Well, at the time of my writing this, I’m going to touch on the opportunities the Christmas period brings for you to extend your wine knowledge. Assuming you haven’t gone away yet, distracted by the more engaging task of putting the bins out or cleaning the cat tray, I’ll begin.
As somebody with little knowledge but an insatiable sense of curiosity, Christmas is a great time to try new things. That is the essence of learning about the topic. So ask for some extra cash and splash out on something new – change the routine. I don’t mean jump to spending £1,432.46p on something neither you nor I would even dare contemplate, but just break the wine buying habits a bit, and be brave. Add a pound or two to your usual and see what that brings.
It is really true that “quality” in wine does really mean differences in taste, intensity, what they call “length” (meaning how long it tastes for after you have swallowed it), and the whole “boldness” of the flavours and experience. To try to appreciate this (which I am far from being able to do) takes a lot of practice and knowledge, and somebody there too preferably, giving you some guidance.
Trying to describe a taste is hard.
It’s rather like looking at a picture or listening to music – we see but don’t really look, we hear but don’t listen. Same with taste. That’s why proper tasters look at the wine, smell it, then taste it. The habit of spitting it out is about not getting drunk, and remaining upright and able to scribble some notes. Many real professional tasting days can last for 10 hours or more and involve trying dozens of wines. What a pro is doing is seeing if a particular wine is worth a particular price – and it gets more complicated, as they are also trying to assess what it will be like in maybe 10 years’ time.
So for us mortals, try buying something new and before you glug it down, just take a minute to really see what it tastes like. Forget the Brexit negotiations as they speed efficiently along in harmony, concentrate on this. It’s true that a pound more spent on wine goes on the wine, not the tax, transport costs, etc. So you do get much better value if you can run to it. And it is true that under £7, £10, £15, £20 are very specific price points we respond to. So if you can run to £9, or £12, there’s a big jump in quality. It amuses me that we’ll fuss about another £2 on wine, then spend at least four times that in the pub, or on sweets in the cinema.
With Christmas as a good excuse, add a pound or two if you can and maybe go to your local independent store for some friendly advice. NEVER worry about asking questions, wine people love to be asked about their recommendations. I know a distant relative who would kindly always buy me a bottle as a present - knowing how much I would enjoy anything new. She would set her budget, tell the man she knew nothing and asked him for “something interesting for somebody who likes new things”. Bingo (yes, she liked that too).
Have a brave wine-experimenting Merry Christmas.