Customers never like paying delivery charges, and I believe that now big sellers like Amazon offer free delivery it is going to be more and more a customer expectation. But delivery is never really free. The costs are usually very real, in the sense that the merchant has to pay the carrier. These costs have to be recovered somehow, and of course the price of the goods reflects that fact.
My general view is that if any cost can conveniently be passed onto the customer, it should be done so in a straightforward and transparent way. When it comes to delivery from a merchant that only sells online, that clearly means charging delivery in full – what the carrier demands, and possibly a charge for packing and organising. Then it is up to the customer to decide if he really wants that single bottle of Jacob’s Creek sent across the country, or whether it might make more sense to order a case at a time.
But when a merchant operates a bricks-and-mortar shop too, I think things are less clear. OK, shipping is a real cost, but so is the cost of running a shop. The online customer is not getting the benefits of the shop, and the merchant need not use the shop to service the online customer. Perhaps the answer here is to offer an online discount on the wine, and add shipping. But that starts to get a bit complicated to manage, and in a way it depends on what the merchant sees as his primary way of doing business. For whatever reason, it is not a pricing model you see.
In practice many merchants charge only a small amount for delivery, and offer free delivery for wine over a certain volume, or based on the value of the order. Another approach, which I have never really understood, is simply to refuse to ship smaller quantities, whatever the value of the order. Then there is at least one merchant, The Wine Society, that offers “free” delivery for larger orders, but cheekily gives a little-publicised discount if you collect. But when all is said and done, it is really a question of finding a solution that is acceptable to most customers.
Sometimes however, you can get very close to a delivery service that is genuinely free. I refer to the the free local delivery that many independent wine merchants offer. They will often specify an area within which delivery is free, but I have recently been finding that if you are prepared to be flexible about delivery times they are prepared to be flexible about extending that area. Basically, it seems that merchants out in the countryside regularly make van runs into their nearest big cities, and if you happen to live in the city or en route they are happy to drop of wines FOC when they do the run. They may well draw the line at the above-mentioned single bottle of Jacobs’s Creek, and do not advertise it, but Byrne’s of Clitheroe will deliver free to Manchester addresses, and Buon Vino in Settle will do the same. I fear life might get more expensive now I know that! Also you can see on their website that Fingal Rock in Monmouth includes London in their free delivery zone. These are all excellent wine merchants that deserve more business, and I am sure there are many others that offer flexible local delivery if you seek them out.
The final example of excellent free local delivery I’d like to mention is a bottle of Champagne I once ordered from Portland Wine at around 10.30 one morning. Now that is truly a local delivery, so nothing strange about that. The excellent thing is that it arrived before lunch the same day. Unfortunately the lunch was still not free.
Just got back from a few days in the South East. Enjoyed Canterbury a lot, both for its cathedral and the three excellent and very different meals we had there: the world’s thickest and meatiest beefburger at The Dolphin, huge pots of sweet mussels at Café Belge, and a Michael Caines good value “amazing grazing” lunch. What better way to recharge flagging tourist batteries than a good quality leisurely light lunch in a restaurant that manages to be formal and relaxed at the same time?
But I did not intend this to be a restaurant review. We visited a couple of vineyards, Chapel Down and Wickham, also the English Wine Centre, and I wanted to share some thoughts about them and their wines. I approached these places as an ordinary punter – a tourist if you like. I did not phone in advance saying I would like to taste some wines to write up on my blog. Apart from anything else, that would be lying as I am not exactly going to “write up the wines”.
There were 13 wines for sale at Chapel Down and we expressed interest in tasting as many as we could. We were soon disabused of that notion. You can only taste 3 wines free! We explained we were perfectly happy to pay for our tasting samples, but no they couldn’t do that – something to do with taxation. Hmmm. But if we wanted to taste more, then we could go on one of the thrice-daily guided tours at £9.00 a pop, after which we would get a tasting of 8 wines. So using that ruse we could taste 11 of their 13 wines – in fact we later realised that as there were two of us, by sharing samples we could actually taste everything. As a tour was soon due anyway we signed up.
In the meantime we wandered around the vineyards at Tenterden a bit ourselves. The map we picked up was obviously a bit out of date but enabled us to find our way around. The oldest vines were Bacchus and Auxerrois from 1987, and the most recent additions according to the map were Bacchus from 2007. About half the area had been planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay in 2004, and there was also a block of Pinot Noir that dated back to 1999. A vine of that venerable Kentish Pinot Noir features at the top of this article. All vines were Guyot trained, but to a greater height than I am used to seeing in other places. I was surprised that several row end posts and nearby vines were on the floor. I wonder how that could have happened – and how long it will take the vineyard to get around to repairing the damage.
The guided tour was fine, and bullshit free. We got to see a bit of everything, including a sparkling wine bottling line in action. Only the second one I have seen – they are a lot more fun than still wine bottling lines. Then, hurrah, we got our tasting. In fact we only got 7 wines, but after our additional 3 free ones I felt I had tasted enough anyway. Here are some brief impressions:
Pinot Reserve, Sparkling, 2004, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, £25: This is more like it. Could well be a decent Champagne. Has depth and interest. Worth the money, and we bought some. ****
Bacchus, 2006, £10: Good acidity and intense fruit. Closest point of reference for me would be a pungent Sauvignon Blanc. We bought some of this too. Things were looking up, but unfortunately the best was behind us. ***
Flint Dry, 2009, Chardonnay, Huxelrebe, Bacchus, £8: Fresh, but undistinguished and lacking intensity, particularly after the Bacchus. **
English Rose, Rosé, Rondo, Schonburger and others, 2009, £10: **
Rondo, Regent, Pinot Noir, £12: Shudder. Why do they bother? *
Nectar, 2009, Sieggerebe, Ortega, Bacchus, £13: Medium Sweet. Shudder. Why do they bother? *
Brut Rosé, Sparkling, Pinot Noir, £25: Not impressed, but then I am not a rosé person. ***
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sparkling, 2006, £25: Not bad, but I was expecting more. Might acquire more interest with time? ***
Pinot Blanc, 2006, £11: Tastes like proper wine. But so it should for the price. ***
Finally, before leaving the site we popped upstairs for lunch at Richard Phillips. I was surprised to find the restaurant was full considering it was mid-week and the shop downstairs did not seem very busy. Anyway, we ate in the bar, which was not a problem for us. The pea and ham starter was excellent – good texture and intense and fresh flavours – but both of us found our main courses disappointing. A rather bland tasting fish dish, and two parts of my trio of lamb were in various stages of dessication.
That does all sounds rather negative, doesn’t it? But I actually came away pleasantly surprised. My only other encounter with an English vineyard – Chilford hall many years ago – had been dire. By contrast this was a smooth and professional operation that offered some serious wines. If only they did not put up so many barriers to tasting them!
English Wine Centre, and Wickham
Two entirely separate enterprises, but I’ll deal with them together. We spent a lot less time at these places than Chapel Down, and the wines I remember from them were all Wickham wines.
The English Wine Centre is not a vineyard. Most importantly from my point of view it is a shop – though it also has a restaurant, and markets itself as a wedding venue. We were asked for, and were given, a tasting. At this point we were feeling a little fussier than at Chapel Down and asked for dry whites and sparkling wines only. That narrowed the field quite a lot as sparkling wines were not on tasting mid-week, and it turned out that one of the dry whites available was the Chapel Down Flint Dry we had already dismissed. So we finished up with four wines, 2 of which we didn’t like, and two we did. The ones we liked were both from Wickham – more on those later. They had an excellent selection of English wines for sale, and we bought quite a few bottles there. The main downside was the prices – a good 30% or so over cellar door and other retail outlets. However, if you are intent on buying English wines the convenience of having then under one roof is an advantage.
Next stop was Wickham. First we had a quick look at the vines by the restaurant. Not sure exactly what we were looking at, but they were cordon trained and had obviously been tarted up with roses and lights to enhance the view from the restaurant. They also seem to have been equipped with heaters – a bit like smudge pots, but these were positioned under the vines. Inside the shop we were offered a no-fuss tasting of all their wines, so top marks for that! The ones we liked and bought are described below. I am afraid I can remember little about the ones we did not like.
Wickham Vintage Selection Dry, 2009, Faber, £8 (£11 at EWC): Light and herby. ***
Wickham Special Reserve Fumé Dry, 2009, mainly Bacchus and Reichensteiner, £9 (£13 at EWC): Delicately oaked, giving real interest. ***
Wickham Vintage Selection Special Reserve, 2009, Rondo and a little Pinot Noir £12.20: Sour cherries. ***
Generally speaking, I had my pre-existing feelings about English wines confirmed by the experience. The better dry white wines were light and herbaceous – tending towards Sauvignon Blanc aromatics. On the right occasion I could enjoy these wines. It is not my favourite style, but I would say that about Sauvignon Blanc too. At their worst they were acidic and watery. English sweet wines and red wines I would generally simply avoid. The sparkling wines made from German crossings were quite pleasant, but horribly overpriced in my opinion – a comparable experience to Prosecco, but at twice the price. The sparklers made from proper French grapes I thought were comparable in both quality and price to Champagne. To be honest I think Champagne is overpriced in the UK too, but at least that means the English equivalents can compete.
Perhaps more on English wines later, when I open some of my booty…
Have you ever wondered why you so rarely seem to see negative reviews of wines? Or indeed other things? I am very much aware that the first few reviews on my blog have tended to be positive, so I shall start by answering for myself.
Initially at least, I decided only to write about what I know well, and by and large that is what I have done – certainly my restaurant reviews and longer tasting notes have been for restaurants and wines I am very familiar with. I didn’t want to be proclaiming judgements based on one meal, or a quick slurp and a spit. But unfortunately a by-product of that policy is that I have only written in detail about things that I like. I try to show dedication to my blog, but I draw the line at repeating bad experiences just so I can say with conviction that it was truly bad.
The other reason I might feel tempted to put a positive spin on a wine on a wine that was not great, or more likely say nothing at all, is if I know and like the person that supplied it to me. I hope using the word “supplied” does not sound too much like having a drug habit fed; I use it to cover both being offered wine by a friend, and being sold wine. Naturally I do not want to sound ungrateful for freely offered wine, and criticising it in public might be taken as ingratitude, but to a lesser extent I find myself reluctant to criticise wine sold by a merchant I know well. Though having said that, the careful reader of this blog will find some examples of the latter.
As for other critics… well, I know of at least one who thinks that there are so many bad and mediocre wines it is not worth writing about them, and even listing them it seems. The consumer of tasting notes is thought only to be interested in hearing about good wines. I am not at all sure about that. If someone else has tried a wine and found it to be bad, I would rather not buy it myself to make the discovery independently. And if no one mentions a wine, how am I meant to know whether it is of poor quality, or simply not assessed?
This is also frustrating for the consumer when reading the results of large wine competitions. We get to know the wines with trophies, medals and commendations, but how are we to know whether DRC again neglected to submit the requisite number of bottles of La Tâche, or it was judged to be unworthy even of a commendation? And this is where I start to get cynical. Such a large proportion of wines get medals that to be unclassified is not at all good. And no producer would want to go to the expensive of entering a competition with the possibility of being slighted like that. So if the competition published the failures, they would not get get anywhere near the number of contestants and probably the competition would not be viable.
To an extent I think the same applies when writers get sent samples or invited on a jolly – er, sorry, fact finding mission – to a wine producing region. If there were too many bad reviews the offers of samples and trips would slowly dry up – in general, if not for individual writers. I am not accusing anyone of professional misconduct here, but I think we have to accept that however hard writers and critics strive to be independent it is hard to be totally objective when your livelihood depends on freebies. Besides which, as I have noted above, it is really difficult to be critical about a product that is associated with someone you have got to know, like the producer you met on that trip. I think it is also fair to admit that we as consumers of wine writing get what we pay for. It is all to easy these to expect to get opinions for free on the net, but those who give their opinions for free need the means to get hold of things to write about.
I am sure that part of the knack of getting the truth from a tasting note or more general review lies in looking for what has not been said, but that sadly is still a bit like looking for wines that do not have medals. Did the critic not mention the intensity of flavour because it was insipid, or because he did not think it worthwhile commenting on? Or perhaps it was not intense, but had an understated elegance? We will never know.
Another trick in tasting note deconstruction is to look at the score. I did not realise it until it was explained to me, but apparently a score of below 90 means that a wine is not recommended, while anything you should consider buying will be in the range 90 to 100. But sadly that now means that some critics are reluctant to give 89 points – so even the points cannot always be used as a coded hint that a wine is under-par.
But you can still get some glimpses of warts. The blind panel tastings in Decanter for example. There, often you will find first growths and similar summarily dismissed in favour of more modest wines. What I miss there though is an explanation of the thought processes of the taster. Of course, better wines need more time to come around, but shouldn’t professionals be able to recognise a young but promising wine from a good stable?
Note that Cachumba no longer exists. I am keeping this merely for historical interest.
220 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2LW. Tel 0161 4452479
Cachumba is self-styled on its website as a “Cafe & Take Away”. It certainly does a fair amount of take-away business, but apart from that I’d describe it more as an informal restaurant. Food is brought to you at your table, though the menus are slipped under the practical glass that covers all the tables at each place setting. Service, like the restaurant, is informal and friendly. Be prepared to wait a while for your food if they are busy.
It may look closed, but don’t be fooled – if it’s earlyish evening, then it is probably open despite appearances. But in marked contrast to most surrounding restaurants and bars, which parade themselves with open doors and outside tables, Cachumba keeps itself to itself. Behind the screens in the window is a lush red haven, with soft music that is as eclectic as the food. It is a world apart from the currently trendy minimalistic style – a world that is more gentle, and inhabited by a rare, quiet sub-species of West Didsburyite.
It is difficult to describe the style of food, as it comes from around the world. The focus, if focus is the word for such a vast area, is South and South-East Asia, but there is at least one African dish on the menu too. Take a look at the menu on their website. I have my favourites, but I know others that prefer other dishes so I won’t bother recommending anything in particular. Vegetarians are well catered for. You may wonder, as I did, if it is possible to do justice to such a broad range of cuisines in one small restaurant. Maybe it is not, and I wouldn’t like to vouch for the food’s authenticity, but it tastes great. In particular, I am always struck by the vivacity of the flavours, presumably the result of everything being freshly cooked with fresh spices, and I always leave with a pleasant tingling sensation in my mouth. And I never leave feeling overwhelmed by the heavy greasy sauces that are all too common in Indian restaurants in the UK.
All your dishes will by default be brought to your table more or less simultaneously, so if that does not suit be prepared to ask specifically for staggered servings. The portions are not huge, so you should probably think in terms of a couple of dishes each. Though having said that, the portion sizes seemed generally larger than normal when I was there last a week ago, and the Vietnamese prawn fried rice dish was huge.
With spicy food, I would naturally tend towards aromatic white wine – well non-Chardonnay whites at least. It is obvious that the wines were all obtained from Vin Vino, and very modestly marked up. For example I see that you can buy the Solare Falanghina for £6.30 retail, and you can get it at Cachumba for only £8.95. Recently I have usually been going for the Kirabo South African Chenin Blanc. You won’t see it on the wine list on their website, but it is £9.95 (£6.90 retail). I didn’t take a tasting note, but I remember it being crisp and apply. At various points in the past year or so I have also liked the Falanghina and the Gewurz, but did not get on with the Pinot Grigio – I think they are the ones they currently sell but cannot be 100% sure. Anyway, Cachumba gets top marks for reasonably priced wines, and top marks for displaying their wine list in the window. It used to be BYO, but sadly no more.
All in all I would highly recommend Cachumba. Great food, friendly and relaxed, and a reasonably priced wine list. I find it strange that it is always as quiet as it is, and think it deserves more recognition than it gets. If you don’t believe me, here are reviews on sugarvine and onionring.
When I think of wine in the abstract, I often get the same sort of feeling I used to have as a child on opening a box of chocolates: I contemplate the broad range of flavours laid out in front of me. I am not sure how common the ability is, but I find it easy to imagine the experience of trying these wines, with and without food. So in my mind’s palate, as it were, I can flip backwards and forwards through various taste sensations.
Here I am not at all contemplating subtle differences, complexity, cultural roots or anything of that sort of depth – just marvelling at the sheer diversity of aroma, flavour and mouthfeel. Some I am more familiar with than others, some I like to experience more often than others, but they are all good and my life would be the poorer if I lost any of them. The joy is not in trying all of the styles within any particular time frame, but it is knowing that they are available should I wish to indulge. And if you are feeling in the mood to indulge, the flavour experience is easily realised. It can be as simple as opening a bottle, possibly with a trip to a wine merchant first. OK, you might need a bit more patience if you are after more mature pleasures, but there is still a huge range of experiences available from younger wines.
So what about the subtle differences in wine you can experience in horizontal or vertical tastings? Well yes, they can be important too, and the tastings interesting. But they are not the primary source of the pleasure wine gives me. Most of the time I’d much prefer to contrast very different styles of wine as I move through an evening menu from aperitif to dessert and cheese. I prefer the hedonism of that approach to the more academic appreciation of subtle differences.
I think it is generally accepted that British restaurants make most of their profit on sales of alcohol. As a wine lover I dislike that practice, but I am going to resist the temptation to rant about it; I am going to examine why it happens to be the case.
I have seen speculation that it may have started as a result of wartime austerity measures. Restaurants were not allowed to charge above a certain amount for food, but there was no limit on wine prices. So restaurants kept their income stream going by selling any available wine at very high prices. Then, after restrictions were lifted, we were so used to relatively cheap restaurant food and expensive wine that the pattern persisted. Now that might be complete nonsense, but it is a nice theory. Let me know if you know better.
Regardless of its origins, it is clear to me why this pricing pattern continues today. Restaurants compete only on the price of food. Special offers are almost exclusively on food, with deals on multiple courses, or for food ordered when the restaurant is not so busy. Only rarely do offers apply to wine. Indeed, restaurants go out of their way to hide the value of the wine they serve. They prefer to stock wines that rarely appear in shops, and their suppliers feed that preference by selling specially created brands that are not sold through retail channels. Anyone would think that restaurants were trying to hide their markups on wine.
Also, they are not so keen on advertising wines prices. Practically every restaurant displays a menu by their door, but how many display a wine list, or even a selection from their list? I did a quick survey of restaurants close to where I live. Out of the ten in my sample area, only two displayed a wine list.
There was a large range of quality and style in the restaurants I checked, but one things they have in common is that they do not belong to large chains. Chain restaurants usually do display a wine list, and I’m guessing the reason is that they employ legal advisers – because actually all restaurants are required by law to display their wine list. According to a guidance note explaining the legal requirements: “For an eating area, prices must be shown at or near the entrance so that the prospective consumer can see them before he enters; a restaurant with direct access to the street will therefore be required to show prices so that they are visible from the street.” It goes on to say: “When wine is sold for consumption with food (but not when merely sold among other drinks), the price of at least five wines – if this number is available – must be displayed.” So, many restaurants are not merely keeping us in the dark about their wine prices; they are breaking the law in doing this.
As restaurants in general are now so clearly intent on competing on the price of food, while hiding the price of wine on which they make more profit, there is clearly no incentive for any restaurant to break rank and distribute markups more evenly. A good first step towards encouraging competition on wine pricing would be effective enforcement of existing consumer legislation.
I don’t particularly want to shop my offending local restaurants to Trading Standards, but I am tempted. Not because I feel particularly vindictive to those restaurants, but because the couple of places that do display their wine lists have very reasonable markups – and I’d like to see them get more trade.
Let’s face it – a lot of money is not spent on the decor – outside or inside. Most people who just happen to be walking past seem to think it is just another kebab takeaway. But go inside and you will probably find a busy and bustling restaurant. It certainly will be weekend evenings, and often midweek too. On average I have been here something like a couple of times a month for the last few years, so any negative comments here should be seen in that light – I wouldn’t go so often if I didn’t really like the place. Here’s why I like it…
Very high up on my list of reasons is BYO with only £1 corkage. For me, that means I can take one or two decent bottles of wine and not have to pay through the nose for the pleasure. Unless you feel you can get by with the Paris goblets they provide, you will need to bring your own glasses. Don’t be shy – they don’t bat an eyelid.
And I like the informal and friendly atmosphere. Unlike many of the trendier restaurants a bit further South, which seem always to be packed with the Didsbury Set, you get many different types of people here. It seems so much more inclusive and inviting like that. Sometimes you even get a bunch of wine nuts making the most of the BYO policy and enjoying interesting wines with the food.
Ah yes – the food. The restaurant describes the cuisine as “authentic Arabic and Middle Eastern”, and I have heard it described variously as Syrian and Lebanese by those who claim to know. Maybe I am not as enthusiastic about the food as many people, but I like it well enough. And I know the menu so well now I can easily navigate it to find the meal I want. Most people seem to agree that the starters are the best part of the menu, and the best value for money. For mains I like the shaworma, maklobeh, and the kebabs best – particularly the chicken kebab. I find the sauce in many of the casserole style mains not to be wine-friendly, and the one time I ordered fish it came back so over-cooked I wouldn’t dream of ordering it again. The two of us would typically order 4 starters to share, and then share one main with rice and a salad. Normally I do without dessert, but their pastries are good. See the menu on their website for details and prices. Officially they have a £15 minimum charge, but it is quite likely your bill will be less than that and it has never been a problem for me. I really like the feeling of being pleasantly surprised by the size of the bill, and wanting to tip well rather than feeling under an obligation.
If I were asked for wine recommendations for Aladdin food, in broad brush terms I would suggest a Riesling of almost any style, or a spicy medium-bodied red. Chateau Musar, red or white, would also be an excellent choice. The food is subtly spiced, and not at all hot, so wine matching is usually not too difficult if you avoid the more acidic dishes.
Here are a few more sources for more reviews on Aladdin: Restaurant-Guide, sugarvine and tripadvisor. Most of them seem to ring true. A couple of the comments on tripadvisor are interesting though. I too have experienced a horrendous and totally unacceptable delay getting into the restaurant, despite the fact we had booked. But it has only happened once to me – it was a Saturday and I do not usually go that day. Maybe it will happen less often now they have expanded the upstairs part of the restaurant?
Update 01/02/20: Not need to worry about queues now. Although the food is as good as ever, there are sadly a lot fewer customers, and only the old part of the restaurant is regularly used. I guess it has fallen out of fashion.
Can you do it? Let me come clean and say you are not going to get a straightforward answer here. But if you want to be confused at a more profound level you have come to the right place.
I have personal experience of using a badly corked wine to deglaze a pan, so I know that does not work. I was hoping the heat would evaporate the TCA, but the resulting sauce was disgustingly corky. I mentioned this on a wine forum, where it was pointed out that fats bind the TCA and no amount of subsequent heat would get rid of it. I later discovered that cream is sometimes used to clean up corked wine on a large scale. The cream attracts the TCA and is then removed by filtration.
It was suggested on the forum that if you are going to use corked wine for cooking it is important to drive off the TCA by boiling it before allowing it near animal fats. Since then that is what I have done, and with positive results. It has not yet really been a strong test of the theory because I have only tried it with mildly corked wines, but it seems others too have had success by boiling first.
There’s only one small problem with this. Contrary to what most people seem to think, TCA is not very volatile. In fact its boiling point is about 250°C at atmospheric pressure, and below 60°C it is actually solid. So on the face of it, boiling wine is going to concentrate the TCA because there will be less alcohol and water after boiling.
But it is more complex than that even. TCA is soluble in ethanol, but not very soluble in water. So as the wine is heated, the alcohol will boil off before the water, and the TCA previously dissolved in the alcohol will be thrown out of solution. And it seems that as the liquid cools below 60°C it will precipitate as a solid. That might explain why boiled corked wine does not smell of TCA. But then wouldn’t fats from cooking redissolve the TCA and make things taste nasty again?
There are another couple of possibilities that might explain why boiling works. One is steam distillation, which will allow a liquid to boil off below its normal boiling point, though I am not really sure I understand how much agitation is required to expose some of the minute quantities of TCA to the surface to allow this to happen. The other is that heat may cause TCA to undergo a chemical reaction that results in a less nasty reaction product.
Ultimately, if boiling corked wine works it works, but I personally don’t think I have enough evidence yet. It does not happen to me often, but next time I have a moderately or badly corked wine that I cannot return I shall try boiling it for use in cooking. If you do the same, let me know how you get on. Also if you have any theoretical contributions. Science will not advance itself.
Update 28/03/12: I have since seen that several people have reported successfully using corked wine for cooking in various ways, including deglazing pans to make a sauce. It occurs to me now that maybe the important factors are how badly corked the wine is to start with, and how strong the other flavours in the sauce are. Also, in my bad expeience I think I reduced the sauce a lot, thinking I was driving off the corkiness, but that maybe concentrated the TCA, as you might expect bearing in mind its boiling point.
And isn’t that what you might expect if you subscribe to a rather literal interpretation of the importance of terroir? Or could it just be that the whole idea is a load of bollocks? I am of course talking about the biodynamic theory that lunar cycles affect the taste of wine, fruit days being the most auspicious.
Here’s what I did to test the hypothesis. I analysed all 568 of my tasting note scores from last year. The scores range from 1 to 6, corresponding to the number of stars in my rating system. At the time of tasting I was unaware of the type of day. I used this 2009 biodynamic calendar for the analysis. I presume it is reasonably accurate. I did check a few days against another calendar, and they were in agreement. I have no idea at what time the type of day changes on any particular date, but as I could not find this information and very few people seem to care, I decided to ignore the issue. Most wines would have been tasted at some time in the evening. If you want to reanalyse my raw data feel free. In the meantime, here is my summary of scores awarded on each type of day .
So, if anything, I think wines taste best on root days, and worst on fruit days. But actually there are barely any significant differences at all. A one-way ANOVA test gives a p-value of 0.091 level. Or to put it another way, one would expect to get such a large spread in the means about one time in ten purely from random variation.
As far as I am concerned I got pretty much the results I expected, and I don’t feel any need to research this issue further. To be frank I think I have already given this nonsense a lot more time than it deserves. However, if you have any more evidence to bring to light I’d be interested in seeing it. But please – no more anecdotes about tasting wines when you were aware what sort of day it was. And no half-baked argument along the lines of “if Tesco believe in it, there must be something in it”. Hard data only.
Or perhaps you could explain from a theoretical point of view why this agricultural calendar has any relevance at all for wine tasting. Why should fruit days be any better than, say, Fridays – which is when I think wine tastes best.
When Posh Nosh was first broadcast I really enjoyed it, but I don’t think I managed to catch the full set of episodes. So I was delighted when I recently stumbled across them on YouTube. Great acting from Richard E Grant and Arabella Weir, as they gently satirise a certain type of foodie TV programme and provide insights into their characters’ private lives. Here’s the full series. Keep an eye out for the tasting notes.