Until now I’d believed that I wasn’t a wine snob. Despite the blog being named ‘Wine and Crisps’ the title wasn’t anything to do with being a wine connoisseur. The thinking behind the title was much more the belief that a glass of vino and some classy crisps are almost symbolic of where I’m at in life – in my thirties and well on the road to becoming my parents. I went through a transition period in my late twenties where I left WKD, Smirnoff Ice and Jaegerbombs to a younger generation and developed a preference for wine.
I find that a bag of Sensations combined with a glass of wine the size of a fishbowl allows me to reach ‘a sweet spot’ – somewhere between the second and third glass – where I begin to develop my most creative ideas. Recently I received an invitation to take part in a trial to discover whether advertising creatives really do come up with their best ideas after a liquid lunch. Unfortunately I didn’t get to help out with such vital research. I’ve not seen the results yet but I’m pretty damn sure that being a little wasted is a great aid to creative thinking.
Anyhow, back to my venture into the world of boozy grape juice. I was the kind of guy who would just pick up a random bottle from the supermarket on a Friday night, often making my choice based on nothing more than the design of the label. This was a hit or miss method of spending the best part of a tenner on something. I’d either get something awesome – and subsequently forget what it was – or a wine that I’d sup slowly whilst considering whether to pour the rest away. I decided to put my choice of wines in someone else’s hands, and I signed up to an online wine club. Every three months I’d get sent a case of twelve mixed bottles. Yet, as with my point-and-pray method of buying wine from Tesco, there was no guarantee the expert selecting my box would know what I’d like drinking.
I have walked past Majestic Wine Warehouse on my way to and from work for longer than I can recall. I had naively assumed it was no more than it said on the sign – a warehouse for buying boxes of wine. It was only when I spotted a bunch of people in there drinking actual glasses of wine that I decided to investigate. They hold regular tastings so I put my name on the list for one.
Last Saturday I wandered over there for a half-hour tasting of some French wines. Spitting was optional; no one did, so I followed suit and enjoyed every one of the six or seven wines we were given to try. Getting a bit smashed for free is my kind of a good time! Normally I ignore all of the blurb on the labels of the bottles. The regions, types of soils and maturation processes all seems a bit Jilly Goolden to me… an almost musty bouquet of bullshit on the nose. However, I can’t recall many other occasions when I’ve learnt so much interesting stuff in just half an hour. I’ve never held two different glasses of wine and compared them to each other. When the differences ‘on the nose’ (swirl it around and sniff it) are pointed out things like ‘hints of lemon and citrus’ actually make sense. I didn’t like to say that one of them immediately made me think of Lemon Pledge, because that doesn’t sound as poetic as ‘citrus bouquet’, it certainly wouldn’t sound so appealing to drink. It was actually very pleasant ‘on the palette’ (yes, that is a bit pretentious) but I preferred the one that had ‘a hint of goosberry’.
Having given me a considerable variety of wines to sample the guy poured me a little glass of a Spanish Marques de Riscal Rioja Gran Reserva 2001. I swirled, sniffed, and almost passed out. I’m pretty sure it would be possible to get wasted just by inhaling. Somewhere out there is a prep-school kid named Rupert who has raided daddy’s cellar and is now is off his face hoffing the vapours of this from a carrier bag, i.e. it’s a wine that classy people use to get trollied. Apparently the Marques de Riscal is a fine wine, indicated by being displayed on a shelf set apart from less glamorous wines. I thought the first dozen wines were all worth drinking just for the hell of it, but this one was like drinking warm full-bodied liquid sex with a subtle undertone of smug self-satisfaction. Reduced from £30 a bottle to £25 I took two, and a couple of bottles of the gooseberry-scented one (a 2010 Coteaux de Giennois) one of which I finished-off last night. I could get into this wine tasting stuff! Chin-chin!