So what's it like being a wine writer?
And is Dom Pérignon worth the money ...
There are those - my friends among them - who think that being a wine writer isn’t a proper job. Having to go to tastings and lunches. Being sent wine, Swanning round the world’s vineyards which by and large tend to be in rather gorgeous places. What’s not to like?
Well, I don’t expect any sympathy but it’s harder than it sounds. Tasting 100-odd wines is actually quite tough. Having your flat effectively turned into a wine warehouse full of cardboard boxes isn’t the best look. Finding something new to say about rosé or what wine to drink with turkey in the run-up to Christmas is quite challenging. Endlessly checking prices which seemingly change all the time at the moment.
OK, OK. It’s not *that* hard compared to the vast majority of people’s jobs and mostly fun so I thought you might enjoy this piece I posted some 8 years ago about a not untypical day which started with one huge supermarket tasting (Asda), went on to a Dom Pérignon lunch and finished with another one (Morrisons).
These are the kind of questions my friends and relatives tend to ask (with a couple of edits)
So how many wines did you taste?
Hmmm, about 180 I’d guess
How could you possibly taste anything by the end of it?
Good question. The fact is that you’re not going to taste as well at the end of the day as you do at the beginning, particularly after a *cough* Dom Pérignon lunch at which not much (actually no) spitting was done. But you get enough of an idea to tell whether it’s a cracking wine or ... er....crap
But don’t your personal preferences come into that?
Yes and no. I must say 20-odd young sauvignon blancs become quite wearisome as does a line-up of huge, overripe 14.5% reds but you try and look at them from the perspective of readers who like those styles. You can still tell which are the stars
Doesn’t it make you drunk?
Not drunk precisely but you do inevitably absorb some alcohol through the lining of your mouth. I wouldn’t want to drive after a tasting
What’s Dom Pérignon like?
Pretty extraordinary. In the case of the 2005 (the vintage at the lunch in question), exotically rich, honeyed and vinous - i.e. it’s not just for quaffing at a party. We also ‘tasted’ - i.e. drank - the 1998 and 1971 which costs a cool £1801 at Hedonism
Blimey! So how much is the 2005?
£130. (It now costs £252 at Nickolls & Perks. The current 2013 vintage costs about £195-210, quite a hefty increase)
That seems a bargain by comparison. But it worth four times the average champagne?
Oooo, tricky one. For most people the answer's obviously no but it’s not about value for money, it’s about style, theatre, entertainment .... Think of the fashion industry. You can get cheaper shoes than Jimmy Choos but if you want them and can afford them you buy them. DP is an experience not just a drink. (Makes note to self to use that line somewhere)
Would you buy it?
If money were no object, yes. (But see what I - or you - could get for the same money below) Given the current state of my bank balance, no.
So what did you eat?
An elegant little crab, raw asparagus and samphire salad. A simply gorgeous dish of guineafowl with broad beans and lashings of tarragon butter and gariguette strawberries with set cream (panna cotta to you and me) and brown butter and rye shortbreads. Cooked by Skye Gyngell of Spring (to which you should go by the way. It’s still great, as I mentioned the other day.)
OK, let’s get back to the real world shall we? What about the supermarket tastings? Which was better - Asda or Morrisons?
Read the Guardian in a couple of weeks time and I’ll tell you. (Currently I’d say Asda has the edge)
Oh, go on - give me a couple of recommendations
If you like crisp Italian whites the 2014 M Signature Verdicchio is a real bargain from Morrisons at £5.49 (It’s now called The Best Verdicchio and is £7.50 though there’s 25% off if you buy any 3 bottles in the range which brings it down to £5.63 - cheaper than 8 years ago! However the website is saying the vintage is 2015 which would be far too old. Guessing they’ve just forgotten to update it. Not helpful, though.)
And Asda’s Extra Special Douro - a big dense spicy red made from the same varieties as port - is a steal at £5. (It’s still a decent buy at £6.75)
Were you tired at the end of the day?
As a dog ….
Looking back on this the interesting thing is how little supermarket prices have increased in the period - and how much champagne ones have although you can still, incredibly buy a bottle of bubbly - the Carpentier Brut - at Lidl for £13.99. You could buy FOURTEEN bottles of that for the price of one bottle of Dom Pérignon. Makes you think, doesn’t it …
If you’d like to support my writing and get exclusive food and wine tips you can subscribe to Eat This Drink That for as little as £4.50 a month. Much, much less than a glass of Dom Pérignon ..