Should I Drink What’s Good Or What I Like?
They say (not sure who ‘they’ are) everyone needs a hobby. I am very lucky that my primary hobby is also my source of income. Wine. I bloody love it. Wine is my passion and I love sharing it with anyone who’s interested. I do realise however that not everyone is interested and nor do they have to be. You know what? That’s fine. I don’t like the music of Justin Bieber. In fact, I don’t understand why anyone does. But It’s none of my business why they do. It makes no difference in my life. I just accept that they do. I think that people finding joy in anything is only a good thing. You might find that joy in wine, in music, in pictures of 1930’s German telegraph poles. Finding joy and relaxation in something is to be celebrated.
When it comes to wine I like to share recommendations (in fact, that’s pretty much what my job is, recommending wines) I share on public forums like Twitter and Instagram (you, yeah you, give me a follow hey…) What I will not do is badger you in your own time and try to get you to drink something I like. How do I decide what to recommend? I obviously recommend wines that I think are good. However the concept of ‘good’ is different for all of us. They (mentioned at the start) say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The road to pissing off wine drinkers is paved with the carcasses of those who tried to tell them what ‘good’ was.
So What Is A Good Wine
This will come as a surprise but we all have our own view of what makes a good wine, well, err, good. Those of us who have been through the WSET qualifications will often talk about BLIC. I’ve taught this acronym and think it’s a good starting point. BLIC is a system that allows us to compare similar and different wines together and have an absolute scale of quality upon which any wine can sit. Here’s a quick breakdown:
B = Balance. Is the wine structurally sound (pay attention at the back) Do all the components sit well together? To use a musical analogy, can you hear all the instruments nicely together or do the drums stick out too much? Is the bass too low in the mix or has the lead guitarist continually just kept turning themselves up.
L = Length. For how long can you taste the wine once you’ve spat/swallowed? Is the song a radio friendly 3 minute pop ditty or does it last a little longer and tell you about Galileo and thunderstorms?
I = Intensity. Does the wine leap out of the glass with aroma and flavour or do you have to stick your conk in there and Inspector Morse it around to find any character? Does the song stand out or does it just wash into the background?
C = Complexity. Does the wine have lots of flavours or is it one dimensional? Does the song have a lot going on with thoughtful lyrics and perhaps mixing of time signatures or is it just 4 on the floor with a basic rhythm and melody?
Now, this is all well and good and does provide a framework with which to carry out an analysis of ‘good’. From this we can surmise that a good wine is balanced with all the components working together. A good wine has a long finish with intense and complex flavours. Great. We’re all agreed on what a good wine is then.
But what kind of ‘good’ is this? It’s a technical good. That’s why we drink it right? To think about how technically blinding this is? Of course it isn’t. This system doesn’t allow for the more emotive response. I personally drink wine because of how it makes me feel. I look for the emotional, the story the wine is telling, for something a bit more ephemeral. All of these things add up to my overall enjoyment.
Let’s continue the musical theme and think about technical ability. Yngwie Malmsteen is, technically speaking, VERY proficient with a guitar. In fact, the only thing he can’t do with a Stratocaster is put it down. I respect what he does very much and admire that he has put a great deal of time and effort in to becoming as good as he is. However, his music does not move me in any way. I find it all a bit much and it wears me down. (No doubt you’re feeling something similar dear reader) So he’s good, but I don’t particularly enjoy what he does.
The Rolling stones. Technically speaking aren’t that astounding. Much of Keef’s work is fairly straightforward and Mr Watts is not known for being a Keith Moon style showman. Mick Jagger rarely comes up in a conversation regarding the world’s greatest singers. However, they’re music is definitely good…to me. It has feeling and emotion. Do you ever put on Let It Bleed to hear how technical it is? Do you funk. You put it on to hear the story, follow a groove, to relax…whatever your reason I doubt it’s to analyse it’s technical qualities. I would imagine this is the same for most people who listen to music. Even jazz fans. I bloody love The Rolling stones.
This is not to say I/we don’t appreciate the technical side of things. When drinking wine or listening to music I take it into account but it only forms a part of my overall enjoyment.
So What’s Your Point Wineman?
I find I am asking myself two questions. Do I care about people drinking good wine? Yes, very much. Do I care about people drinking wine they actually enjoy? Yes, more so. The latter is more important. I am sure that those people would say the wine they’re drinking is good, regardless of BLIC, a point score or what I think. Let’s look at the world’s most successful (based on most volume sold) wine brand. Barefoot sold 22.5 million 9L cases sold last year.
If we apply our BLIC system to Barefoot it doesn’t come out on top. But the people drinking it aren’t drinking it for technical reasons. They’re drinking it because they like it (I hope that’s the case) Why they like it is up to them. Maybe they like its flavour. Maybe they like the fact it’s affordable. Maybe it’s perception as being unstuffy, not snobby and approachable. For whatever reason, they like it. Does it matter that I don’t like it? Does it funk. Do I judge people for drinking it? When performing my wine stand up, yes I do. Do I really mean that, of course not. I just want people to enjoy their wine and find some joy in it.
It’s almost as if people are basing their drinking choices on their own personal taste. How f*cking self indulgent is that? As long as that choice isn’t predicated upon some blind ignorance or prejudice I’m not sure I see a problem. Wine is a luxury item, not a necessity. The first duty of any wine is to be enjoyed by the drinker.
So What Is The Point Of You?
Believe me I’ve been asking this question for a good long time. As has my wife. Whilst I can’t answer the existential I can tell you one of my greatest joys as a wine lover and merchant. Those of us with experience and knowledge (two very different things) can act as interactive signposts to the interested traveller. I have had a great deal of happiness from helping others, be they colleagues, friends or customers, to discover a bottle they really like that they might not have otherwise discovered. It’s much like being a music fan. “Oh, you like band X, then I think you’ll really enjoy band Y. Check out their album Z.” I still do this based on whether I think a wine is good or not but what I try to establish is what ‘good’ looks like to that individual rather than just foghorn at them what is good to me.
If that drinker of Barefoot wants to explore other wines they might enjoy I’d love to be the one to have that conversation. If they don’t want to explore other wines then that’s fine. We’re both wine drinkers so I’m sure we can find some common ground. Unless they’re a Justin Bieber fan…