Wine is for everybody

news: Wine is for everybody

THE LONDON Wine and Spirit Trade Fair 2005 was held at ExCel in May.

I’ve attended 23 of their 25 fairs, but this year it was more a question of who’s who, rather than what’s what. Writers named over 40 wine makers in their articles, with one naming nearly 20 wine makers and only 13 wines. That’s amazing, considering there were over 14,000 wines to be tasted. Another reporter said “Garlanded producers should be taken seriously”. Shouldn’t all producers be taken seriously?

Wine is for everybody. I’ve been teaching that for years, especially since Masters of Wine (MW) were created and who still seem to delight in talking down to people rather than at them. Snobs are much worse, but neither they nor MWs keep vineyards in business. The amateur wine drinker does that.

I once read a definition of snobs by Raymond Postgate. “A wine snob is a person who uses a knowledge of wine, often imperfect, to impress others with a sense of his superiority. What he wants is to be envied. But in fact he drives the inexperienced man, who would like to drink wine, back to thin beer and immature whisky. Fifty per cent of what the snob says is unnecessary and nearly 50 per cent untrue.”

Recommending Plexus at 30 euros a bottle, as Mary Dowey (Irish Times) did, won’t increase wine sales significantly. Nor will the Argentinean Clos de los Siete 2003 at 17 euros a bottle, even if it was the most impressive wine she tasted there. Why do writers think that because they like a wine, everybody else will? This lady is in danger of becoming a snob and if she continues recommending wines at those prices, she could lose a lot of friends. She says Plexus is worth 30 euros. It’s only worth it if you like it, but it’s a lot of money to pay on the recommendation of someone who whizzed around ExCel. Wine is personal, Mary. Never tell people what they’ll like or won’t like. If you get it wrong, they won’t thank you for it, particularly if they’ve paid 30 euros for a bottle.

There’s a strong similarity between Plexus and St. Hallet Gamekeeper’s Reserve. Both are from Barossa Valley. The Shiraz grapes for both wines are from old vines. Grenache and Mourvédre grapes are used in both blends. Admittedly, St. Hallet use some Touriga (Portugal), but that might be a bonus.

Barossa Valley is very big and, no doubt, microclimatic conditions vary, which will affect the style of wine. Having said that, if I was to try one and pay for it out of my own pocket, I’d go for St. Hallet because where the wines differ greatly is in price. St. Hallet is about seven euros.

When Mary mentioned the vin de pays and the V de P d’Oc, she wrote: “Not so long ago, the term vin de pays suggested something cheap, rustic and possibly rotten.” That is not true. These wines have been with us since the 1940s and if they were as bad as she says, they would have been classified below vin de table and vin ordinaire. Instead of being nasty about them, she should have explained the difference between the terms. Not everyone reading the article would know, but they might be willing to learn.

What else was at the fair? An aluminium bottle with the words “Bright Pink” in red on it. It’s a new Portuguese rosé costing 10 euros. Portuguese rosé wines are vino de mesa, so you are paying for the ‘gimmicky’ packaging – apologies to Portugal and to Peter Bright.

“The Dream Taste Kit” contains a decanter and a bunch of plastic grapes. If you get a corked wine, you decant it, drop the grapes into the decanter and “hey presto” the tainted wine is purified. The grapes cost five euros a bunch, can only be used once, and the process can take up to 60 minutes. What do they do with your meal in the meantime? Stick it in the micro! If I get a corked wine, it goes back to the waiter or the shop, whichever is appropriate. Why pay five euros to cleanse it?

Tyson Stelzer has written a book called Taming the Screw. The book shows the number of bottles with metal caps dotted around and points away from cork. Well, that’s what New Zealanders hope for. I’ve already written about their video, showing how to open a screw cap bottle. Their history shows that, less than 30 years ago, they weren’t even mentioned in world production and were below Australia, which had only one per cent of the market.

NZ are now only about 19th, so why are they telling the world which stoppers are best? They are good at rugby though… Screw caps? I don’t think Portugal or Spain will lose any sleep over cork sales falling.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is NZ’s most famous white. Production is limited and when I was at the Cafe Royal in London, our annual quota was 30 cases and all had corks. No screw caps!

A final thought

Saying you could drink red wine when eating fish wasn’t very popular with some. However, while training to be a Cellar Master, there were many occasions in St. Emilion, when our hosts served red wine with fish at the chateau.