In the past, football and wine were worlds apart. In recent years, however, football’s landscape has changed immeasurably and now, awash with broadcasting rights riches and foreign talent, our national sport is far more cosmopolitan and wine is very much part of the beautiful game’s new era.
Indeed, these days, amongst top flight managers, it’s become something of a custom for the two opposing ‘gaffers’ to set aside their differences by sharing a post-match bottle of wine. Of course, old habits die hard and the always provocative, ex Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, ensured a frosty next meeting with Jose Mourinho, then Real Madrid, now Chelsea manager, by saying, in early 2013, “I wouldn’t mind him coming back, as long as he improves his wine. Last time he was here, his wine was crap.”
More harmoniously, Harry Redknapp, manager of Queens Park Rangers, has, with the assistance of internationally renowned sommelier, Gerard Basset, created the Premier League Managers Wine Club. The premise is simple; chirpy cockney ‘Arry’ shares a bottle of wine with his opposite number at the end of every home match, the managers sign and auction the bottle for charity and then they post their thoughts about the wine online. Presumably, Redknapp is mightily relieved that the abrasive Ferguson, now retired, won’t be available to share his musings!
Of course, football management isn’t – I imagine – all about wine drinking and ‘wheeler dealer’ supreme, Redknapp, really comes into his own during the January transfer window. I should, for non-football fans, explain: during the football season (August to May), clubs are only allowed to buy or sell players during the month of January and Redknapp, specialising in eleventh hour bargain buys, is a master of the unexpected transfer coup. Fair enough but what’s this got to do with wine?
Well, at the risk of sounding like a fantasist, there are, during January, certain parallels between the life of a football manager and the life of a wine merchant. We too, use the month to scout for new talent from around the world, to extend contracts with favoured suppliers and to discard those that haven’t performed as well as we’d hoped. Obviously, we’re free, unlike football clubs, to do this at any time of the year but it makes sense to use our quietest sales month to, hopefully, assemble a crack squad for the coming year.
So, every January, we put together a wish list of the sort of wines we’d like to add to our stock but, like Arsene Wenger (Arsenal manager) buying yet another midfielder whilst supposedly shopping for defenders and strikers, we’re more than happy to have our heads turned by great wines of any description.
Pleasingly, last year’s self-imposed transfer window went really well and we sourced lots of wines that proved to be big hits with our customers. Not least, the great value Sauvignon Blanc alternative, El Tesoro Verdejo, which is made by a co-operative in the Rueda region of central Spain. The wine offers aromas of tropical fruit and hints of citrus. On the palate, it’s bursting with passion fruit, grapefuit and tangy citrus flavours and pairs wonderfully with vegetable risottos or grilled fish dishes.
On the red wine front, another co-operative wine, the Il Faggio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from central eastern Italy fared especially well. Deep ruby red in colour, the wine has lifted perfumed notes of dark fruits, plums and cherries with underlying notes of mocha and a delicious, chocolate cherry finish. It’s great on its own or with most red meat dishes.
There’s no doubt, with these two wines on your team, you’re assured of a home victory.