Monday, 28 November 2011

In vino etc

I like a glass of wine with a meal (or, quite often, without a meal) both at home and when I dine in a restaurant. When I eat in a restaurant, I don't look at the wine list and order the second most expensive wine. I am reliably informed that people who know nothing about wine will often do that. They think that you get what you pay for and, therefore, the more expensive the wine, the better it is. So why, in that case, don't they just order the most expensive? But that would be showing off and is something that only the nouveau riche would do in order to impress their friends and acquaintances. So the second most expensive it is as they would hate to be seen as nouveau riche.

On the other hand, I don't plump for the second cheapest either. That, I am told, would show to the sommelier that I'm a cheapskate, but a cheapskate who doesn't want to be seen as one as I would be if I ordered the cheapest wine.

In fact, in a restaurant I very often do order the cheapest wine - the house wine. I reckon that the restaurateur has selected this wine as providing good value for money. He will not have selected a wine that will reflect badly on his taste.

It's much the same when I buy wine in a supermarket. I did at one time use a wine merchant but now buy nearly all my wine at French supermarkets. One thing I have found is that the supermarket wine buyers generally know what they are doing and, as a result, the supermarkets' own label wines are very often as good as if not better than other labels at twice the price.

Some years ago our local Asda held wine-tasting evenings. The price was very modest - a couple of pounds or so - because quite obviously the company hoped to increase the sale of wine, especially their own label wine! We met in the cafeteria where the visiting "expert" started by enthusing about wine in general before getting down to the serious stuff and opening a few bottles. That was when it started, all that talk about being able to smell gooseberries or the garrigue, taste lemon grass or wild cherry. Frankly, those tasting notes on the back of the bottles are just so much... Well, I'm not sure exactly what they are so much of, but they always seem to me to be a little precious or snobby. It might have something to do with my palate being insufficiently fine-tuned to be able to taste red berries or spices. But I don't care. I either like the wine or I don't. What some expert thinks about it is of little interest to me. After all, it's me who will be drinking it.

I suppose all this is just a long way of saying one man's meat is another man's poison, but it was nice to think about wine for a while.


The Broad said...

A wise man writeth or is it 'writteth'! I do believe that such palates exist, but I don't have one -- my sisters do, however, so when they are around I let them buy the wine ;-)

Buck said...

Well, I'm not sure exactly what they are so much of, but they always seem to me to be a little precious or snobby.

Heh. That "tasting language" stuff has spilled over into the beer world here in the States, as well. Cigars, too. Like yourself, I've often wondered if my palette isn't sophisticated enough for the task at hand. But I don't spend a lot o' time thinkin' that...

I always order the house wine in restaurants, too.

Stephen Hayes said...

I also vote for the house wine. Years ago I worked at a bottling plant for a well-known wine producer and the bloom really came off the rose when it came to the mystique of wine. Now if it tastes good I drink it without questioning its pedigree.