Judge a wine by its cover. It will not make you shallow….

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Last night I caught the end of Britain’s Got Talent. Don’t judge me…. I just caught the bit after The Voice on BBC1 had finished. Please don’t judge me…! I’m not into reality TV shows at all (with the exception of Master Chef of course!) but last night was different.

In case you didn’t see it, The Voice is the musical equivalent of a blind wine tasting. The judges get to hear the singers and musicians without seeing them. Just like a wine taster uses their nose and taste buds to pass judgement on a wine, Tom Jones and les autres use their ears. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be staying in next Saturday to catch the second episode but I do like the twist that The Voice is bringing to people that have the guts to put themselves out there without their looks, weight or choice of clothes messing things up for them.

This point was made more pertinent when I switched to BGT to find a young brunette standing with a 17 year old incarnation of Hurley from Lost both quivering at the “fat guy + pretty girl does not = profit” scowls from Simon Cowell. This followed by a Susan Boyle moment as ‘Hurley’ opened his mouth to reveal a stunning voice à la Paverotti. Cue jaw drops from the crowd and a standing ovation from the Judges. It was the outcome everybody was yearning for but that the audience (myself included) were still shocked to witness. Hide it as we may think we do, there is a little bit of Simon Cowell in all of us.

In the world of wine there isn’t an equivalent to Simon or Tom Jones for that matter. As a result we’re left with a nation of wine drinkers who in their own reality shows (aka life) only get to hear the voice once they’ve seen the artist or try a wine once they’ve bought it. This makes judging the bottle by it’s cover not only sensible but mandatory when evaluating how much enjoyment and entertainment the bottle in hand is expected to return.

Communicating the style, quality, origin and value of a wine can all be done through it’s packaging and its why I urge any wine producer that will listen to dedicate as much time and resource as possible to the use of design as a tool to describe quality and style, truthfully, to the wines’ consumer.

The trade’s official educator, the WSET, guides its wine students to follow a four point approach to tasting: appearance, nose, palate and conclusions. Wine purists reading this may find my adapted systematic approach a little hard to swallow but flick through my moleskin notebook and you’ll see in there that any wine worth parting with money for has to receive five yeses from me and two of those are for appearance.

Two wines from the Spring tasting season that would definitely get through to the second round are the NZ Single Block Series new to Marks & Spencers. As good looking together as they are apart, the Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and Single Block R3 Pinot Noir 2011 are true to their origin in that they taste like they’re from New Zealand and in quality they’re worth every penny of their £12.99 price tag! Short of a Duke of Edinburgh award for map reading skills (zoom in on the label above) these wines over deliver at all levels and couldn’t fail to impress judgement from the even harshest of critics.

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