Friday, 19 August 2011

Some people don't wear clothes

Do you wear clothes? Some people don't, you know.

No, they get up in the morning and pull on (never simply put on) pieces (not mere clothes) from their day-to-evening capsule wardrobes. A tee in this season's brights might be paired with a must-have nude midi (the mind boggles). These ladies (for it is they) may slick their lips with some high shine gloss and re-coat their nails in Chanel's mimosa nail polish (yellow vomit-coloured in case you don't know it) before running out the door to their high-powered jobs. And where do they work? The fashion industry – specifically the world of fashion journalism.

It all sounds exhausting. And all those vaguely fetishistic words to do with clothes make me shudder. Why can't they just say skirt and t-shirt like the rest of us?

But are we in the wine trade just as guilty of fetishizing our subject matter too? Do we risk putting off averagely-interested wine drinkers with our talk of silky tannins which dance across the palate, clothed in filigree acidity, clasped to the chest of a dance partner of brooding power?

And before you say anything, I know I know, mea culpa. I too find it hard to avoid some of those rather fanciful metaphorical descriptions for wine. Life would be dull indeed if we had to stick to just the technical details of a wine to describe it.

Here's an example, based on the wine I'm sipping as I write this: this red wine is a medium intensity ruby in colour, with medium body, balanced acidity and tannin. The black fruit character is pronounced and alcohol is 14.5%. Are you driven to go out and buy some to try on the strength of that description? I'm guessing not. And yet this could accurately describe many of the perfectly delicious bottles of red wine available in your local supermarket or wine merchant.

The trouble is, it doesn't tell you anything that might help you to decide to try one bottle rather than any other. Ultimately the language we use to describe wine is an attempt to convey a sense of what it actually feels like to drink it, rather than just a nuts and bolts description of its constituent parts. Wine is not (at least in most cases) merely alcoholic Ribena.

So, in the end, I should exhibit some fellow feeling and cut those fashion writers some slack. Forgive them their habits of wearing pieces instead of clothes, as you forgive me my talk of precious liquids instead of just wine. In the end they're just trying to relieve the boredom of having to describe yet another pair of trousers.

But (whisper it) I can't help feeling that clothes are just clothes.

It may have escaped your notice that the Glorious Twelfth and with it the official start of the grouse shooting season is upon us. So, having bagged your game bird after a day's shooting on the grouse moor (or a quick trip to the butcher's), which wines will make a suitable accompaniment?

Cuvée Chasseur 2010, £4.29 from Waitrose
At the budget end of the scale is this appropriately-named French wine, which translates roughly as “hunter's lot”. This is the kind of wine that has been Australia's bread and butter for the last 15 years: a simple, very easy drinking blend that has bags of sweet sour cherry and black fruit with barely a hint of tannin. Unlike most bargain Aussie reds, however, this has just 12% alcohol, making for a much more food-friendly and versatile drink.

Pinot noir is perhaps THE grape to seek out for game – its soft tannins and juicy red fruit will meld harmoniously with game fowl without leaving a mouthpuckering dryness.

The Society Exhibition Martinborough Pinot Noir 2009, £12.95 at The Wine Society
This is made for The Wine Society by Craggy Range, whose name is a byword for quality wines in New Zealand. Martinborough, right at the southern tip of the North Island, is a pinot noir enclave which faces the sauvignon blanc stronghold of Marlborough across the narrow Cook Strait which separates the two islands.

This is fairly light-coloured, as is most pinot noir, but has no shortage of chunky, spice-tinged fruit allied to earthy flavours which mirror the savouriness of game. The mouthfeel (wine fetishism alert) is silky and the finish, like Celine Dion's love, will go on....and on.

If you like this style, also look out for Craggy Range's more opulent Te Muna Road Martinborough Pinot Noir 2008, £19.99 from Taurus Wines in Bramley.

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