I was thinking about wine lately and how it’s now such an intricate part of modern day Irish food and drink culture. I was listening to a renowned expert on radio waxing lyrical about the latest bargains, where to find them, how good value they were and that she had even been to the vineyard to see the stuff being made, all very entertaining and educational.
A feature item like this would have been unheard of thirty years ago and that there is an audience here now who will lap up every word is a testament to how far we have come in a few decades. It was Blue Nun or Black Tower when I was growing up. I ran a local wine club once upon a time in the noughties and the knowledge and enthusiasm from members was fascinating to see. The wine reps really know their stuff on the subject now but could do better on their food knowledge I find. I do like a few of the wine writers though.
I have lived in a couple of wine producing countries too and the contrast on how it is discussed by the public could not be starker. It seems when you are a country that makes the stuff it’s not such a big deal, it’s just there, part of everyday life. You drink the ordinary local wine at home every night with your dinner and for special occasions or if eating out you will go up a level or two and splash out a bit on something from further afield. There would be still no gushing and guffawing over the choice. It does not dominate the conversation, hardly mentioned sometimes. The media is much more restrained on it too.
There should not be much more to it than this, there is too much over analysis of wine. I truly think a lot of the wine world marketing is over the top, a competition in bamboozlement. It seems every bottle needs its own thesis and backstory now. You stick with the basics, whites for white meat and fish and reds for red meat and cheese and you pretty much cannot go wrong. It is all about a price war now too.
Another difference is wine as a standalone beverage, out on the pitch competing with beer, cocktails and spirits as a leisure pursuit aiming to get you legless. Wine was never made for this purpose and now its just abused.
It’s fine as a glass or two before a meal say with some nibbles but the idea of downing a few of bottles of red or white on their own during a night on the lash is really not what wine is for, which is actually to go with food and eating. It’s good news for wine sales but bad news for the human body. A few more glasses then properly sipped with lunch or dinner is fine.
It has sadly progressed to be a perfectly normal boozing option for a night out and if you happen to throw a few beers in on top of it along the way well it’s not just the liver that gets a pounding but your head will as well next day. After only a couple of glasses of red on its own for example the taste buds are already giving up on you. The more than double alcohol levels to beer strength means you will be on the tiles very quickly also.
The quality of wine on our shelves has improved enormously too. The supermarkets have really put it up to the off licences who just cannot compete with the bulk buying and direct relationships the big stores have at their disposal.
For under a tenner you can buy a fabulous bottle of red or white and there is no such thing as a bad bottle anymore or dodgy corks, anything iffy just will not make it onto the shelf. Unlike before when you might often end up with something just about good enough to cook with. The disappointment of finding that one bad bottle in a case is gone.
So we are in an exciting place in the world of wine, we have the country loving it and we even make a few Irish bottles here too. Can we just finally accept it though and get on with drinking it as it should be without all the fanfare or excess. It’s time we ourselves actually matured.