This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.



Cart 0

Congratulations! Your order qualifies for free shipping You are $250 away from free shipping.
No more products available for purchase

Is this a gift?
Subtotal Free
Shipping, taxes, and discount codes are calculated at checkout

Expert Wine Tips from Jancis Robinson

HG Wine & Bar

Expert Wine Tips from Jancis Robinson

Ask Jancis

Jancis Robinson, one of the most influential wine experts in the world, rose to fame in the 1980s after becoming the first Master of Wine (MW) from outside the wine trade. In addition to her weekly column for the Financial Times, she has written several books including the World Atlas of Wine. Robinson was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and has been appointed as an advisor of the royal wine cellar. Her collaboration with London designer Richard Brendon is exclusive in Canada to Hopson Grace and we were thrilled when Jancis recently gave us a few minutes of her time.

HG: Where are the best-valued wines coming from these days?


JR: Muscadet, Beaujolais, Loire wines, South African wines, Chilean wines, basic but well-made Bordeaux.


HG: Do screwtops mean wine is cheap?


JR: No. They generally mean that the producer wants to minimize the risk of their wine being affected by cork taint - mouldy smell when it’s bad and a decrease in fruitiness and appeal when it’s minor (which is almost worse from the point of view of the producer because it’s not screaming obvious).


HG: What are tannins and what are they doing in wine?


JR: Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins. As a characteristic of wine, tannin adds bitterness and astringency, as well as complexity. Wine tannins are most commonly found in red wine, although some white wines have tannin too, from aging in wooden barrels or fermenting on skins. The younger the wine, especially red wine, the more tannin it will have. Tannin wines taste chewy and can dry out the insides of your cheeks.

HG: Should red wine really be served chilled?


JR: It's impossible to over-estimate the effect of serving temperatures on how a wine will taste. The principles are delightfully simple:


1) The cooler the wine the less it will smell. 2) The warmer the wine the more aromatic it will be. 3) Low temperatures emphasise acidity, bitterness and tannin. 4) High temperatures minimize them.


Therefore, the more naturally aromatic a wine (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Gamay for example), the cooler you should serve it. Full-bodied wines, whose natural extract tends to make it difficult for flavour molecules to escape to deliver messages to the olfactory area, can be served much warmer than lighter wines. Most perfectly balanced sweet wines benefit from being chilled, as do many red burgundies, and soft red wines such as Beaujolais, which could do with a bit of artificially encouraged structure. So, yes, many light bodied reds are flattered by being served cellar cool (not actually frozen, but they tend to warm up in the glass anyway).

HG: Are decanters really that important? And why do some have stoppers; aren't those for spirits such as aged whiskey?


JR: I’ve designed two decanters – an old wine decanter and a young wine decanter – and it’s not to make life more difficult or add to the complication of wine. It’s just to make wine taste as good as possible.


The Young Wine Decanter is designed for young wines to accelerate their aging a bit. That’s why the decanter is nice and broad with a long neck, perfect for swooshing. This helps expose the wine to lots of air and help it to age, just in the decanter. A lot of people think decanting is only for red wines, but actually there are a lot of white wines that need a bit of encouragement to open up.


A little bit of air is a good thing, but a lot of air is bad, which is why our Old Wine Decanter is narrowly shaped. This is so once the wine has been poured in it is not exposed to as much oxygen because this does age the wine – and with a mature wine you don’t need it to age further. Once the wine is in the decanter, you need the stopper to prevent any further exposure to air. The reason for decanting an old wine is to get the sediment off, because you don’t want to pour grunge into your wine glass!


Want to know how to decant wine properly? Watch Jancis' how-to, here.

HG: Is smelling wine really that important?


JR: A wine’s aroma is at least half of your experience - perhaps more because your nose is much more sensitive than your mouth. Without taking in the beautiful aroma, you miss so much of the flavour, complexity and nuance of the wine. You want your glass to narrow towards the top to be able to gather the aroma inside the bowl of the glass, so that when you swirl it around, maximizing the surface area and enhancing your enjoyment of the wine, you don't spill any. Our glasses have been designed to have the optimal space in which the aroma of wine can gather to be enjoyed before drinking.


HG: How much room should I leave for air in a wine glass? Is there a formula, i.e. fill to 30% of the glass’ volume?


JR: It’s important to leave plenty of room for the aroma of a wine to gather above the pour and enhance your enjoyment of the wine. Our glasses have a ‘perfect pour’ that takes you to the point at which the bowl of the glass is widest. This visual marker will allow you to achieve the ‘perfect pour’ every time. Our glass has been designed so that a sixth of a bottle of wine – 125ml – just fills the bowl at its maximum width. The most important thing is that after you’ve swirled, you have all that aroma gathered in the bowl, ready for you to enjoy. In brief, wine glasses are designed to be filled no more than a third of their volume.

HG: Why is your new glass suitable for every wine?


JR: I genuinely believe this glass is suitable for every single sort of wine – there is absolutely no point in having different sizes and shapes for a red wine versus a white wine. They are all subtle wines and equally nuanced. We don’t need to be cluttering shelves with a myriad of different glasses that we can’t tell the difference between. So here is one glass, size and shape suitable for all colours and sorts of wine. The people I really respect who make champagne or sherry or port are all crying out to have their wines served and appreciated as fine wines, not corralled into funny shapes or tiny schooners – they want their wines to be sensed the same way we sense all wines, in a nice, generous sized glass. I’ve tried pretty much every sort of wine I can think of in this glass, and can assure you that I find them really flattered, giving me an immense amount of pleasure with an enhanced aroma and excellent palate delivery. This has been confirmed by many third party tasters - some of them skeptical beforehand!

Shop the Collection