Friday, 12 March 2010

Don't ask me mate, you already know the answer

I often get asked to recommend wine. I do spend an inappropriate amount of my time reading, writing, and tasting all things wine so I suppose it should be expected, but what does surprise me (and always makes me smile) is the inevitable total rejection of any advice I actually give.

A typical encounter usually goes along the lines of:

Inquisitor (I):You like wine, what's a good wine.
Wine Gums (WG): Well what do you like to drink?
I: White. Can't stand red.
WG: Okay. Okay. What do you usually buy?
I: Whatever is on special at the supermarket.
WG: What did you have last night?
I: I've told you, white wine.
WG: No, where was it from?
I: Asda.
WG: (Sighs) Australian? £4.50?
I: Oh, you've had it then.
WG: Probably.
I: Gorgeous isn't it? Best wine I've ever had. Fact. End of.
WG: A Chardonnay perhaps? Oaked or unoaked?
I: Definately a Chardonnay and it must have been unoaked - it came in a glass bottle not a barrel.
WG: Right. An unoaked Australian Chardonnay. Why not try a petit Chablis? France not Australia, but same grape and similar style yet with more backbone. £6.50 in M&S.
I: £6.50? I'll wait till its on special in Asda.

Okay so maybe I'm being a little unfair (but only a little) but trying to get people to explore wine is a thankless task.   Sophisticated drinkers - with the emphasis on drinkers - are the worst. A lady with a predilection for NZ Sauvignon Blanc once sought my advice regarding which other wines would slake her thirst for dry, mineral riven, citrus fruit driven white wine. My suggestions included:

Muscadet - "I don't like French wine".  This immediately ruled out Sancerre and Chablis.
Picpoul de Pinet - Not revealing the fact that its French, this suggestion was greeted with a long drawn-out "hmmm".
Gruner Veltliner - "Too exotic". Leaving me wondering if Austria ever been considered exotic before or since?
Australian Riesling - "Don't like sweet wine".  By this point the (dry) towel was well and truly thrown in.

"Stick with the Oyster Bay love, its on special at Sainsburys".

When someone now asks me to recommend wine I have one answer: next time you're at the supermarket stand in front of your favourite wine, put your hand on the bottle, count six bottles to the right and buy that one.

Now leave me alone.


Morrisons Supermarket £6.99 (tasted 18.iii-'09)

Clear pale lemon yellow chardonnay wine with a good clean green apple and citrus fruit nose which has a mineral streak running through it. Bone dry and high acidity with a steely citrus lemon palette. Surprising nice length. 11.5% with an artificial cork.

All in all a good example of what you can get from a young petit chablis.


  1. I know how you feel. It is one of the most frustrating things about selling wine, plus many now use Oyster Bay as a benchmark of NZ sauv both price and taste. I have tried to come up with a website that might help!

  2. Thanks Mike. I'm just a boozy amateur so when your living depends on educating the great thirst of Britain, my new collective noun for "sophisticated drinkers", it must drive you nuts.

    Love your web-page by the way. I've often thought that wine needs to be presented in a more accessible style rather than as a geography lesson.

    Can you turn it into an App?

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  4. Very funny post. When I first started drinking wine and knew naff all I would simply pick a bottle I thought looked pretty. I very girly approach, but it made it fun and interesting. Knowing what you hate is just as helpful as knowing what you like when learning about wine.