What is it with wine?

For your amusement, let’s kick off with a video rant about the French and wine…

Well, it amused me. It also touched on a lot of issues most people have with wine, not just in France. At the risk of taking it far too seriously, here are some of my thoughts on the points raised. I hope it helps. Or at the very least does not make things worse for you.

It is basically just fermented grape juice
Exactly. People pile wine high with cultural baggage, not to say bullshit, but underneath it all is an agricultural product. If you don’t like the baggage, chuck it out and enjoy wine for what it basically is. And if you do, don’t foist it on others.

When you buy wine there is way too much choice
Yup, that’s big problem for many. And it does not just apply to posh wine merchants – if anything the big supermarkets are even worse. I am all for having a good selection of wine styles, but the problem is that a lot of the wines on offer are very similar, meaning the real choice is not a good as you might want.

All  I wanted was an alcoholic beverage – I didn’t realise I needed a degree in œnology to get one
No, but a little knowledge goes a long way and can greatly enhance your enjoyment of wine. Maybe take a day or so to read up on wine regions and grape varieties? That should be a good foundation. If you don’t fancy that sort of thing then I’m afraid it is a question of asking advice and trial and error.

It’s not like the labels help you in any way reduce your choice
The grape varieties and wine region on the label can be very useful – see previous point. But I agree 100% about the descriptions on the back label. Label tasting notes seem to be written by people who have not actually tasted the wine, food suggestions are often ridiculously general or specific, and many awards are obscure or pretty meaningless. Just ignore them.

What wine do you suggest?
That’s the way to deal with selecting wine in a restaurant if you are feeling out of your depth. At most restaurants here in the UK, the person serving you will probably know little more than you, but you might get lucky. And even if you don’t, you will have effectively deflected the pressure from yourself, and onto someone else who feels insecure. Don’t worry if you are all eating different things. There may be a single wine that matches them all, or you could order wine by the glass. Either way, remember that it if you have asked for advice you can be grateful that it is Someone Else’s Problem.

Deciding for the whole table whether the wine is good or not
The important thing here is that the object of the exercise is not to proclaim on the subtle qualities of the wine, but to check that it is not faulty and is at the right temperature for you. If you want to make a good impression, play it casual and understated. Beyond that, here are a few very basic tips for spotting whether it is faulty or not. If it is from a bottle with a screwcap, or a plastic or DIAM cork, it is probably OK. Ask about the closure if necessary or, even better, you could have based your original wine selection on the type of closure. If it smells or tastes absolutely foul it is faulty, but remember that your judgement need not be binary. If you have a proper sommelier, and have any doubts at all about how the wine tastes, raise your suspicions and they will dealt with them appropriately. You might even be totally upfront with your sommelier, say you find it difficult to spot wine faults, and ask them to taste for you.

Hipster beer?
You are on your own with that.

About Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast
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