REFLECTIONS ON OUR VISIT TO UK
WHERE OFTEN, MORE IS LESS!
Whilst we were primarily, of course, in the UK to enjoy the company of family and friends at Christmas time, I’m always indulged as far as my observation of current wine trends is concerned. For my part I like to think I strike a happy balance, occasionally I stop taking wine notes and listen!
Our visit last Easter was, it seemed, like surfing in on a giant wave of Sauvignon Blanc! The UK was awash with wines made from this super-crisp grape variety. It was the preferred choice in most houses we visited as well as in pubs and bars, and the wine shops and supermarket shelves were loaded with the stuff. No, problem, I like Sauvignon, and it was a pleasure to try the same from so many different countries – the UK is still the best country on the planet for wine variety!
I expected the same at Christmas – but hey, Sauvignon, move over and make room for Pinot Griggio! Yes the Italian, oh-so-slightly grey-tinged grape variety is currently in vogue. And again, no problem, I often like this wine too, plus it’s good to enjoy variety when offered a glass of dry white.
It seems that, unlike here in Spain, the UK wine drinking public follows fads. What’s ‘in’ this month (maybe week?) could well ‘passé next. I’m quite sure also that, as these darlings of the moment are still good wines, even when they inevitably fall from prominence, they will return another time. It’s a cyclical thing, but who’s turning the wheel, and why?
It may be that the people responsible are those noble gentlepeople of the press (should wine columnists be known as the wine press, do you think?!). If a wine writer is bombarded with samples of a certain grape variety he/she’s bound to write about the wines he tastes. Ergo the more writers who receive these samples, the more column inches there are and bingo, the current tide turns in favour of this next variety. So who orchestrates the sample sending – is it merely coincidence?
I use the ‘more is less’ term here to describe two other traits I noticed in the UK. Cork Talk readers will know that one never fills a wine glass more than a third full. But it seems that in the UK this is not the case (except in the homes we visited, of course, where friends and family are also discerning wine drinkers). I all the pubs and restaurants we patronised glasses were filled almost to the brim. Why is this?
I suspect that it is because an unaware public will feel short-changed if they are served a glass that is well short of full. In fact, though, they are already being cheated – of all the aromas, integral to full wine appreciation, that wine offers prior to tasting. If it’s difficult to put the glass to your lips without spilling the contents how can we possibly swirl and sniff and allow those fragrances to tempt us? More is less!
Also ‘more is less’ when I consider many of the wines that I tasted, though you may disagree. Almost all of the red wines I drank, many in fact from Chile (the biggest culprit?), were big. Big in up-front fruit and/or up-font fruit and oak combined as well as big in alcohol. I liked them, initially. The bold flavours please the palate, but the second glass, well it was just too much! Bigger wines, these days it seems, equal less complexity.
Has subtlety been left out of the New World Wine Dictionary? Is finesse a thing of the past in wines from these countries? Has the sophisticated palate been GBH’d by overripe fruit, high alcohol and wooden clubs? More is less!