Tips for your festive tipple with Charles Metcalfe

Charles Metcalfe has lived in Balcombe for nearly 15 years. For the last three, he has been Chairman of the Parish Council, as well as being actively involved in opposing the presence of Cuadrilla in the village. He has been an enthusiastic member of the Victory Players when possible, and makes frequent forays to London to taste and judge wines, about which he still talks (a lot) and writes (occasionally).
1) What got you into your passion with wines and spirits?
I started learning about wine at university. I was invited to a meeting of the Wine & Food Society by a singing friend, had a wonderful evening drinking 6 different types of Pimm’s, and found that I had agreed to be Secretary at the end of the night. So I started learning about wine at the tastings I organised. One thing led to another. I was in the Evening Standard wine-tasting team for a few years, and competed against other teams from France, Germany and California. Then needed to make some money when I wasn’t doing very well as a singer, wrote a piece about wine for a trade magazine, got a spot as drinks presenter on a morning TV show, and soon found I was earning more talking and writing about wine than by singing.
2) What do yo think about English wines and their potential?
England is already making very good sparkling wines, and last year saw the first investment in an English vineyard by a major Champagne house (Taittinger). If the climate continues to get warmer, we may find ourselves able to ripen black grapes more often, which will mean we can make better reds. We can do good whites already.
3) What should those of use with a less educated palette look for in the perfect tipple?
People who don’t know much about wine should not jump straight into big, expensive reds, but start with gentle, easy-going wines from places such as Chile, and not pay too much. You can get perfectly acceptable reds and whites for £6, even with our high taxes. And maybe whites with a bit of sweetness. (That’s why Prosecco is so popular.) it’s natural to like sweet things. Who’d prefer an unripe to a ripe blackberry, for instance?
4) Does price always mean good?
No, high prices sometimes mean that a certain type of wine is well-known and can therefore command a higher price. But price often correlates to quality quite closely.
5) What will you be drinking with your Christmas dinner this year?
I really don’t know what we’ll drink with our Christmas lunch. There will probably be a bottle of champagne, and red with the turkey. It’s usually an Australian Shiraz, we’ve found we like that but something a bit posher than we’d normally drink.
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