‘Summer’s lease hath all too short a date’ and its time to get behind the mule and back to the day job. But before I start posting missives about the stuff I’ve just found, a frequently asked question keeps haunting me.
I’d love to find out more about wine, but don’t know where to start’.
Heard it before? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself.
Now, in my naivety, I presume that all people who follow us, on social media or via our website, already know the answer to this question, but what if they don’t?
Well, as with most questions, there’s more than one answer, and it often depends on who you ask?
Let’s give it some context and begin at the bottom.
Here in the UK, post Brexit, the average price of a bottle of wine has increased to a staggering £5.58 per bottle! That’s as much as two cappuccinos, or one pint of craft or saison beer - made by a flannel shirted hipster - that smells like the inside of an old tent. That’s the beer not the hipster! So on the plus side, considering the amount of work that goes into wine production, it’s still a bloody good deal.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t actually seen a bottle of wine for £5.58. The shelves in the supermarket, where they are purported to live, are usually emptied – either by astute geriatrics and/or insomniacs – or, more than likely they were never there in the first place! Because logic would dictate that they would be consigned to the bottom shelves, where no one looks, and the producer would have to pay for a better shelf space. And we all know that if you play around with the wine price using the ‘was, now’ model – so that no-one knows its real cost - you sell twice as much product.
Let’s presume that you already drink and enjoy wine, and are part of its persuasive narrative system. If so, then you are familiar with the tools used to sell it: the winemaker as hero – How do you tell a winemaker at a party? Don’t worry they’ll tell you!’ - the vagaries of nature and climate change, the magical, mystical, combination of soil, toil and heroic Jean de Florettian struggle. Or perhaps you’re a victim of brand land where your favourite tipple is manufactured on an industrial scale, in a factory rather than a field – never changing and stamped with a critter label. Does that mean that the narrative is the same?
Well yes, in a way, because these stories are told in order to sell said wines, or sad wines, and for the most part they are the only tools the market has. But such is the power, persuasiveness, and filthy lucre, behind that market, that we can’t always be certain we are getting what we deserve.
In order to appeal, the narrative has to be punchy, simple, have some connection with the environment - rather than industrial chemistry - and have a story that connects you to the person who made it, and its better if that person has a name. That’s the romance.
But what happens if you only sell on price?
Well, at the top end that’s easy. You produce a product as a luxury item - so called ‘Icon Wines’. These are the wines everyone wants and they are purported to be as rare as hen’s teeth. But one glance at the overall production figures of Bordeaux and Champagne and you begin to get a different story. If your friends have it, you have to have it, so this market takes care of itself.
In many ways the wine trade is deeply conservative, hiding behind its traditions to entrench opinion and provide safe harbour for the unadventurous, where if you only consume the tried and trusted brands you will be, ‘in safe hands - strong and stable’. But what if you want to go beyond the lakes of Prosecco and Pinot Grigio and sail into uncharted waters? Where do you go and what kind of individual do you have to be? Prepared to set sail for the edges of the wine world, even though the masses say it is flat!
If you live in the wilderness, there’s a limit to things, and I like to find that limit, and so do the folks who make these wines. Sure some of them lack polish, but so do we. I look for the fringes in an environment where you can be drowned or eaten. Not safety but risk, forever kicking against the proverbial pricks who consider it to be just another FMCG, to find it’s heart and soul.
If you really want to find out more about wine, you have to venture beyond the safety of the shire, and strike out for the gates of Mordor.
You are Odysseus, on a quest to overthrow the ‘Hollow Men’ and their ‘Stepford Wines’, replacing the old order with disorder, in the search for something new and exciting. After all, if you really admit it, deep down you’re bored stiff!
So off we go, and if you be afeared, then find a friend to accompany you, because if you crew your own Argo you get more bang for your buck.
But remember, if you do set out alone, without your bottles of Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc, misunderstood, ridiculed and isolated, listen to the words of Master Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no Try”
May the Force be with You.