I have developed a preference for Old World wines. That was not inevitable. Initially I spent years trying and failing to understand French wine. Some I liked, some I didn’t like, but there seemed to be no way of finding (or avoiding) something similar, there was just a list of individual names. At the time wine writers assumed you knew all that and spent their time producing purple prose about specific chateaux in specific years. It was only when New World wines appeared – ‘varietals’ made from a single grape variety and labelled accordingly – that I began to get the hang of it. Certainly I got no help from those who market French wine – and still don’t. So I am grateful to all those, mostly Australian, producers of varietals, who taught me what a pure Merlot might taste like, and a pure Cabernet Sauvignon, and thence what a blend of the two might deliver. They led me to claret and many, many others. They also taught me to read the small print on labels to see that behind Domain Clouseau (fictional, I hope) there was a grape variety (or three) and region.
I now find the European style of wine more satisfying. I think the reason is that they are made to drink with food, indoors in a climate much like ours.
I should also admit to another preference – for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. It is lighter, less meaty, with more vegetables and much greater use of fresh herbs than traditional English cooking. That has a significant effect on the wines we drink, which tend to be from Eastern France, though less of an effect on the wines we like, which most certainly include claret – we just don’t drink it so often.
Finally, most of us have a bias towards a particular part of the taste spectrum. I certainly have mine; yours may be different. It doesn’t follow, therefore, that if I like a wine or a wine-food combination that you will too. That is why I have put in a page ‘Your Own Taste Preferences’ which should help you relate your palate to mine.