10 things you should know about wine
- Trust your own judgment.
Your own taste is more important than other people’s. There’s no point buying wine that’s festooned with medal stickers, which all the critics rave about, if you don’t like it.
- People’s palates are like finger-prints.
Everyone’s is slightly different, and no-one but you knows whether you will like a wine, or how much you’ll like it. Refuse to be brow-beaten by wine-bores. (There’s one at every dinner party.)
- Wine’s true place is at the dinner table.
The best wines go beautifully with food: as Pasteur said, a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine. Conversely, wine without food is only part of the experience. The two enhance each other. But don’t be too fussy about wine and food matching: if you are served solids and liquids that don’t go well together, it’s simple enough to consume them separately!
- Don’t wait too long to open special bottles.
Many people wait for the special occasion to open a treasured bottle, and that occasion never seems to come. A cellar is only as good as the best bottle you are prepared to open. If you want to use that ‘71 Grange (tasting notes) you’ve coddled for decades, create a special occasion to drink it with friends. The last thing you should do is send it to auction: why give up pleasure for a few dollars?
- Don’t cellar top wine for a long period without proper temperature control.
Australia is a hot country and a lot of superb wine is ruined this way. It is always better do drink a wine a little too young than risk waiting until it’s a little too old.
- When stocking your cellar, always spend at least as much as you can afford.
Otherwise you’ll end up with lots of stuff you’ll never want to drink. One of my favourite sayings is ‘Great wine is seldom too expensive; bad wine always is’. Those who say they cannot afford to drink their most valuable bottles are being foolish.
- Australian wine is underrated.
Reputations are built slowly, and can be lost quickly. Australia will always be playing catch-up to France, Italy, Germany etc, because they were there long before us. We are paying dearly for having shipped a lot of ordinary wine to the world, and for excessive discounting in the UK, both of which hurt our reputation.
- Wine is a very natural beverage.
It is basically just fermented grapejuice. Most of the additives permitted in wine already occur naturally in grapes – such as yeast, acids, tannins, sugars (not cane sugar; I’m thinking grapejuice concentrate) and even sulphur dioxide. Those that don’t occur naturally in wine are mostly processing agents, such as eggwhites and bentonite – which is a clay – and they don’t remain part of the wine. The so-called ‘natural’ wine movement is very naughty to encourage an impression that most wine is unnatural.
- Wine is a mirror to nature.
When made honestly and without too much human manipulation, it reflects the place where the grapes were grown. The vineyard site (specifically, its land and climate) shapes the wine’s personality and in the best examples, imparts uniqueness.
- The rarest great wines are absurdly expensive.
They are only likely to become moreso, because their supply is limited and the market for them keeps growing. But the good news is that there is more good wine today than ever before. And there’s better value for money than ever.