Sunday, 10 January 2010
Wine Rules. It does. In the UK, wine sales contribute over £3.5billion to the UK economy. Some 70% of adults in the UK drink wine. The average Briton (not that any of us are average in any way, except in modesty) drinks 32 bottles of wine a year.
Yet faced with a shelf of wine at the local off-licence, newsagent or supermarket, most of us are asked to make our choice of vinous tipple on the basis of very limited information provided by the retailer.
My own local corner shop – like many a former Post Office forced to expand its offer to include alcohol and the consequent long hours, thievery and age-related squabbles – offers nothing in the way of help except fluorescent orange, pink and acid-yellow star-shaped price tags highlighting discounts ranging from as little as 50p to as much as a whole English £1.
Equally the neighbouring high street off-licence, which I won’t embarrass by naming, oh, go on then, Threshers, used to offer only ‘two-for-one’, ‘three-for-two’ or ‘special offer’ as the only information any customer needed to make their choice. That’s right – the only information Threshers itself provided about its wine was its price discounting. No wonder they went bust.
NB. You will be better-placed to make an informed choice about your next wine purchase by the end of this blog than you would asking either of the snogging students who masqueraded as shop ‘assistants’ at my local Threshers – people that sullen and grumpy really shouldn’t be employed in customer-orientated service industries i.e. they shouldn’t be allowed near people at all, except each other.
At the superstore supermarket – pick any, nowadays they’re almost indistinguishable – things are noticeably better but they still leave you wading through treacle to reach your decision.
The manager’s offers vie with the buyer’s specials, coded shelf-labels indicate ranges of flavours such as soft and fruity reds (that would be Gamay and Merlot), refreshing whites (Pinot Grigio and Muscadet) and summer rosés (any and every rosé from any and every corner of the world) while bottle stickers proclaim their places on the podium in gold, silver and bronze position. Bronze? That’s not even a proper metal. It’s not on the periodic table so why’s it on the dinner table?
Restaurant wine lists are just as much of a lottery – many try to be informative and helpful but they’re designed to sell wine after all so don’t expect veracity, nor balance, nor even wines that are guaranteed to match the food on offer, although of course they should.
Instead, like me you’ll come across the most appalling rip-off over-pricing (less common in supermarkets), frequently encounter frustratingly limited choice and puzzle over how the hell to pick something to go with sweetbreads on a bed of rocket with a loganberry coulis.
This blog, with apologies to Ronseal (no stranger to wine comparisons, especially in relation to Retsina), does exactly what it says on the tin – it aims to provide you with a set of rules that will ensure that when you are faced with a retailer’s helpless, hopeless, hapless shelf of reds, whites and rosés you are able to make a quick, intelligent and well-argued case for your chosen purchase, whatever its purpose.
When scanning the restaurant wine list you can swiftly match your starters, mains and dessert with wines that will complement each course and enhance your whole dining experience.
Better still, maybe best of all, you should never again find yourself wasting your money buying the ‘wrong’ bottle of wine. Fingers crossed.