The Joy and Frustration of Wine

Posted: June 23, 2010 in Food

Originally in my Wiltshire Blog

To take your mind off England’s performance in the World Cup so far, I will talk about something we all enjoy: Wine.

Ah, wine! With the exception of water – and arguably beer – what other drink has given the human race so much, for so long?

Our ancestors began drinking wine at roughly the same time they first organised themselves into complex societies. Wine has been an essential ingredient of human civilisation for at least the past 5,000 years, and no doubt for the next 5,000 years too.

With such a lofty history, it is easy – for young people in particular – to be intimidated by wine. If I didn’t work at a wine merchant I would certainly feel that way.

Step inside a good wine merchant and you are surrounded by grand labels – usually written in French – with black & white sketches of beautiful chateaus.

Although the New World wines try to put the customer at ease with simple, unpretentious artwork, their labels still foster a sense of mystery. It as if they say: we are modern, yes, but the process by which mere grapes are turned to wine is not.

Learning about wine is undoubtedly a big task; you may as well be learning about astrophysics or the history of everything.

If you are lucky enough to have a local vineyard, that might be the best place to start. In Devizes we are fortunate to have a local wine grower who produces delicious English wine.

If you are in the area you should definitely take a look at the a’Beckett’s Vineyard. You can also do a wine tasting and kick start your journey to becoming a true connoisseur.

Don’t expect quick results though; this is something I have learned from experience.

Training your palate to recognise the characteristics of different wines is something which requires plenty of time and experience. Thankfully tasting wine is very enjoyable, or you might give up from frustration!

I have been trying to train my palate for the past two months and have been failing. If you know some good tips on how to do it, please tell me.

In the beginning I was even worse than I am now. I would hold the glass up to the light – something I learned from the film Sideways – and conclude that this wine looks very red.

Then I would swirl the wine about and thrust my nose into the glass – also something I learned from watching Sideways – and conclude that this wine smells a bit fruity.

Finally, I would take a generous sip and swirl the wine about in my mouth – making sure it reaches every part of my tongue – and conclude that this wine tastes a lot like wine.

Now, I hesitate to say, I am a little better.

It is possible that I can differentiate between some of the basic varieties, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but until I test myself I won’t know for sure.

And so, the journey to understanding the brew of Bacchus goes on. If you feel like joining me drop me a line.

We can make an adventure of it, and maybe get a bit tipsy in the process.

Dionysian delights, here we come!

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