Normally we choose wines that we feel represent us, we buy in to the marketing of a Natural wine, or a wine made at a place we like to go on holiday; in short, a wine we might have a connection with (whether true or imagined). I wonder, though, if it works in the opposite direction – if wine actually choses us.
What I mean is that, with the increased prices being paid for top wines (by top earners), is the consumption of wine merely going to become another social indicator: ‘I own a Purdey side-by-side and drink Chateau Margaux’.
I am quite worried that the people we turn to for our wine reviews (Parker, Suckling, etc.) are living a life no longer aspirational but far out of touch and beyond the comprehension of too many people.
Now all I see are lots of wine writers and journalists blogging, tweeting, etc. from top restaurants, staying in top hotels, drinking top wines, posing for a pic with a flush-faced winemaker in front of massive fireplace, etc. and it’s becoming more and more like my nose is getting rubbed in it. ‘It’ being whatever you wish.
Ten years ago I could buy bottles of Pichon-Lalande at Tesco’s in Leytonstone. I have a feeling (although it’s hard to verify from the other side of the world) that this is probably not the case any more.
You see, the world of envy and desire that social media creates (one of its less likeable social facets) means that certain members of the wine trade don’t mind telling others how the foie gras at the French Laundry is sublime. I’m sure it is. But it seems more and more as if this kind of thing doesn’t concern the majority of the wine drinking public out there.
The crusade against fraudulent wines has a similar effect on me. Other than affecting a ridiculously wealthy section of society, I find myself unable to invest in any feelings whatsoever about very rich men like the Kochs getting tricked out of a few thousand dollars. In fact, I almost applaud it. At the very least it pokes little holes into the snobbery of collecting and drinking rare wines that are not destined for the tables of mere mortals.
It is as if we have gone back in time to the old British wine merchants and writers, content to live in a rarefied world where the plebs drink Liebfraumilch and the true wine lover wants to know about spectacular lunch put on by a cru classé while it tries to ply its wares at En Primeur – Left Bank cru classé, of course. At least back then the crusty Old Boys weren’t tweeting it about the place.
Perhaps it was always this way, but I grew up understanding that the journalist and writer’s role was to represent – and wave the flag for – the common man. The more I see of the wine trade, the more I wonder if the wine writer and journalist has any concept of what the common man is.