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Ten things that can impair wine drinking pleasure
  • Wrong glassware
    This might sound a bit fussy, but in order to appreciate a fine wine, a decent glass is an absolute essential. I can't think of many things more frustrating than having to drink first growth Bordeaux from a beaker or an ornate cut crystal glass of the wrong shape.
  • Corked wine
    The number one frustration for wine geeks is opening a prize bottle that has been slowly maturing for years or even decades in the cellar, only to find that it is corked. Of course, the wine is by then by longer available commercially, so a replacement is not possible. And bearing in mind that some 2-7% of all wines are ruined at source by cork-borne contaminants, it is worrying to think how many bottles in my cellar are likely to turn out spoiled in this way.
  • Incorrect serving temperature
    Again, this might seem fussy, but the serving temperature of wines is crucial. Scientific studies have shown that at different temperatures, sweetness and bitterness are perceived differently by the tongue. Thus a new world Chardonnay might taste flabby and sweet when served at room temperature, but taut and savoury when chilled. And when it is ice-cold, it might taste of nothing at all. Reds served warm can taste unfocused and unstructured, yet when too cool might taste rather bitter and tannic.
  • Competing odours
    There are few impairments to winetasting as immediate as standing next to someone wearing too much fragrance. Just as distracting is the presence of smokers, or as I once encountered in a high-end restaurant, the burning of incense sticks and scented candles.
  • Poor lighting conditions
    I actually gain a lot from seeing the colour of the wine as I'm drinking it. Sad, isn't it?
  • Bad company
    Enough said? Fortunately, most winefolk I know are fun to be around.
  • Ridiculous restaurant mark ups
    This subject makes me so cross. Why is it that restaurants practice a flat mark up on wine of some 300-400%? All they do is store it (and it is becoming increasingly rare to find decently aged wines on a wine list), and take the cork out. A flat charge of some 10 per bottle would be fairer, as it takes the same effort to do this for a cheap wine as it does for an expensive one. And, you never know, people might actually buy more and better wine if they didn't feel they were being so comprehensively ripped-off!
  • Having to drive
    It is frustrating going to a wine do knowing you won't actually be able to enjoy more than a glass of the stuff. And public transport late at night is often quite an experience, at least in London.
  • Knowing it is your last bottle
    The joy of uncorking an ethereal wine from the cellar is tempered to a degree by the realisation that there is no more of this vinous nectar left, and it is not possible to get any more.
  • Colds
    There's nothing for it: when you have a heavy cold, you simply can't enjoy wine in the same way. Time to abstain, or switch to the supermarket bargains.