I have written a lot on wine professionally – columns, columns and columns on it.
So that when tasting some 2000 wines a year, writing on the subject was easy – well, it could have been easy if done in the way that many wine writers can, and do, by just describing wine (mainly ones offered for free or at merchants’ wine-tastings). For readers this is pretty boring – especially when you actually want to drink the stuff and not read about it. And when I read these columns and want to go out and buy some bottle or other, the purveyors have either run out of stock or not even known about what was recommended.
So to make wine writing interesting it had to be incorporated into a story of some sort. That was, for me, the pleasure of telling about wine in a fun kind of way.
Now I am just an ordinary punter, buying wines from many sources and often, I fear to say, being disappointed – even with the higher priced wines when expectations have matched the cost.
The new discount stores of German origin do us proud. Their cheapest wines are quite drinkable, but their more expensive ones tend to disappoint.
Red wines (as opposed to white) from any source are diverse and varying in character. Chilian reds have quality as a rule, as do those from
reds have, in my opinion, fallen off. They were once robust and full of punch.
But they now tend to ape European wines. Or, perhaps, with the popularity of
roving Australian wine-making experts, European wines are aping the new
Australian wines. Anyhow, like South African wines, there are plenty of good
ones to be found if you look around. And, after it all, it’s just a matter of
We now rather like the reds from Ribera del Douero, and from farther down the river where it passes through
on its way to the Atlantic, the reds from Douro.
We seldom go wrong with them. Lower Rhônes, too, are favourites, as are those
from Puglia in Italy.
Ordinary claret from
is mostly a lot of rubbish – especially to one who learned about the wines from
that region when the 1960s were château wines, splendid, and plonk – plonk
prices that is. Then I didn’t necessarily know the châteaux, but certainly the
years. The best that I ever tasted though were the 1959s. Lyon’s
Wine Cellars, at The Hop Exchange, where they bottled from cask and re-cycled
all bottles from clients, sold Château Cantenac Brown at the then heady price
of 7/6 a bottle that did me proud. Their re-cycling methods were to immerse and
rotate the bottles in a huge tank of boiling water that soaked off the labels
and cleaned the bottles. I know that bottles should be, and are, sterilised,
but the alcohol in wine does that anyway. It was here that I saw the labels
from cheap Hock being soaked off to have royal be-crowned labels substituted.
Sugar is often added to wine to increase the alcoholic content (often against the rules) – especially in years of poor weather. But now 13%, 14% and even 14.5% wine is becoming commonplace, often much to the detriment of the wine. When I looked after a villa in the south of
in the early 1950s, I would take containers to the local purveyor of bulk wine
in Grasse to
have them filled. There, red wine was offered at 10%, 11% and 12%. I generally
bought 10% as the weather was hot and the wine, besides being a pleasure to
swig was thirst quenching as well.
Having witnessed quite a lot of skulduggery in the wine world, we might as well join in. I often blend wine (which many wine-makers do anyway) and am not averse to adding some red wine (not much) to white wine to make rosé. Champagne-makers do so, and it was common practise with cheap rosé in the past (and, perhaps present). The extraordinary thing is that this seems to improve the white no end. And the result is happy summer drinking outside – en carafe!
Whatever happened to Bulgarian wines? They were a wonderful introduction to wine in my youth but, probably due to politics, hardly feature nowadays, The conditions in that country for making fine wine are wonderful.
White wines, with the prevalent use of cold fermentation, seem to me to be much of a muchness.
whites give me a faint reminder of when in far off days I made excellent
sparkling wine from elder flowers. But New Zealand whites, like English,
can be a bit too expensive.
I do like screw tops, but miss corks – the latter telling as much, if not more, about the wine inside the bottle than what happens to be printed on the label.
Wine can be taken far too seriously and tends to engender snobbery. It is a God-given way of civilised enjoyment (abused at times). And as for rules, if there are some they are there to be broken.
As we are changing from Windows to Apple computers, there may be a delay with my blogs until we have sorted it all out. Wish us good luck. I expect we will need it.