There’s a reason why new world wines have caught on with your average Briton – you don’t need to know very much about wine to understand what you’re buying. French wines, on the other hand, are named after the places they’re from, rather than the grape. And they tend to be more expensive.
If the description on the label is in French only, retailers might as well put them on a shelf with a sticker saying ‘Don’t waste your time’.
A bit of knowledge – and, ahem, a commitment to drinking wine – can pay dividends, however.
I was stood in the off licence recently next to a couple who were looking thoroughly baffled. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but I’m not deaf so I couldn’t help but hear their conversation.
They wanted a bottle of wine to go with a roast chicken. Unusually, they wanted a red wine but didn’t know what to choose.
Based on the fact that they had enjoyed a sauvignon blanc previously, they plumped for a cabernet sauvignon because it sounded similar but was red. They were about to head off towards the till when the guy surprised me by turning to me and asking what I thought.
All those years of trying wine were made for that moment.
A bit of further questioning – why red (“it’s posher”), who’s it for (“her parents”) and how much did they want to spend (“up to £10”) – I was able to offer a few suggestions…
The off licence didn’t have any Beaujolais, so that ruled out the first of them. But it did have some pinot noirs and some merlots. Among my suggestions was a Burgundy that was in their price bracket. They picked it up, thanked me profusely and headed for the till.
All I hope is that they enjoyed it.