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I'm doing wine now - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
I'm doing wine now
As regular readers of rhodri will have already seen, he's recently been writing on the subject of wine, which reminds me: I read in the Sainsburys magazine the other day that if you like Merlot, you should try Malbec. Now, I thought Malbec was the other one of Lambkin Simbert, whichever one of them was the Young Pretender, the one who didn't drown in a vat of lampreys ... or was that St. Nicholas of Syrah, patron saint of red wine? Anyway, I bought a bottle of Malbec. But I haven't drunk it yet.

Just thought I'd share that with you, there, as I know some of you are dedicated Merlot-drinkers.

Further to rhodri's musings, though, I think the problem with saying "I like wine" is that it's a bit like saying "I like sex". I mean, we all want to give the impression that we're a bit more discriminating than that. And maybe some of us are! Yeah! Let's be positive here! But Britishness dictates that we can't look too knowledgeable or discriminating, otherwise we'll be seen as gay, or foreign, or possibly even both. There is only an inch of respectably-ignorant grey area between the blokeish, brutish bellow of "BOOOOOOZE!" and the tantamount-to-being-on-the-guest-list-for-Elton-John's-wedding "Personally, I favour a full and fruity red" (let alone boringly-parodied rumblings from the realm of Pseud's Corner about the scent of fresh-mown grass) ... but it's the inch in which we live.

So, as Sir Elton almost certainly didn't say as he uncorked the nuptial champagne: bottoms up!
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barrysarll From: barrysarll Date: January 11th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perkin Warbeck.

I think I've had malbec, it was OK.

I do sometimes get puzzled by people who register 'sex' or 'books' as LJ interests, because in each field there's probably more I'd rather not have than ones I would. But I don't think the same applies to wine; it's a rare and dreadful one I won't have at least a glass of.
aldabra From: aldabra Date: January 11th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think probably the more interested you are in a set of things, the more of them you'd rather not have, iyswim. If you're interested in architecture you're going to notice and be annoyed by shoddy building; if you're interested in Lego you're already going to have lots of standard pieces and be more after the unusual ones. If you're interested in swimming you won't want to go to leisure pools. Whereas if you've never read anything in your life and someone's left a book on a tedious train journey you're going to be relatively unconcerned about what it is.
barrysarll From: barrysarll Date: January 11th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
But otoh, I see plenty of people sat on the Tube contentendly staring into the middle distance, whereas if cornered on there without something I actively want to read, I'll grab anything, even local papers, just to keep my brain from shutting down.
simont From: simont Date: January 11th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
if you're interested in Lego you're already going to have lots of standard pieces and be more after the unusual ones

... or, conversely, you might subscribe to the school of thought which thinks Lego was at its best when it consisted of perfectly generic pieces with the aim of allowing you to build whatever you liked, and rues the day when it took a right-angle turn into shipping boxes full of complex specialist pieces which can be used to make one specific thing (palm tree, Star Wars speeder bike etc) but nothing else remotely interesting, thereby spectacularly missing the point of a toy which had previously imposed no limit short of your own imagination.

Not that this invalidates your point, of course. :-)
aldabra From: aldabra Date: January 11th, 2006 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, me too. But I already have all the blue 4*1 bricks I want, but if I found green ones at a car boot...
sbp From: sbp Date: January 11th, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
We had mainly yellow ones of those - possibly because I had a set that built a garage once. And out of regular pieces - not even pumps or people. Just a green floor piece where the cars could go. And big flat red rectangles for the roof. Simpler days.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 12th, 2006 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
in each field there's probably more I'd rather not have than ones I would

Hmmmm, that's an interesting way of looking at it.

There are certainly more books that I wouldn't go out of my way to read than books that I would go out of my way to read. And, out of all-the-books-in-the-world, there are orders of magnitude more books I'm not actually capable of reading (because they're not in a language I can read) than there are books that I am capable of reading. But I am quite generally interested in reading and writing, and how people write (even when they do it badly), and what people choose to read, so the chances of me getting something enjoyable/interesting/amusing out of a bad book are higher than the chances of me getting something out of a bad wine.

There are wines that I like, and if the choice of drinks is between several wines I'll have enough of an opinion (even if only choosing 'red' over 'white') to pick one; but if you ask me "What do you want to drink right now?" at any given time, the chances of the answer being "wine!" are quite small -- I'm much more likely to choose beer, or Coke, or coffee, or gin.

Sex is kinda different (obv. - duh!), because while there are gazillions of people I wouldn't be averse to the idea of having sex with under the right circumstances, there's only one person I actually want to have sex with at this point in my life.
From: stephdairy Date: January 11th, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll never make a good wine bore. I settle for buying European wine rather than New World wine and knowing and appreciating what I like. (Not that I'd be able to describe it in a way anyone would understand.)

j4 From: j4 Date: January 11th, 2006 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I settle for buying European wine rather than New World wine

Do you think there's more common ground between, say, French wine and German wine than between "European wine" as a whole and "New World wine" as a whole? (My experience suggests not, but I'm happy to be corrected by somebody with more knowledge.)

and knowing and appreciating what I like. (Not that I'd be able to describe it in a way anyone would understand.)

I'm sure you could describe it in ways that would convey something to other people (which is the point of describing anything, really), even if that doesn't correspond to some kind of standardised vocabulary of wine.

I have an instant Bluffers-Guide wine-bore opt-out clause which is that I like Swiss wine. To a first approximation, nobody knows anything about Swiss wine (because they don't export much); so I could say anything about it & very few people would challenge me. So I shan't bother saying anything about it except "do try some if you're in Switzerland". :-)
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: January 11th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm still trying to work out the common ground between French wine and French wine!

Seriously, there's a world of difference between a big throaty Chateauneuf-style Rhone red and the delicacy of, say, an Alsatian Riesling. If a psycho world dictator came along and said to me "Right, all wine production will cease now, except for one country that you can nominate", then the country would have to be France.

I'd be seriously tempted to consider choosing France even if the choice was France, or the whole of the rest of the world.

As for Swiss wine ... Chassellas? (i.e. the grape in Fondant?) Or the interesting Swiss Pinot Noirs?
j4 From: j4 Date: January 12th, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
As for Swiss wine ... Chassellas? (i.e. the grape in Fondant?) Or the interesting Swiss Pinot Noirs?

I knew somebody would call my bluff. :-D

The bit where I really don't know much about wines is which names are grape-varieties and which names are wines-made-of-lots-of-grapes. If that makes sense. I feel like I need to know some kind of theory of wine before I can make sense of the data I get from trying wine.

I don't know very much about Swiss wine. But I do like Fendant, and a good Dôle (which I think is at least partly Pinot Noir...) is great. OTOH, I don't think I've ever had a bad Swiss wine. Which is just as well, because there don't seem to be many cheap Swiss wines (Switzerland doesn't really do "cheap" very well on the whole IME).

Annoyingly, every time I try to bring wine back from Switzerland it just doesn't taste as nice at home. However I suspect this is largely because I'm not drinking it outside, in the sun, halfway up a mountain. :-)
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: January 12th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, sorry about the bluff. But I do go through a reasonable amount of Swiss wine each year, in a casual, touristy way.

Yes, Dôle - I couldn't remember its name off the top of my head (nor the correct spelling of Fendant, or Chasselas, come to that).

A quick check indicates that Dôle is primarily Pinot Noir (i.e. the primary red Burgundy wine grape), about 80% to 90%, with the rest being Gamay (the primary Beaujolais grape).
From: stephdairy Date: January 11th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm generalising madly, of course, and I've a lot more experience of French/Italian/Spanish wines than I do of other European wines. However, I do tend to find that while many New World wines are very nice and very drinkable, they're often not very interesting. Which is where we get into how I think about wine.

Flavour, when I'm paying attention to it, is very spatial for me. It's a bit like a frequency graph of a sound, only not quite that simple. Wines can be flat, they can have side peaks, they often have one or two dominant central tones, and all these characteristics vary from my first sniff to the aftertaste. The wines I enjoy the most seem to be the ones with the most going on on this spectrum; many New World wines concentrate much more on one central tone and are practically invisible elsewhere. (Fortunately my normal sense of taste can sometimes say more useful things like "appley" or "bitter".)

With so many non-European wines about, and discerning friends who know the good stuff when they taste it, I'm quite likely to encounter a variety of them anyway, so I'm not missing out by my choice.

Also, it's good to be a little bit snobbish from time to time.

j4 From: j4 Date: January 12th, 2006 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting points about spatial perception of flavour. I think I know what you mean -- on the other hand, I've had Australian wines which seem to have that complexity flavour (and not particularly expensive/obscure ones) so maybe we are thinking of something different.

Also, it's good to be a little bit snobbish from time to time.

mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: January 11th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Damn, you're missing out on a load of stunning Australian wines. I've become quite a fan of Glaetzer recently, the Wallace is good, the Bishop excellent (if somewhat on the pricey side); and D'Arenberg are also reliably good.
oldbloke From: oldbloke Date: January 11th, 2006 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
ah, wine...
I've certainly had some I didn't like (mostly whites).
And some reds need to be drunk while eating, when they're 'robust' but without the food could just seem rough. I'm thinking some of the dodgier riojas or chiantis here.
And certainly if it's to be drunk without food, there's some I know I'll like and an awful lot I couldn't be certain of. I spent a whole year drinking nothing but Chateauneuf du Pape once, coz I knew I'd like it.

But it's the same with beer!
oldbloke From: oldbloke Date: January 11th, 2006 06:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think we had a malbec from the SundayTimesWineClub, and that it was fine. But pretty much everything in the quarterly mixed reds they send is. So that's what we buy.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: January 11th, 2006 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Vive la différence (*); I haven't yet drunk wine that I've liked, so I don't like wine!

I don't imagine I would pay money to try more in the hope of proving that first statement false, either. To be fair, this is no different to my opinion of other alcoholic drinks.

(*) Translation: ObLJWhinging.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: January 11th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
boyofbadgers From: boyofbadgers Date: January 11th, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Severe icon envy ahoy!
mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: January 11th, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
More people should go to wine tastings. I should go to more wine tastings. The better off licences run them periodically, and you discover so many different wines, and generally just appreciate wine more. Listening to other people's opinions of the flavours and comparing them to your own experiences of the wine is really interesting. Sometimes you just don't know where they're coming from, sometime you go "oh, yeah, I see what they mean, that flavour".

The ones I've been to haven't been at all the scary, intimidating everybody-else-knows-everything-and-I'm-a-thick-prole type affairs I feared they might be. OK, so sometimes there's a few people who like to show off their knowledge , but they're often wrong which is amusing in itself.
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: January 11th, 2006 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
We used to belong to a wine club - actually, technically, we never left, it sort of expired, or hasn't emailed us in a while - which did tasting meals, on the principle that many wines are designed to be drunk with meals. And that's very true - if you can have a really well thought out meal, where the chef and the wine master collaborated on it, the results are astonishing.

Which reminds me - there's supposedly one such wine-dinner club based at the Pink Geranium.
nja From: nja Date: January 11th, 2006 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
While out for dinner with French sis-in-law1 the other night we were talking about wine, and I admitted that I'm not a connoisseur, I'm happy to drink almost anything. "That's the best way to be", she said (doubtless mentally rolling her eyes and sighing), "you don't get disappointed if you don't get exactly what you want"2.

Then I heard rhodri's exploration of the nuances of oenology, as I was driving back up the motorway. So I'm not the only one.

1 It's OK, her husband was there too.
2 We have probably had similar experiences with my brother3, who once dragged me round Stockholm for half an hour on a summer day when I was gasping, because he couldn't have a drink in any old coffee shop, it had to be the perfect coffee shop. Grabbing a can of unspecified liquid from the nearest supermarket was right out, of course.
3 Obviously, there are some experiences with my brother we haven't shared.
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: January 11th, 2006 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
What's amusing is that the French will drink some of the dodgiest wines going. With Germany, the natives keep the good stuff, and export the crap stuff (Liebfraumilch, Blue Nun, etc.). It seems sometimes that the French almost do the opposite. If in France, do be wary - there's a reason they make so much brandy.
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