I Don’t Understand Wine Experts

I work with two wonderful ladies, whom I think suffer unbearably in life; one is allergic to tea and the other is allergic to chocolate. They seem rather happy about their lot though, it must be said. In turn, they think I have an awful life because I am allergic to wine. And I don’t mean the “oh, it gives me a raging hangover” type of allergy, I’m talking about the full on throat swelling, muscle spasm type of allergy. And it bothers me greatly.

It bothers me, because I’ve always wondered what it must be like to drink a really good bottle of the best wine and, more to the point, to understand what makes it a good wine rather than merely ordinary. Many people claim to be “wine experts” (and I’ve seen enough Saturday Kitchen to wonder if their main qualification is that they like a drink) but because I can’t drink the stuff, I’ve never pursued it. Does the flavour of ripe berries make a wine better than the taste of dark chocolate? I really wouldn’t know.

The reason this is at the forefront of my mind is because I am currently reading about a group of particularly wealthy people who buy bottles of incredibly expensive, old and rare wines – and don’t drink them. Now to me, if you buy an expensive painting, it’s meant to be looked at, so you wouldn’t buy it and put it in the cupboard under the stairs where it would never be seen again. So if you are going to pay thousands of pounds for a bottle of wine, surely logic would state that you would drink it, wouldn’t you?

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that logic plays very little part in oenophilia (the technical term for wine appreciation). The value of that bottle is in the fact that it has never been opened; air has not got into the bottle to taint the precious nectar inside. The dust and muck that collects on the outside is all very well, but the contents have to be untouched from the day they were bottled. So there are quite genuinely people in this world who pay unimaginable sums of money for a bottle of wine that is going to sit in a cellar until it gets sold on or – which would be poetic in my opinion – some ignorant philistine with a grudge decides to reach for a glass and crack it open.

If there were true justice in the world, that would be when they find out it has turned into vinegar.


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