather than brand names which are often made up by marketing people and produced in bulk with the objective of being consistent. Look out for new grape varieties and blends which offer something new and interesting.
Chill your white wine for a couple of hours before serving but don’t over-heat your reds – room temperature is what it says!
Re-visit the South of France and Spain when choosing easy drinking whites and great value reds.
Use your local wine merchant for advice. Most people who work there are passionate about wine and will be only too happy to tell you all about the wine and what to eat with it.
If you like unoaked white wines, buy and drink it young i.e. from the last year or two.
Don’t store your wine near a radiator that goes on and off – it needs a consistent temperature.
An extra couple of pounds goes a long way in terms of quality – if you can stretch your budget to £8 – £9 you will get something twice as interesting. Take your time over it, enjoy the aroma and the colour as well as the taste and you will find you are not glugging it as quickly either.
Don’t be afraid to put the cork or the screw cap back in the wine. Most wines will keep for 2 or 3 days after opening provided you have resealed the bottle
Experiment – don’t just stick to the same wine – there are so many out there to become acquainted with.
Look out for wine tastings and wine fairs – they are a great opportunity to taste a wide range of wines (and spit!) as well as meet the people who make them. Join the mailing list of your local wine merchant and they will keep you informed on events such as dinners and tastings in your area.
Be wary of large mail order companies offering “too good to be true” introductory cases – they are often a way of getting you on their books to sell you lots of more expensive wine.
For more about JN Wine call 028 4483 0091 or visit jnwine.com
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* Amanda Ferguson is an award-winning freelance journalist from north Belfast.