So what have you been doing for the last 15 years? Time certainly does fly, especially when you’re a very successful wine trader and bon viveur, like wot I am.
So what have you been doing for the last 15 years? Time certainly does fly, especially when you’re a very successful wine trader and bon viveur, like wot I am. When I first started in the wine trade, I was cellarman at an iconic London hotel which I won’t mention *coughs* the Savoy *cough*. Out of the three hundred wines on the list, there were only ten non-French wines. Then, I discovered the riches of the roller coaster rockstar lifestyle. I was the engine room bass player of a fetid band called The Family Cat. Adorning the cover of Melody Maker, we were described thusly: “Of all the new bands attracting attention this summer, The Family Cat look among the fittest to survive.” We didn’t. A decade later, when I found myself working for a major wine shop chain which I won’t mention *coughs* Oddbins *coughs*, France only represented 30% of the portfolio, an incredible difference, I’m sure you’ll agree. Huge advances were made in the New World with great value wines from Australia, USA, South Africa, Argentina and particularly Chile.
Ahhh. The 90’s. I can still smell them. In 1996, you could get an amazing bottle of Chilean Merlot for next to nothing, wine that would make poor St Emiliion at twice the price look like dishwater. We also saw the introduction of fabulous Malbecs from Argentina, deep rich and really tasty, still at a very reasonable price. It was an incredible turnaround in just ten years – especially when you consider that we’d had a century of Old World dominance in the World of Wine.
The problem is those fiendish spivs in the supermarket trade are still selling those wines at the same price. 15 years later!! What is that telling you about the quality you are buying? A decent sirloin steak in 1996 was £2.50, would you even consider buying a steak that cost £2.50 now? (unless you were untarnished Spanish cycling god, Alberto Contador). So why are people still buying wine at that low price. The Chilean Sauvignon you buy at £5-6 at Waitrose is the equivalent of bargain basement battery farmed chicken. There’s no other way to say this – don’t buy it.
In the misty distant years since I was at Oddbins, that quality end of the wine market has switched dramatically. Now, I ask you. Would you still walk around with your hair front-combed into a Britpop moptop (if you have any left at all, of course)? Would you swagger over to your top of the range Kenwood cassette deck, holding a £5 metal-formula cassette and review the mixtape you made for your new girlfriend (the one who luckily looks like Winona Ryder and not, thankfully, Shaun Ryder) which, congratulating yourself, managed to wedge in Teenage Fan Club, Underworld AND Ocean Colour Scene? Would you enjoy a Chris Evans TV show? Would you happily vote for Tony Blair? No. And why? Because you don’t live in the sodding 90’s, anymore. Unfortunately, many restaurants and hotels ARE still living in the 90’s. They probably go home on a Friday night and hope The Word will be on after Friends finishes. Thus, that bottle of Chilean Sauvignon you pay £16 for in a gastropub is exactly the same wine that it ever was. The battery chicken of the wine world. The same thing goes for £18 Aussie shiraz and the £17 Californian Chardonnay.
Now, you, the discerning palettes of the LUSSO fraternity/sorority would obviously be looking to far superior bottles. Especially when dining out, or laying down. I draw your attention to the new tasting notes video featuring our august editor and master sommelier/top Frenchman, Christopher Delalonde, of the rather very good Boundary Restaurant. I happen to concur that the Mac Forbes Yarra Glenn 2008 Pinot Noir Christopher pulls out is as good a New World wine as you’re going to drink.
It’s unfiltered, unfined and heavily footstomped. How’s about that for real deal? Whatever you pay for it at the Boundary, or elsewhere, it will be worth it. This is the future of wine. Great, premium bottles, drunk with reflection and contemplation, whether from Australia, South America or the new big territories, Spain and Italy.
You do yourself and the god Bacchus a great disservice when you pay peanuts for piddle with added steroids, human growth hormone, and that’s been irradiated to within an inch of it’s life. Pay decent money, because it’s not the 90’s and you’re not living on Pot Noodle anymore. Having said that, I can recommend you go on the interwebs and listen to some 90s music. Perhaps The Family Cat. Now they were a GREAT band.