A story saying us wine drinkers couldn’t tell expensive wine from plonk hit the papers yesterday.
I hope I don’t sound like some highfalutin wine snob but I really, really, really can’t buy into this.
Hopefully I proved as much when I went into the BBC World Service studios last night to record a piece for The World Today. I sat next to a self-confessed “wine heathen”, AKA David Lewis who works on the BBC news desk.
We tasted three wines on air with the presenter and were all asked to put them in order of price and then guess the price in dollars. David and I were at odds with each wine, so the pressure was seriously on, but thankfully my reputation came out in tact as the wines were revealed. Phew.
I didn’t want to go on the show and rant my head off, but there were a few points I made, and even more that I wanted to make, but we ran out of time. These points included:
- For the survey – the ‘expensive’ samples used were in some cases thought to be from wines that are artificially-high in price (so they can be discounted quite readily). So no wonder the difference was difficult to make.
- Expensive wines are, very often built for their complexity and subtlety, and so won’t necessarily jump out of the glass straight away like a cheaper wine on the supermarket shelf that’s been made/bought for immediate consumption.
Revisit the wines an hour after they’ve been in the glass, and I suspect the more expensive wine will have opened out and show its supremacy. I imagine this didn’t happen in the survey which produced the questionable conclusions.
Frustratingly, stories like this only fuel scepticism that expensive wine is a rip-off.
I’m a massive advocate of the approach that it doesn’t matter what you pay for a wine as long as you enjoy it, but I also find it massively ignorant and narrow-minded to say all expensive wine isn’t worth the money. Whether it’s the use of expensive barrels or the rarity of the raw material (grapes), there’s a huge number of factors that can ramp up the cost of a wine, and in many cases, it is worth the extra cost. Rant over.
My kiddie-in-a-sweet-shop moment usually happens when I’m in a wine shop with an interesting and exciting range. Today it happened in a different type of shop – glassware.
I visited Around Wine today, a shop with a treasure trove of wine accessories, and only 3 weeks in its new Marylebone location in London, on Chiltern Street (www.aroundwine.co.uk).
It has a spoiling choice of wine glasses and decanters from some of the most popular and revered manufacturers including Riedel and Schott Zweisel.
However, it was another Austrian range that very quickly caught my eye, Zalto by Denk’art and the incredibly light weight of the Universal glass in this range has to be held to be believed.
As I was in wine-geek heaven air-swirling the glass as though I was tasting, wine glass supremo Daniel Primack flicked the corner of one of the display glasses to demonstrate its durability. And it worked. After falling over, there wasn’t a mark or a scratch to be seen, which to me, seems like nothing short of pure magic.
They were too good to resist, and now there’s a Gruner in my fridge patiently waiting to road-test my new purchase. Happy weekend!