A Wined Up Awakening

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I am the type of person to go through phases. I will go through phases in pretty much every aspect of my life. Three years ago I would only drink pale ale beer, last year I went through a NZ Sauvignon Blanc phase and right now my Ipod is heavily rotating The Tragically Hip. I’m the kind of person to do something to death and then get bored of it.

I think most people have these tendencies and I guess it’s only natural to overuse something that you enjoy, however something horrible happened to me this year… I got tired of wine.

I don’t know what happened to be honest. If I look back to a year ago, I was constantly drinking wine. I was drinking it for fun and for research, then I returned to Sheffield to start running a wine bar and was exposed to very good quality wine on a daily basis. I was doing wine tastings every week and Lily and I were meeting with industry figures on a monthly basis. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction, then I started to lose interest.

You may recall a previous article I wrote documenting the fact that right now my wine collection is the largest its ever been and apart from a couple of summer barbecues where the stocks took a bit of a battering, it hasn’t depleted much. This is a rarity for me, as I normally drink wine faster than I receive it.

It didn’t really stop there to be honest. In recent months, I haven’t had the urge to buy wine. I can’t remember the last time I went into a merchant’s and bought a bottle.  In all fairness, I haven’t needed to buy a bottle due to the size of my collection, however I used to get enjoyment out of finding interesting bottles and adding them to the rack.

I’ve been trying to think why I’ve been so disillusioned with wine lately and I think I’ve drawn a conclusion… I’ve started living in the real world.

Good wine is expensive. I’ve been fortunate in my life to try world-class wines, often for free. Whether it has been from attending wine fairs with the privilege of wearing a ‘press’ bracelet, or when our wine supplier ‘Antoine’ used to come over to the bar in Lille with samples of the latest wines he had added to his inventory, or when I’ve been invited to monthly industry tastings (TNTs). I’ve just been fortunate.

Now I find myself in this weird limbo when my day job isn’t directly about wine. It’s worthwhile because I’m learning a lot of insights and skills that will benefit the progression of Wined Up, but for the first time in a while my day to day work isn’t solely based on wine, add that to the fact that I also have rent, car insurance, phone bills and gym memberships to pay… well spending £15-£25 on a bottle of wine doesn’t seem too appealing these days.

I’m also getting older. Older in the sense that my body isn’t as resilient to a hangover as it used to be. Even as recently as a year ago I could drink two bottles of wine, turn up to work the next day, do a 10 hour shift and then meet my friends afterwards for drinks. Now, even the thought of that gives me a hangover.

All these factors have sort of made me become slightly disillusioned with wine, and to be honest for the last couple of months I’ve been ok with it. I’ve had different priorities, different goals and even when I have drunk wine I’ve not taken the time to really appreciate it, and then one night it all changed.

I arrived home from work and didn’t have to be in until later the next day so I decided to have a glass. I looked at the wine rack and chose something that I didn’t mind ‘wasting’. What I mean by that term is that if I fell asleep on the couch after a couple of glasses and it had oxidised by the next morning then I wouldn’t cry too much over it. I ended up picking out a bottle of Marques de Valencia, 2011 Valencia Gran Riserva, that I got from Virgin Wines for about £10. (For anyone unaware this is a red wine made from the Tempranillo grape, the same grape used for Rioja)

I opened the bottle up, sat on the couch, put ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ on and poured myself a glass. As I took a sip I didn’t even really take note of any taste profiles, I just saw it for what it was… wine. After about 15 minutes it started to open up. The subtle smokey aromas of French Oak that the bottle boasted it had been aged in started to really come through, along with lovely well-rounded dark fruit aromas. The balance of tannin was lovely as the bitterness was present but it didn’t dry my mouth out. It was a lovely full-bodied red wine. Now don’t get me wrong, this wine wasn’t the best wine I’ve ever tasted. It was nice, but I have had nicer wine, however that’s not the point. The point I am slowly making is the fact that this wine was the first time in a good while that I’ve just enjoyed a glass of wine without having to think about it. The flavour profiles were present and I just subconsciously (until I realised I was doing it) analysed the wine. It didn’t feel like a chore or work, it was just the first time in a while that I’d enjoyed a glass of wine.

So what is the point of me saying all this? Well, I have always preached that people should just drink wine because they enjoy it and not think too much about it, however I didn’t realise this but I had started to do the exact opposite of the mantra of this blog. Through always analysing wine I actually made it a bit of a chore to drink. I also was just drinking too much of it and it got to the point where I was bored of always drinking wine and then engaging my brain by identifying typical characteristics etc.

It took that one moment where I had just switched off to have a bottle for the purposes that I claim everyone should drink wine for… to enjoy it. It made me think back to why I enjoy wine in the first place (read why here) and realise that not everyone can justify spending the ridiculous amounts on a bottle that I didn’t used to bat an eyelid about. With this in mind, going forward I am going to dedicate a number of articles that go back to the roots of Wined Up and start focussing on writing about good affordable wine that you can easily pick up online or from a shop.

– J A M E S


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