These days there is plenty of encouragement for you to add a bottle or two of wine to your weekly trolly. I expect you’ll take this bottle home, open it and drink it with your evening meal. Mostly you will not be too disappointed, but I’m pretty sure that you will not have said, “WOW this is stunning.”
A vast quantity of wine offered in the shops is produced by large wine makers, often on an industrial scale. It will be made and sold down to a price and in a style that will try to please everyone. Yet, for some it will be too sweet and for others too thin. For others it will be jammy, a little unctuous, so that partway down a second glass you will meet a realisation that perhaps, after all, you don't want any more.
Such wines will not be made to age gracefully, to develop depth and structure, to develop complexity and length and good balance. After all, who can blame the producers and the shops aiming for this immediate market? Most customers will not have the patience or indeed adequate or acceptable storage conditions that would support a wine that is made to evolve and improve with bottle age.
Though I still consider myself an amateur, I am someone who over many years has come to enjoy wine as a drink; especially as a drink to share. I have realised that there is a huge range of wine. I have discovered wine that suits my taste buds and where, just occasionally, I have been able to say “WOW, this really is stunning!” I have introduced wine to our family and friends and I have come to enjoy wine as an experience – from the buying and drinking to studying and sharing.
It came about in this unexpected way. Whilst on holiday in France with my wife and two close friends we were walking along a street in a small town when a shopkeeper was insistent that we enter his shop and sample his wine. Following disappointment after disappointment, we knew we had missed the wine the country was famous for and, as we returned home, I was determined to find it.
Slowing down, taking our time to research, we returned. And, with the luxury of time our wine tasting experience was considerable. We met wine makers who were passionate about their wines, who gave us samples to taste and who spoke extensively about the wine, the grapes and most helpfully, how it should develop with bottle age, how it would improve to take on extra qualities. Even the younger wines we tasted were good, offering a tantalising glimpse of their future to come. As we slowed down to see, touch, taste and learn, wine drinking became fuller, deeper, richer.
Well, that was rather a long time ago, but we have never looked back. Our cellar has since continued to store wine from most of the regions of France, but more than that, the cellar has stored memories. With each bottle of wine opened we have been drinking moments with someone we care about. I guess the quality of company has a huge bearing on the enjoyment of wine. And, just like the grapes themselves, friendships tend to get better, deeper and just that little bit sweeter with age.
Words: David Griffiths