A room in which I used to lecture had a sign on the wall which read “Life’s too short to drink bad wine”. I agree! Add to that a campaign which was run in France a few years ago which translated as ‘drink less, drink better’ and you have my wine philosophy summed up.
But how do you define ‘bad’ wine? I used to pose that question to my classes on occasions. Interestingly, the replies rarely considered the actual quality of the wine; they were usually along the lines of ‘it depends on the sort of wine you like’. But is that true?
With improvements in vine growing and winemaking knowledge in recent decades, there are almost no badly-made wines on the shelves today (which were once all too common). You may find the odd faulty bottle – one where the wine is corked or oxidised, for example – but they are, thankfully, quite rare.
But, having said that about badly-made wines, there are certainly many shades of ‘good’. Sadly, some of the most famous commercial brands produce wines that are pretty basic and unexciting with very little to interest the genuine wine lover – but even these are technically correctly made. And many are big sellers, which brings us back to the point about ‘it depends on the wine you like’.
And, of course, as I have said many times before, people have their own ideas about what is good and bad. How often have I heard ‘I hate all Chardonnay’?
Those who share that view would have left Trinity Hill’s example from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand (£18.50) on the shelf at Grape and Grind. Fortunately, I didn’t and we enjoyed a delicious, fresh, creamy wine with lovely lemon and peach hints and a delightful long, dry finish. Although the wine was actually fermented in oak barrels, there was none of the overt oak flavouring that I think many Chardonnay haters associate wrongly with the grape variety. Here, the barrel added just a little extra hard-to-identify complexity that made the wine more interesting and very drinkable.
So, back to that sign on the wall. But don’t just settle for avoiding the bad. Look around and find the best you can. Life’s too short to do anything else.