Fred Sirieix is a maître d' and beloved TV personality with a passion for all things food and wine. We take a sneak peak inside the his new book and there is a chance for you to win a copy...


Wine was a part of my life long before I ever had my first sip. Like most people in France, my parents have never drunk a lot, but they do drink often, and growing up in Limoges, every lunch and dinner would be accompanied with a small glass of the wine en vrac (in bulk) that my father would buy from a local wine cellar every few weeks and decant into bottles himself at home. A bottle would be opened and set on the table at the beginning of the week and both my parents would enjoy a couple of fingers of it with every meal over the course of the next few days. It was never to excess, but it was always there. 

This everyday wine was not what we served to guests. For that, my father would travel to Saint-Emilion every September and work in the vineyards, harvesting grapes. He would return, sun-kissed from working in the fields, and with the boot of his car loaded with the clinking bottles that he accepted as payment for his hard work. This wine would be reserved for special occasions, weekends and holidays, and every time he poured a glass for someone new, he would ask proudly, ‘Can you taste my secateurs?’ 

And he was right to ask. Every glass of wine is brimming with memories; from the rich soil that nourishes the vine, to the warm sun that ripens the fruit, to the hand holding the secateurs that cuts the grapes. Everything that goes into growing and producing a particular vintage is right there if you know where to find it. For me, though, the most important memories are those that are made while enjoying the wine. A sip of an Alsatian vendanges tardives, a wine made with late-harvest grapes that have been allowed to hang on the vine to intensify their sugary sweetness, takes me straight back to family Christmases when my grandfather would serve it with a delicious terrine at the start of the meal – a sweet, syrupy nectar to cut through the richness of the food. Likewise, a glug of intensely fruity Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine that is bottled and on the shelves just a few weeks after the grapes are harvested, takes me back to my days at catering college, where my classmates and I marvelled at its intense fruitiness and merrily glugged bottle after delicious bottle. Oh là là. 


The good news is that I have no interest in making you a Master of Wine – this is not that book. In fact, there is no book in existence that could do that. Training to the highest levels of wine appreciation takes years of study and there are only a very small handful of people in the world who have reached those heights. Full disclosure: I am not one of them. Who I am is someone who loves wine and knows enough about it to make confident choices that mostly pay off. And that’s what this book is about: choices. I can’t tell you which bottles of wine you will love – our tastes may be completely different – but I can give you the knowledge and information that YOU need to help YOU identify what YOU are looking for in a glass of wine.  


Though I love wine, there is a snobbery around it that I can’t stand. Over the centuries a mythology has built up that can feel impossible to navigate – there are rules. Perhaps it’s because I’m French, but I’ve never been much of a rule follower, so while I will lay them out in this book, I will also tell you why they don’t matter. After all, it’s only a drink. And in life we can and should do whatever we like!  

"People would gather to enjoy the feast and share stories over wine late into the evening. It was here that I learnt the power of great food and wine to bring people together."

In my childhood home, every meal was a ritual. Regardless of whether we had company or not, the table was always properly set and we would sit together for three courses each evening, catching up on the day and enjoying the delicious meal that my mother had conjured from the kitchen despite having been out at work all day. My family were not particularly wealthy – both my parents worked as nurses in a local hospital – but at the end of each day we ate like royalty. 


At weekends or celebrations, my parents would entertain on a grander scale. I remember pits being dug in the garden and whole lambs being roasted over a live fire on giant spits. People would gather to enjoy the feast and share stories over wine late into the evening. It was here that I learnt the power of great food and wine to bring people together. Food and drink were at the centre of everything, and we built a community of family and friends and many, many great memories around it.  


A copy of 'Wine Unlocked' by Fred Sirieix, published by Ebury Books. RRP: £ 12.99 (Hardback)

Order of 'Wine Unlocked' by Fred Sirieix, published by Ebury Books. RRP: £ 12.99 (Hardback)


Extract taken from Fred Sirieix Wine Uncorked