Over the years anyone wanting a glass of wine has possibly been put off by the snobbery that goes with it. It’s not just simply a ‘glass of wine’ – there were so many other factors to consider. The nose. The bouquet. The subtle infusions of fruit in the flavour. The colour. Etc etc, or that’s what we have been led to believe as essential in the enjoyment and savouring of wine. Or words to that effect.
Where did all this come from? Well, it has to be France, doesn’t it? The original wine-growers and connoisseurs of the modern age have thrust their standards and the mystique of wine upon the masses. Perhaps it was because only the wealthy and aristocratic were deemed noble enough to partake of the fruit of the vine. There was a divide between the “who coulds” and the “who couldn’ts.” This aura about enjoying wines has continued for centuries. Even to the extent that the more serious establishments serving wine will encourage to a greater or lesser degree the observation of the ritual of the selection, the opening, the serving and eventually, the tasting of the delicious liquid.
As a child I remember being treated to a dinner at a restaurant with parents and elder relatives when a splash of wine was tipped into the host’s glass (to taste of course). The first reaction from this newly-scrubbed-and-buttoned eight year old was, “is that all they’re giving you, dad?” The ritual was then briefly explained. The waiter cast a frosty glance in my direction when the question was put, “but what if you don’t like it. Do they bring another one?”
Happily, nowadays the fruit of the vine is a lot more accessible to the man in the street, or in a pub for that matter (but it always has been, I hear you say). Well, the mystery and vagaries of choosing and the ritual tasting have largely gone by the board, thanks to the vast marketing machine rolled out decades ago that was designed to make wine appealing to more and more people. The choices and varieties are still there but the snobbish exclusivity has disappeared.
Supermarkets now have their own wine ranges in-house. Bringing together the best of the Loire Valley (or some other region) for Mr & Mrs Joe Public to enjoy and experience. Many ‘house wines’ are sourced from a ‘carton-de-vin’ type red or white under the counter. And pretty good they are too. Most customers who just want to socialize and enjoy a meal aren’t too stuffy about the nose or the flavour hints in the glass. Online shopping has also revolutionised the way people purchase their goods – and buying wine is no different. Wine clubs and excellent articles make it easy for virtually anyone with an internet connection and a willingness learn to discover more about the wines they enjoy and those they want to sample by reading the recommendations of numerous wine afficionados and bloggers. Then it’s up to the old credit card to do its work.
Not to be left behind, Rutters Stocktakers do have an excellent knowledge of the produce the restaurants and eateries who contract them order for their guests. They keep their finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what could do with a rest. Between them and your favourite meeting place, they will ensure that when you want to ‘just enjoy a glass of wine’ it is as you wish it to be.
There is still a lot to be said for the idea that if you like it, drink it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Cabernet or a Shiraz or a blend of anything. So what if you like a robust red with some fish? Or your best combination is a Chardonnay to keep your steak company? Despite what many may have said in the past, it’s not a sin to pair your food with the wine you enjoy, and not what the book says you should have.
When Edward Fitzgerald translated Omar Khayyam’s works, he wrote, “A book of verses under the bough, A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and Thou …” If it was simple enough then, so it shall be now. Gently sipping a favourite wine, enjoying friends of mine as we watch the world go by. No frills.