22 December 2010

Les Anglais et Le Vin

Much has been made of Britain's recent love affair with wine, yet our knowledge of ‘el vino’ hardly extends beyond telling the difference between red and white, a new survey claims.

Despite large increases in the amount we consume, it seems we do not take much notice of what we are actually pouring down our throats. More than half (58 per cent) of Britons still think that Chablis is a type of grape when it is actually a region in France, with a further 43 per cent thinking Chardonnay is a region in France when it is actually a grape. Another 43 per cent failed to recognise that Beaujolais is a region in France, no doubt thinking about the 2nd Thursday in November when everybody in London gets legless by drinking the plonk which had only been bottled a couple of weeks previously!

And when it comes to Champers, despite the UK being the second biggest consumers of fizz in the world, nearly one in five (16 per cent) do not know that Champagne is in France rather than Spain, Italy or Germany. Sacrilege!

The research by Morrisons supermarket chain showed that nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of Britons claim that price is their main motivation when choosing a wine ahead of the label (44 per cent), colour (42 per cent), or to match their food (38 per cent).

Many of us do judge a book by its cover when it comes to wine, with almost a quarter (23 per cent) saying a pretty bottle will sway their decision.

Now I have to confess, when we did office ‘booze cruises’ to France (strangely called a booze cruise despite the fact that we generally took the train!), I piled as much cheap plonk as I could into my trolley. It was generally for my own drinking anyway, so quality wasn’t high on the list of priorities and I agree that given two similarly priced bottles, I would choose the one with the label which was most attractive.

Ten years on and having been exposed to, let’s say a more cultured way of drinking, I now know what wines to buy and whether a particular wine is a good buy.

Much of my wine comes from my mate who is running a wine business in the area and so I trust his judgement, and whilst some of his wines are quite superb, some are not quite so hot however, but it all comes down to personal taste in the end, and price of course.

But it was when a friend visited recently and I recalled that when she was my client in BT, she would decimate my expenses by ordering a hugely expensive wine, Gevrey Chambertin, so when she announced that she was coming down, I started looking for Gevrey Chambertin in the shops.

I found a 2002 at €22 and called my mate who has the wine business to see if he could supply it but his advice was ‘buy it – I can’t do it for that price’. Then I found a 2008 for €17 and latterly I’ve spotted a 1998 for €22, so despite my Scottish tendencies, I’ve been buying up expensive stocks of Gevrey Chambertin and laying them down for some time in the future when I’ll get a bottle out and think that if I was drinking it in a restaurant it would be costing €100 or so. And then I’ll put it back again – untouched, too mean to drink it!

Of course, J could wreak havoc on my Burgundy cellar by doing what she does to my stock of Chablis and Montagny Premier Cru – by using it in her cooking!   

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