Brits and fine wine

Feb 11, 2013

The Brits’ relationship with fine wine is shaky at best, especially if you’re male and under thirty. If you have the audacity to drink wine in public in Britain you will definitely have a strange look thrown unceremoniously at you from a ‘normal’ drinker.

As a nation we’re much more comfortable guzzling rivers of larger or forcing down that eighth jagerbomb with our arms around the lads in some awful under furnished pub than uncorking a bottle. Britain proudly holds the mantle around the world for drinking to get drunk, rather than drinking to enjoy drinking. Wine, it seems, doesn’t really have a home. This is a genuine problem because, as we’re all struggling to admit, gentlemen drink wine whereas everybody else doesn’t. It gives the drinker a je ne sais quoi.

Youth wine drinking is embraced in the Med rather than poo-pooed. This may have something to do with Britain’s comparatively bad food. Not many of our own dishes compliment a fine wine. Fish and chips or a chicken tikka curry doesn’t exactly really scream for a complimentary vintage. It’s not because we can’t drink wine like the Mediterranean crowd. Drinking wine, especially red wine, is actually a very simple process. It comes in three easy-to-follow stages. Sip, enjoy, relax. You can even add the ‘repeat’ stage as a fourth part of this process.

There is the old argument that Britain doesn’t really have the climate to produce the necessary wine grapes so let’s not bother about the stuff. We pour our brewing efforts into cider and real ale instead. But despite this not being true (English sparkling wines in the south have really taken off in the last decade) it is still no grounds to treat wine drinkers with a degree of unspoken hostility. Maybe it’s jealousy from the Average Joe that fuels this. The sorry state of affairs when he looks up over the rim of his water-stained pint glass at the wine drinker in the far corner of the bar and thinks: “why can’t I do what he’s doing?”

Because there is no denying that drinking wine is a handsome activity to go about. Veteran wine drinkers do sometimes shoot themselves in the foot by pretending to know more about buying wine than anybody has a right to know, even people in the wine industry. There are simple rules to this engagement: don’t pretend to have an expert palate (nobody does, not even the experts); don’t pretend to recognise a certain fusion of far-out flavours (nobody knows about that) and don’t pretend to know which was a ‘good year’ in certain corners of the world (nobody knows about that either). Non-wine drinkers hate to hear wine-drinkers talk the talk. Honesty is paramount. Stick to what works. Mmmmm wine. I think I’m going to drink some wine now …

James Fredrick Gray

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