by Anna Scott
We live a dual existence, us wine lovers. In the world of all things vinous, I usually spend my time worrying that I don’t know enough, that my wine knowledge is but a fraction of my contemporaries and that I really do need to devote more time drinking and talking about the stuff. But on the other hand, we have our other lives, when we have to mix with the normal people, when conversations don’t revolve around the merits of one vintage over another or the intricacies of malolactic fermentation. If I was to bring up either of these topics in everyday conversation then I would probably get a few odd looks, some hastily made up excuses and swift exits.
We’ve all been there, sitting around the table with those who enjoy their wine but don’t really know too much about it. When the question of what to order comes up, everyone turns in your direction. Yet, as soon as you show even the slightest hint that you know what you’re talking about, you’re greeted with mutterings of ‘Ooh, get her!’ and then you wonder why you bothered in the first place. In good old Blightly, where hiding your light under a bushel is a national state of mind, it’s not always the done thing to show of your specialist knowledge, even when you’re asked. And somehow when it comes to wine, with its slightly posh connotations, this is magnified to an even greater extent.
So what do we do to avoid being labelled a bit of a wine snob? Well, I’ve done many things. I’ve drunk half a bottle of lollipop flavoured pink stuff so as not to offend my new neighbour. I’ve wholeheartedly congratulated my mum on her ‘2 litre bottles of vin de table for £5’ bargain. I’ve made it a habit to maintain my stock of paracetamol if I know I’m going to be drinking any of the above. The alternative means having to tread a very fine between sounding like a patronising twonk or an ungrateful brat. Don’t think I’m bashing all cheap wine here – far from it. There’s nothing more satisfying than discovering a fantastic wine that is exceptionally good value for money and that price tag could be anything from £6.99 to £69.99 (although I’d need a mighty fine reason to justify spending that much on a bottle these days) (I’m referring of course, to the latter rather than the former. Things aren’t THAT bad).
Like I said, we live a dual existence – our secret lives where there is no shame in listing all the German wine classifications off by heart or knowing the difference between Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano (even if this does feel like Italians being ridiculously complicated for the sake of being ridiculously complicated) and are other existence, where we feel like we have to play down such facts (although I can’t imagine an occasion where the whole Montepulciano confusion might come up in everyday conversation). I’ve tried to think of a solution to this dilemma but I’m afraid I’m come up with a big fat nothing. However, there is hope, oh yes. Perhaps one day the world of wine will become slightly more demystified to everyone who enjoys buying it. And by this, I don’t mean supermarkets stocking just two types of Sauvignon Blanc and thinking this is absolutely ok – I’m talking about a world where retailers are a bit more honest about their pricing and discount policies so customers get a genuine bargain for a change, where good value wines get the attention they deserve and consequently, where those customers are exposed to new aromas and flavours from a large variety of talented winemakers.
Ah, we can but dream…