Wine: is there anything else so universally enjoyed that still manages to alienate so many of the people who enjoy it? I can’t think of anything else that creates the same tension, this stark contrast between those revered people who we perceive as holding the knowledge, and those who feel like complete wine novices - no matter how long they’ve been enjoying wine? I really can’t think of an equivalent!
Wine is mysterious and complex. That’s part of the fun. I’m definitely not suggesting we should dumb it down. But I do think we should try to move away from this feeling that unless you’re somehow an ‘expert’, then you’re clueless. I believe it’s a strangely self-imposed - and self-fulfilling - mindset that we need to move away from.
Why? Because if more people stopped being scared or embarrassed to engage with it then I think excellent wine would be more mainstream, rather than just the preserve of those who specifically seek it out at specialist retailers. Of the 20 different wines on offer in the chiller of my local Sainsbury’s, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to choose from more than just Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio?
Pinot Grigios can be wonderful, but the ones that get stocked in your average local supermarket - frankly you may as well drink water. Bland and inoffensive, but in fact that’s exactly why it gets stocked. Why bother? As Prue Leith would say, it’s not worth the calories!
Sauvignon Blanc; supposedly a popular style, but is it really? Why must it represent what feels like 75% of wine in the chiller? I would hazard a guess that a lot of people who are off white wine, are just off Sauvignon Blanc, it’s so ubiquitous. It’s such a strong flavour and style (herbaceous, high acidity), it bonkers that it’s so over-represented. It would be like if supermarkets only stocked smoked haddock in the fish aisle!
So, I think it’s time for us all to raise our collective wine game. In a £5-6 bottle of wine, you’re only getting pennies worth of actual wine, after you’ve paid for marketing, bottling, labelling, distribution, shipping, taxes. So why waste even the slightest of hangovers and not to mention the calories?
And as a savvy friend once pointed out to me - if you’d buy a bottle of wine in a restaurant for £20/30 where you’re inevitably paying an extortionate mark-up, why wouldn’t you spend that in a wine shop when you’ll actually get to drink the added-value? Mark-ups in restaurants can be as high as 400%. That means your £30 bottle of wine could be worth only £5 if you were buying the same thing off-trade. Yet somehow spending that amount in a wine shop seems an awful lot. Clearly this makes no sense.
So, what do you think? Time to start a wine revolution?!