Guilty pleasures and well-kept secrets
I found this blog recently that I’ve tuned into, and was delighted to learn that I am not the only person who likes talking about wines using the analogy of a crap TV programme. I came away from this short, simple piece called ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid wines’ thinking, I wish I’d thought of the idea myself.
If you are not familiar with Snog, Marry, Avoid, then quite frankly, you haven’t lived. It is one of the BBC’s best kept secrets, stowed away on BBC3, an unlikely, tacky makeover show that somehow doesn’t really belong on any time slot on any channel – ironically it is probably a bit too high-brow for Channel 5, although that is probably where you would expect to find it. What happens is they wheel out a selection of women who A.Have forgotten to put any clothes on, or B. Think that an Olympic bronze medal is a skin tone to aspire to, or C. Get mistaken for a man in drag on a regular basis, or D. All of the above. They have a chat to a member of Atomic Kitten and then they step into a box, where they receive a vicious dressing down from a computer, remove their make-up, blub and come out in a cardigan and sensible shoes looking like a frustrated aunt at a wedding. Then at the end they parade them in front of a bunch of people who previously said that they wanted to avoid them, and they evaluate whether they would now like to snog or marry them. I know what you’re thinking – ‘Why did I not know about this?’ Well it is one of my guilty pleasures (I also love documentaries about prison and compulsive hoarders).
Anyway, I started thinking about other well-kept secrets and indeed guilty pleasures – I have a friend who loves ‘Diagnosis: Murder’ more than any person should ever love anything, and I have to admit to being really excited that ‘Total Wipeout’ is returning to our screens in a matter of days. Our guilty pleasures are the things that we know would probably define us as supremely uncool if only anyone else knew about them, and to stumble across someone else who has the same guilty pleasure is to discover you have a soul mate, of sorts. If I am honest, I would have to say that my guilty wine pleasure is probably Beaujolais – even a cheap one, just gently chilled down a few degrees. Burgundy’s less affluent cousin doesn’t have the coolest reputation, but it has come on in leaps and bounds ever since people realised that it doesn’t require the word ‘Nouveau’ attached to it.
In terms of well-kept secrets in the wine trade, there are too many to begin listing, but in my experience it is usually wines that the natives want to keep for themselves. For years, the Germans managed to pummel their international credibility by exporting an abundance of really bad wines to the UK – if you think for a moment that Liebfraumilch is something that that Germans would actually drink for pleasure, you can think again.
Sometimes I think you need to visit the region in order to uncover the best-kept secrets, whether it is a sticky fortified dessert wine from Italy that is sold at the winery where it is made and is rarely seen further afield, or a rare sparkling Icewine that is seldom seen out of its homeland. I once ordered the house red in an Italian restaurant on Lake Garda and was certainly not expecting what arrived on the table, which was a bottle of Marzemino with a searing acidity and a light sparkle – it made absolutely no sense but it complimented the food perfectly and I ended up going back the following night for another bottle!
Enjoying wine is about context as much as it is about learning to appreciate the nuances that make a good wine good and a great wine truly exceptional. I’m certain that my sparkling Marzemino would taste no better out of the context of a moonlit lake and a risotto made from fish that were caught locally that very day, any more than Jodie Marsh was at home in a cardigan on ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’. But I have fond memories of it. It is Trentino’s best-kept secret, and my guilty pleasure. What’s yours?