Musings on wine.

Given the name of this blog I expect at least someone has clicked on the link thinking that a fair portion of the content within would be devoted to wine. Well we’ve had almost a whopping 12 months of this blog and I don’t believe the word has even been mentioned, so I’m going to buck the trend just this once. [It has! Steven wrote an article about home brewing a few months ago which mentioned wine, although it wasn’t really about wine as such. Makes a good read regardless] This isn’t a random whim, I recently attended a wine tasting course in Belfast for a few weeks and found that, not only did I enjoy the wine, I enjoyed telling people I was going, that I was drinking wines older than I was, wines that had to be imported from the continent as they weren’t sold over here etc. Why? Because I’m pretentious; yes that’s right folks, little ol’ me has a propensity for that deplorable state of arrogance and conceitedness. I can’t help it: maybe it’s an insecurity, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve always had aspirations to experience new and unusual things, for example, I took jive lessons with a friend of mine when I was seventeen, I’ve been to see The Hilliard Ensemble live and so on. However, it would be incorrect to surmise that I did these things solely to climb up a few rungs on the ladder of pretentiousness; I have genuinely enjoyed them all and my enjoyment was my primary motivation for doing them. But I would be lying if I said part of the appeal in doing these things had nothing to do with the fact that I could tell other people about them. And ultimately, I think, the overall production and consumption of wine is essentially pretentious. Just look at the business! There are top notch producers like Chateau Margaux and Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux that never seem to charge less than £500 for a bottle, even if the vintage was less than satisfactory. Heck, there are producers that scrap the entire vintage for the year if they feel it wasn’t up to standard – they simply don’t release one! And of course the whole wine scoring, tasting, comparing, doubling the price of a wine based on one critic’s rave review etc. can be quite ridiculous. There’s nothing that cries out “rich white man” more than a wine tasting; this has been satirized in Frasier, among other places. Beer is the working man’s drink: wine is for the intellectuals [Unless you’re in southern Europe, where wine is the drink of the people and beer was the drink of kings – fact fans. Ed.]. Thus it appeals to my ostentatious nature. I don’t like wine any more than I like beer. I don’t drink either very often, but I wouldn’t think twice about paying £50 for a bottle of wine if I was guaranteed it’d be a very good one, but £50 for a few bottles (or the equivalent of a bottle of wine, 750ml or so) of extremely good beer? I’d walk away laughing with my money in my pocket. But I like the idea of wine: I like the idea of knowing my favourite grape variety, knowing which years had particularly good vintages, how to spot a good deal, gathering a collection of wines and storing them in a cellar for about 20 years. Thus I think it’s more of an intellectual exercise than one of pure enjoyment, and for that extra benefit, I’m happy to pay the extra money. Call me pretentious if you want: I deserve it.

(One final note: I have just bought a stunning wine that I tried at the tasting a few weeks ago. In a conscious attempt to suppress my pretentious leanings, I’m not going to say what it is or what I paid for it. What I will say is that it’s a white wine from Southern France, and a most unusual one at that. Oddly honeyed on the nose with a smooth ripeness, the flavor profile opens up in the palate to give a real zesty, full bite with a brace of crisp acidity and a long, long finish. If there was nobody else around for me to tell about this wine, I’d still buy it – drinking it is just such a mesmerizing experience.)

Words – Adam.

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