Sunday, 31 July 2011

In vino veritas

I'm not sure the title I've already typed will have an awful lot of bearing on what I am about to write - or should that be the other way round? Whichever, the only word in the title that really applies is probably "vino".

It's strange how a word can disappear from my life for months or even years and then suddenly become the focus of my attention. That has happened with "oenophile". I don't suppose I had seen or heard the word for ages - until this week. For some reason it just popped into my mind completely unbidden. I hadn't been thinking about wine, talking about wine or even drinking wine, but there it was, right out of the blue. Perhaps I wouldn't have noticed if it had not been such an unusual word. After all, it's not exactly a word that we habitually use in everyday conversation. Well, you might, but I don't. Then it cropped up again on a television programme, New Tricks, which is nothing to do with food or wine but is a drama about an eccentric group of ex-policemen, brought together to solve unsolved crimes. And now it's in Terry Wogan's column in this morning's paper!

I like wine, but don't get me wrong. I'm not an alcoholic - just one and a half glasses with my evening meal - and I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm oenophilic. I'm certainly not a connoisseur, but I know what I like and I like what I know.

Most of the wine I buy is French. Not because I consider French wine necessarily the best - in some cases I don't think it is - but because I buy my wine in French supermarkets while we are across the Channel staying at our house in the Loire valley. I certainly don't reckon to pay very much for my wine, most of it coming in at under 4 euros a bottle. But for ordinary, everyday drinking it really isn't necessary to pay a lot. I buy several different varieties of red wine: Cotes du Mont Ventoux, Fitou, Cahors, Corbieres, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Saumur Champigny being among them. When it comes to white wine, though, I tend to stick to just one - Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lies. I don't think the French are as good as the New Zealand or Chilean wine makers when it comes to the sauvignon blanc grape and I occasionally lash out and buy a bottle - usually New Zealand - if I'm feeling flush or want one for a special occasion.

There was a time when I would try all sorts of ways to buy Cloudy Bay when it arrived. If you don't know it, that is one of the world's best sauvignon blanc wines and it acquired cult status some years ago. The price gradually went up until I decided it was too high for my pocket.

My younger son worked for several years in very posh restaurants, the sort of place that included in its wine list bottles priced at £1,000 or more. On one occasion, somebody ordered just such a bottle and actually left some wine in the bottom. YS tried it - and pronounced it horrible! I do have to wonder about the man who, this week, is supposed to have paid £75,000 for a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem. Granted, it's the 1811 vintage, but even so - that's over £12,000 a glass! And he's not even going to drink it! He says he will just admire it for the next six years and will open it in 2017. (I didn't see why.) He will probably find the cork disintegrates and the wine is undrinkable - and that's not just sour grapes!

1 comment:

Uncle Skip, said...

"...paid £75,000 for a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem."

Last fall I read Billionare's Vinegar. It's about just those sort of purchases.