Saturday, October 06, 2007

Wine ‘bad hair’ days

Will report on how accurate my predictions were of the SW France tasting very soon. In the meantime, let's talk about wine ‘bad hair’ days.

Yes, I know it’s just fermented grape juice. Yes, I know that if wine were to disappear, the world would not. And yes, I know that a whole swathe of people drink wine more for its effect than its flavour. But for those sad, sad folk like me – and we are a significant minority – who take serious note of what we are swilling around our tulip-shaped glasses, then let’s talk about something that takes the convoluted world of wine into an even more complicated realm.

But let’s start by taking a look at ourselves. Have you ever had those days when you wake up and the world is just peachy, where you look in the mirror and nod approvingly, where the glass is not just half full, but it’s half full of Krug-flavoured ambrosia? And equally, have you had those days where the world craps on the shoulder of your cream-coloured leather jacket, where all of the 13 massive pustules on your face seems to be throbbing in sympathy with every Wi-Fi signal in the vicinity, where the glass is half empty – and the remnants are three-day-old white Zin, complete with a fag-end?

Well wines have such days. I’ve just been to the Tesco autumn wine tasting. 2007 has seen the wine department of Britain’s largest supermarket revelling in both critical and financial success, thanks to some inspired appointments at the Cheshunt HQ, most noticeably the arrival 18 months ago of Jan Dago, sorry, Dan Jago from Bibendum as Head Wine Honcho. His eyes are too close together, his dancing is questionable, but the man loves wine. At the spring 2007 tasting, he told me that after a year in the job, he’d managed to get the range to a stage where he’d happily take home the majority of the wines they were showing for dinner – and as his wife is an ex-Victoria Wine buyer, then he can’t turn up with any old muck.

So I arrived at the tasting expecting the selection to be as inspiring as that that had been on show in spring. And it wasn’t. But – and this is where things start getting a bit bonkers – it wasn’t the fault of the wines. Nor the tasters. It was just one of those days when the wines weren’t performing as they should have done. Anyone who has children will have experienced one of those moments when you try and persuade your offspring to repeat the enthusiastic rendition of Baa-Baa Black Sheep that so entranced you the night before for the benefit of the assembled relatives/friends/neighbours/whatever. And they don’t. So it was with the wines today. They were sulky children. They were supposed to sing. They didn’t.

Some wine companies – Marks & Spencer is one – now plan their tastings according to the biodynamic calendar. The theory goes that if extra-terrestrial influences can affect the tides, then they should also have an impact on other liquids, including wine. The tasting fell on a leaf day – the sort of day that M&S avoids since it accentuates any green/earthy notes in a wine. And true to form, traditionally-styled, (usually) European wines with firm tannic structures looked rather tough and charmless. Meanwhile, those wines that were on the rather buxom, overripe side acquired a welcome air of restraint. A Masi Amarone looked more like a Ripasso. A Californian Pinot acquired some Burgundian elegance. And Château Musar, a love-hate wine if ever there was one, lost much of its volatility and looked positively well-behaved.

I’m not excusing Tesco for some of the wines on show. There were several that even on a good day would have failed to excite. But overall, I think the wines were suffering a bad hair day – we all have them, even Patrick Stewart. On another occasion, this would have been a far more inspiring event. However, it does beg a question for those of us drinking wines at home – do we need to be looking at the biodynamic calendar when planning to open some of our more temperamental bottles?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The definition of Interocular Distance: 'The spacing between the eyes, usually referring to the human average of about 2 1/2inches; an important factor for the production of stereoscopic imagery.'
Actually, my eyes are 61.5 mm apart, so you may be right (2.5" = 62.5mm... but even on a bad hair day, at least I still have some.

And personally I prefer salsa as a side portion to a burrito. not a dance.