needs to be 'dishy'
weird. Iím not like most other people. For me, wine is a hobby Ė
Iím interested in all the detail; the regions, vineyards and people
behind the wine. For most wine drinkers, though, itís just a drink.
Itís a commodity, like bread, sugar and tea. They want a glass of
wine. It just needs to be good enough, and appropriately priced, which
for most means cheap. So hereís my personal view of what makes a
good cheap wine. It has to be Ďdishyíóin a very corny play on
this word, here are some of the virtues I think are important.
Good cheap wine has to be easy to drink. Often when I do
tastings for non-expert groups, they have a small pour of each wine
and I ask them which they liked the most. But the easiest way to find
this out is to see which bottle is finished first when we get to the
drinking stage of the evening. Itís hard to say what makes a wine
drinkable: itís a sort of combination of all its properties. The
most striking or initially flattering wines arenít always the most
drinkable. I guess balance and harmony are the keys.
One of the appealing things about wine is that it isnít a
manufactured beverage: itís a largely natural product that can bear
the imprint of the region or even vineyard that it has come from. I
love wines that carry some sense of identity or place: this is
possible even in cheap wines. Itís like human personality: the
highly polished, smooth, flawless Harvard MBA types arenít always
terribly interesting company. Give me someone with distinctiveness and
a spark of originality. Think of it this way: quality is not an
absence of flaws.
Lots of cheap wines are deliberately made in a slight
sweeter style, whether this is by means of a sweet character to the
fruit or even some residual sugar left in. Itís meant to make them
more flattering and appealing to non-hardened-wine drinkers. But I
like a table wine to be savoury. I like acidity. I like a bit of
structure or spice. I donít like cloying, jammy fruit.
This is important: we want our wines to have integrity and
authenticity. We donít want them to be manufactured, or forced.
Again, itís like personality. I want my friends to be honest: I hate
it when people are putting on a face for the world that differs from
how they really are, or when they say things for effect or to
manipulate others. Thereís a boundary line in winemaking (hard to
draw, I know, but still real), which, once crossed, takes a wine from
being natural to one that is manufactured. This could be through
particular additions, or through technical manipulations, or through
stylistic choices. Fake wines abound at lower price points, and I like
to look for the real ones.
Finally, thereís an almost indefinable yet important
characteristic shared by all good cheap wines: that of yumminess. You
know whether a wine has this property or not when you take the first
sip. Itís very much context dependent: is this wine the right one
for here and now? It could depend on what you are eating, or who you
are with, or even where you are. Itís very satisfying when the wine
matches the occasion perfectly and just tastes yummy.
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