Drinking Outside The Box

With Simon Woods – wine for people who have a life

Just say ‘no’ to Chardonnay – Why you should experiment more

The words ‘head’, ‘bang’ and brick wall’ spring to mind when it comes to wine and my mum. Well-read, theatrical to the point of high camp and a great cook, she has a blind spot where wine is concerned. The line she trots out is, ‘They all taste the same to me.’ I resist the temptation to say, ‘And of course you’ve tried them all,’ and keep shoving different glasses under her finely chiselled nose in the hope that one day, something will make her sit up and take notice.

Not everyone is as blinkered as Mrs W., but there are still several million people who, in wine terms, really should get out a bit more. When they steer their wobbly trolley down the wine aisle, or pop into their local bottle shop, they almost head for, if not the same wine every time, then certainly the same style. Cheap Californian Chardonnays, Chilean Merlots and Italian Pinot Grigios can be honest, decent drinks, but – and let’s be honest here – while the labels for Brands X, Y and Z might be different, the wines often taste like they’ve come out of the same tank (or vat in winespeak – it sounds better, even if it’s still a two million litre stainless steel container). If your definition of being adventurous is simply flitting from X to Y to Z, then maybe you can use the ‘They all taste the same to me’ line.

But there are dozens, even hundreds of alternatives in most stores. And if you don’t try them soon, the message you’re sending to the shop owner is that more choice is actually a bad thing. A wall of bottles can be daunting, but you don’t have to try them all. All I’m asking is for a Chardonnay-free week (or month, if you’re feeling game) when you by-pass your preferred tipple and try something different. Otherwise, the range in store will get smaller and smaller until all that’s left is Brands X, Y and Z. Do you really want that on your conscience?

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