How to humiliate and/or kill the world’s finest wines

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Fine Wine

Fine WineWorking in the trade, I once dropped a very fine bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape on my toe. I learned three very important lessons straight away.

1. Good bottles of wine tend to be very heavy

2. They don’t bounce

and 3. Red wine makes a terrible mess.

Oh, maybe 4 lessons…

4. when you are trying to disguise the fact that you have broken something very expensive, sticking it in the recycling bin, with its almost intact label ‘face up’ is not the way to go.

No. Wait.  Definitely 5.

5. A good punishment for the crime committed above is to nearly slice one’s hand off with the aforementioned broken bottle while trying to relocate it.

But few realise you don’t have to have the bottle slip out of your fingers in order to kill it. So for today’s blog, 12× brings you our top ten ways to humiliate and/or kill the world’s finest wines….

1. Accompany it with something stupid.

I have recent experience of witnessing this atrocity. Ignoring the sommelier and eating delicate scallops with Shiraz because “white wine is for women”. You know who you are, loud man at the next table in a Birmingham gastropub a fortnight ago… What’s the point in having a great red with food you’ll barely be able to taste under it?  This particular incident was probably more humiliating for the scallops, so if your motivation is to enrage Jancis Robinson, I suggest pairing a delicate new world Riesling with a nice juicy steak.

2. Fail to accompany it with anything.

Sure, there are plenty of wines that are lovely to sip without needing to prepare a banquet, but frankly some wines just need food.  I used to sell whisky as well as wine and one of my pet hates was whisky drinkers that refused to add a drop of water to a cask strength malt. Cask strength whiskies LOVE a drop of water, it really releases their intense flavours.  Whisky drinkers, it does not make you less of a man if you add a drop of water, it’s a lot more manly than spending £60 on something that will taste closed and difficult that could have been oh-so much nicer.  Rant over.  Anyway, just like strong whiskies need water, big wines need food.  They really do.  I personally couldn’t enjoy a big Zinfandel without some hearty food – a few sips are alright but the alcohol catches up with you in the end and it’s not enjoyable.

3. Drinking it far too young.

This has been a troublesome phenomenon in China –newly wealthy young people are drinking top Bordeaux while it is still in its infancy – these wines are built to last and drinking them so young at such a cost just seems counter intuitive to me – hopefully this is a trend that won’t continue forever.

4. Expecting oldness to equal greatness.

On the other hand, older does not necessarily mean better, and this is where a little bit of wine knowledge (or a good wine merchant or sommelier) will serve you well to avoid wines that are long past their prime.

5. Having your wine rack next to a radiator.

Even if you are not planning to age your wine for a decade, just be sensible.  There must be a cooler spot in your house somewhere.

6. Snorting it off a table.

Probably the less said about this, the better, but many years ago I enjoyed a very fine 1982 Dom Perignon Rose with some friends – however one of said friends were keen to one day be able to, when asked the question ‘Have you tried the DP rose 82 at all?’, reply with ‘Taste it?  I’ve snorted it!’ thereby humiliating the finest of champagnes.  YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

7. “Warming the wine”

I don’t think this happens as much as it used to but I remember going to friends’ houses when I was younger (and I think my parents were culprits as well) to find a bottle of red wine open and sitting on the hearth next to a roaring fire.  This is a bad one.  Warm red wine does not taste good.

8. Adding unspeakable things to it

We used to host wine tastings on a Saturday afternoon in an attempt to lure customers into the shop I was working in, and over the Christmas period we really pushed the envelope and opened some cracking wines.  I remember offering a glass of Bordeaux to a young couple who were perusing the shelves and to my horror, when I filled up the lady’s glass she enquired whether I could give her ‘just a spot of lemonade’!  Fortunately we didn’t sell soft drinks and with a bit of a grumble the lady passed her glass back to me.  Of course she wasn’t aware of the price of the wine and could see no reason why she shouldn’t have lemonade in it, but the some £25 Claret definitely deserved for her to at least take a sip before humiliating it so viciously.

9. Inviting your dog to a wine tasting

Around the same time as the incident that will now be referred to as lemonade-gate, a fellow arrived for my tasting armed with a German Shepherd (the popular dog breed, not the ruthlessly efficient sheep herder).  He explained that it was raining heavily and he didn’t want his pup to get wet.  Unfortunately said pup was already pretty saturated and as the aroma of wet dog wafted through the shop and infiltrated all our glasses, I couldn’t help thinking this must be why you hardly ever see any German Shepherds at an industry tasting.  And while we’re on the subject, lots of strong smells can kill a good wine.  Perfume or aftershave is a no-no.  And lipstick too – ladies if you’ve been wondering why Michael Broadbent chased you out of the room with a breadstick at the last tasting you ventured into, next time leave the lipstick at home.

10. Not knowing that the wine is corked and not just bad

This is an important one – I realise that you can’t kill a wine that is already effectively dead, but a little part of it still dies because by not recognising it is corked, and getting a replacement bottle, the wine will suffer because you will tell people it is rubbish and advise them not to buy it.  And if you want to know what corked wine tastes like, well it’s sort of like a wet German Shepherd in a glass.

I hope this blog has been useful.  I realise our readership is far too sensible to ever humiliate fine wine in this way, but if any of you were wavering or unclear about whether or not to bring a German Shepherd to a wine tasting, hopefully we’ve cleared things up for you…


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