The Mercury Prize for Wine
If you’re young, hip and have your finger on the pulse (like all of us at 12×75, of course) you’ll know that the Mercury prize nominations for best album were announced a couple of weeks ago. For those of you not in the know, the Mercury Prize is supposed to be a sort of edgy and cool version of The Brits wherein a panel of judges nominate some very obvious artists that have made bestselling albums, and also show how edgy and cool they are by giving a nod to the less mainstream genres such as folk and jazz. There is no second place, the nominees either win or they don’t. A glance through this year’s nominees gives you a clue as to just how edgy and cool the Mercury Prize is. David Bowie’s first album in over a decade leads the pack, an album so cool that it has topped the charts with barely any publicity from Bowie himself. Arctic Monkeys, again. Laura Marling received her third nomination for her third album at the tender age of 23. Then there’s Foals, Rudimental, the brilliant Jake Bugg, and the lineup is completed by a few artists that are so edgy and cool even I haven’t heard of them. So achingly cool is the Mercury shortlist that I wondered whether we ought to have an equivalent prize for wine. We’ve often questioned the value of wine awards (read Geordie Clark’s article here) and found them to be less than reliable as an indicator of a quality wine. Sort of like the Brit awards on a bad year – I’m sorry but Adele’s Skyfall was her dreariest song to date. So why not have a ‘winner takes all’ style prize for the best of the best, with a shortlist of wines chosen by an elite committee, representing every style from popular, classical, edgy and downright weird? Just imagine it… an awed hush as nominations are announced for the inaugural Mercury Prize for wine. A couple of reliable Bordeaux, a Rioja. A quirky Italian. A couple of sleek offerings from the New World. Then, wow! A white Californian… unexpected. What, they make wine in Canada? What the hell is icewine? Lebanon, Really? Trockenbeeren-what now? Wait, is Sherry cool again? It must be, if it’s made the cut… All across the world, winemakers itching for recognition are cursing the panel of judges, a mysterious crew of edgy MWs. The selected few play down the honour. As the wine industry’s equivalent of Radiohead, showing any emotion at being nominated for an award would be like admitting they secretly listen to One Direction while tending to their vines. Back in the world of music, unfortunately, while it is still very cool to receive a Mercury nomination, actually winning the prize is considered to be a bit of a curse. Anyone remember Ms Dynamite? Speech Debelle? Antony and the Johnsons? The names ring a bell but other than ‘Miss Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’, can you name any of their songs? Me neither. Whereas artists that were nominated but didn’t win include Adele, Coldplay and Radiohead. It would be hard to convince wine producers that this new, alternative award was anything better than a mixed blessing. And anyway, even if you won, it’s probably really uncool to turn up for the award ceremony. On second thoughts, I don’t think Mercury Prize for wine would be a very good idea. Having listened to extracts from some of the albums that are up for the Music prize this year, I don’t think I can rely on a panel of judges to advise me on what is cool and edgy. It occurred to me that I might not be as cool and edgy as I initially thought when I started this piece, but even if I’m not, there are too many great wines that would never even make the cut, no matter how edgy and cool they may seem. And in the wake of more prolific award ceremonies that have already happened this year, short of Miley Cyrus turning up I think the Mercury prize for wine would probably just slip by unnoticed.