(It’s a long one, but stay with me here, it’ll help you and your wine drinking in the end. I promise!)
Are you a wine drinker?
Yes, me too! #coincidence
Consider yourself a wine buff?
No, me either.
We’ve just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary (I know, I know, I really AM too young. Thank you…;)) and to celebrate we planned a really special party – squooshing a marquee into the garden, hiring caterers, and inviting 30-odd of our closest lovely people. We had a holiday in the Dordogne early in the summer, so we planned ahead and decided to stock up on the wine for the party while there, knowing we’d save a fortune on UK prices.
We fully intended to go to a local vineyard, do the whole wine-tasting thing and select the ones we liked best. But honestly? Once we were there, it felt a bit… intimidating. Our French is good enough to get by when shopping, in a restaurant or asking for directions. but discussing the finer points of wine? Notsomuch, we thought. Plus what if we had to buy 60 bottles when we only wanted 20? Or couldn’t tell the difference? Or our uneducated palates thought they were all a bit… meh?
So instead we played it safe and headed to the enormous hypermarket in St Foy Le Grande, which had a HUGE wine department.
But now we had no clue what anything tasted like. Faced with literally hundreds of choices, we decided we just had to narrow ourselves down. We chose to stick to a Bordeaux because the city has personal significance to us (and as a general rule we love Bordeaux wine). Then we narrowed it further by sticking to wines produced by one grower, not from a multi-source producer. Okay, now we were down to about 30-odd bottles of red to choose from. So we limited our budget – €6 a bottle.
Still about 20 wines to choose from…
In the end, we actually did the unthinkable – we chose the wine by its label.
We just opted for one which had won awards. Better noses and palates than ours had tasted them and found them winners – so we trusted their opinion and went for it. Then we moved around to the whites aisle, and started all over again.
How would it actually taste? Who knew… we just stashed the boxes in a corner and tried not to think about it too much.
Roll forward three months, and the night of the party arrived. Unbeknown to a single guest, we watched with baited breath as our wine was served and the first few mouthfuls were sipped around us. We knew the food would be amazing, but it really was touch and go about the wine…
Thankfully we saw no wrinkled noses and carefully set down glasses – just contented sighs, extra sips and nods of approval.
(when we finally we tasted it ourselves, and we realised we done good. The wine was perfect.)
I think most of us know when we’re sipping a glass of something delicious,
but have scant ‘real’ wine knowledge to work from when buying it (anyone else whip out their phone to photograph the label of a particularly good bottle to track down similar? Just me?).
Unless you’re a real wine aficionado, I’m betting most of us try new ones on a wing and a prayer – either from mail order (we’ll often indulge in one of the many offers for wines by the case at Christmas), or from the supermarket shelves. And how do you know which is best? Whether the cheaper price is a real bargain, or simply an indicator of it’s actual taste?
Well, I think most people do what we did for our oh-so-important party. Stick to types they know they like, look at what other people say about it if it’s online, and in store we buy the label we like the look of best.
Maybe the best indicator above all is if it’s won awards. Because we trust people who know what they’re talking about, and who aren’t just trying to sell us their wine.
So it was good news this week when I saw WinesDirect have set up their own awards (and if you’re not friends with the WinesDirect site yet you really should be. They’re not just-another-wine-company – they’re a comparison site, and they’ll help you find the best deals across all the UK winesellers, from supermarkets to wine merchants. There’s loads of useful info to learn a bit more about wine – and they’ll point you straight to all relevant wine voucher codes too. See? TOTAL wine drinkers best friend).
And importantly, their awards aren’t for the best red from Mongolia. No no no. They’re about what we consumers really need – value, service, choice and delivery.
Go, take notes. And buy more wine – that’s always a good thing.