It was some time ago that Miss B first asked me to write a BBF column (Bouquet Best Friend) for her and I apologize for taking so long. There are no excuses, just simple hesitation while I questioned whether I knew anything about wine worth writing. I’m still not convinced I do, however I feel that I am exactly the sort of person that Miss B is targeting and so hoped that if I explained my position and wine frustrations to you now you may relate in some way to me and further understand what Miss B is trying to do…
My wine journey starts pre 2006 when it’s fair to say I was a beer monster, a time when I only drank wine because I was made to during a round of ‘buyer’s choice’. A time when my palate had limited experience and I had no idea what Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke were wittering on about “I smell elderflowers”, “deep cherry”, “a real sense of mahogany”…. So, frustration number 1: I simply didn’t get what these old TV farts were going on about, besides, if they drank wine, why the hell would I want to? Move over Oz and Jilly… Beer with Sambuca chaser please.
As one inevitably grows up, my binge drinking was replaced with dating and dinner parties, and although I’ve tried very hard to keep hold of my childish tendencies, there came a time when I had to start bringing a bottle of wine rather than a 6 pack. Frustration number 2: New to wine, I was suddenly faced with the average supermarket carrying X brands, Y grape varieties from Z countries. Not easy is it? Should I buy based on the deal of the week? Price? Country? Label? And let’s face it, we’re an insecure generation and no one likes to look a fool. My solution was to buy based on something my Dad once said “you can’t go wrong with a Chilean red, son”. So that’s what I did, it helped that its exotic sounding origin made me feel I was buying something unusual, that no one else was buying, after all it wasn’t French… and people only buy French, don’t they?!
Another part of growing up, and major change in my lifestyle, resulted in a highly significant shift in my wine consumption, and that was when I met Miss B. Now, I appreciate this means I’ve had a professional teach me, but believe me, I started a lot further behind the curve than most. So, what happened when I drank more wine? (other than thinking I was funnier, more charming and a much better dancer than I really am):
* I developed a wine palate
The more I tried the more I started to find the flavours that the old farts had been talking about and you know what? It’s cool that grapes can produce such random flavours! Two that spring to mind are Jordon’s Sauvignon Blanc from Stellenbosch which tasted just like green peppers, and Bimbadgen rosé from Australia that’s like strawberry jam in a bottle. For those starting on their own wine journey my advice is to persevere until those aromas and tastes starts to show through, it’s worth it. For me there’s nothing more frustrating (number 3 for those keeping count) than seeing the Essex girls heading into London and ordering nothing but pinot grigio, either because it’s the only wine they know or the only one they can pronounce. The only solution here for you the reader is to either change bars or to buy the girls a different wine!
* I developed a wine palate
* I started to understand the difference between countries and grape varieties
This really helped pick through the minefield that is the supermarket and restaurant wine list. My advice to those without Miss B’s personal tuition is to find an online guide that you find easy to use and can relate to the wine descriptions by the author (i.e. try some of the wines they write about and compare to see if you feel the same way)… The fact you’re reading this may mean you’ve already found this in Miss B, I hope so!
* I realised it’s all about me
I’ve now got to the point that I’ve developed a number of specific wines I love (Chocolate Block, Cobblers Hill, Norton Malbec) and my next tip is that when you do go out for dinner at a restaurant or a friend’s take note of what you’re drinking, what you ate it with and if you liked it or not. This will help in two ways. First it will help you build up an idea of what you do and don’t like, after all wine is like art its subjective, it’s all about you, not Miss B, not Oz Clarke, no one else actually matters. And secondly those few moments you take to add a wine name to your phone’s notebook will help you be more confident in your future wine purchases refering to your list when you’re staring blankly at a wine list or supermarket wall of wine.
So, where am I now?
A distinct amateur for sure, but I’m enjoying my wine journey and many of my frustrations are eased but I do have one more wine-bug to bear: price. Not much we can do about that, but I would point you to this article by Miss B, the figures are a little out of date now but since reading it and understanding how the price of a wine is built I have never bought a bottle for less than a fiver since.