In our Ask the Sommelier series, we put your wine-related queries to the world’s top sommeliers. In this instalment, co-founder of Top Cuvée Brodie Meah shares his advice on the best wines to bring to a festival, and how to drink them.
I love going to festivals and having a great time, but more recently I’ve been getting into wine, so I’d like to bring some fun choices with me to my next festival to share with friends. What are the best wines to bring with me? Is there any good boxed wine I can try? And how do I go about keeping them cool?
Thea from Bristol, UK
Sommelier Brodie Meah responds:
If you like good wine, it’s a nightmare if you go somewhere where there’s none available, so it’s a good shout bring your own. However, it’s important to remember that you’re at a festival, not a wine tasting, so you’re looking for wines that are fun, easy-going, can stand a little bit of tent warmth and great to share with friends. To get the party started, I’d recommend some kind of Pet Nat or vibrant skin contact wine. These wines are good conversation starters, which is what you want at a festival. So, if you’re with a large group and perhaps not everyone knows each other you perhaps say: ‘by the way, this is orange wine,’ and maybe someone will say ‘cool, I’ve never had it but I’ve heard about it,’ and you can drink the wine and talk about it.
At Top Cuvée, the five litre bags we sell are popular for people going to events because they’re easy to transport, there’s no glass so they’re not going to break, and they’re not too heavy. They’re also easy to serve from, as there’s a little nozzle. Boxed wine can be a bit clunky, but bags are great because you can just carry them around and squirt the wine into glasses easily, so they’re great for sharing. And when the bag is finished, you can even use it as a pillow.
A lot of drinking and enjoying wine is about the time and the place…it’s the whole festival experience, you’re not going to be able to swirl the wine, but are you really going to be doing that anyway in a field?
In terms of the type of wine for a longer festival or to keep in your bag or tent, I think a juicy red is a good idea, though ideally you need to find some ice you can chill it down. There’s nothing worse than drinking something you’ve left in your tent; I’m thinking of hot rosé in particular. For a juicy red, I like the Saint Laurent and Zweigelt blend from Puszta Libre, and Claus Preisinger Fruit Loops. They drink well whether chilled or not.
When it comes to serving, for me, reusable coffee cups are cool. They’re great if you’re just drinking juicy reds and having fun with your friends, it’s not about taking fine stemware to drink your wine from. A lot of drinking and enjoying wine is about the time and the place, not what you’re drinking the wine out of. It’s the whole festival experience, you’re not going to be able to swirl the wine, but are you really going to be doing that anyway in a field?
When it comes to keeping wine cool, ice pack coolers that fit around a bottle are a great idea. If you get your bottle cold to start with, it’s actually not that difficult to keep it cool – if you just wrap it in a cooler or even a blanket or a t shirt and keep it in your bag or inside, it should stay cool for quite a while. If you’re in a place near a river or a body of water, you can keep your bottle in the water to keep it cool – but make sure it’s weighed down with some rocks.
I love cider for festivals too, and Skyborry is one of my favourite producers. They make a bottle called Pommage which is perfect festival fare. It’s got a cool label too, which for me adds to good festival drinking. The good thing about drinking cider at a festival is that it’s not as boozy as wine, so if you’re drinking it all day you’re not going to feel the effects as much as you would a whole day of wine. The other thing I would recommend is vermouth, which we actually have our own new bottle of at the moment. It’s a good shout because it’s a great social drink and the flavour profile is super juicy. I think it’s best for festival drinking mixed with soda, so all you need is a bottle of vermouth, bottle of soda and a tin of olives to make a great drink that everyone can share.
Interview by Louella Berryman