Wine is for special occasions – that was the attitude of my parents. It’s fortunate for me, however, that whenever I questioned, on special occasions like Father’s or Mother’s Day, why there was no Children’s Day, I was always told (like so many kids) that was because “It’s children’s day every day!” So I feel it’s reasonable to have grown up with the idea that every day is special, with a consequent impact on my wine consumption.
Some wine writers, however, still cling to the old-fashioned concept of special occasions, and of recommending appropriate wines for them. Which usually ends in a desperate list of wines whose links to the occasion are tenuous at best.
Look at what we had to put up with last week, for Halloween. Only editorial laziness can explain the fatuous recommendations that wine writers offered to celebrate Halloween, a cavalcade of wines of “blood” red or “ghostly” white, or wines which, er, had a skull on their label. If you want wines which are genuinely disturbing, there are several in CJ’s posts, which for less than £5 will really set your stomach churning.
Or take Valentines Day. According to the Huffington Post, your wine is one of the elements that “will be considered and reconsidered for “maximum love impact”. Perhaps that requires tasting notes from Barry White. The article goes on to propose “Suggestions for a wine that screams ‘I love you!’”, eg it has a name like Saint Amour and Les Amoreuses, or has a heart-shape on its label
It is invariably a failure when wine writers attempt to recommend particular wines for a particular event. Take wines for Easter, for example. They, of course, will go with lamb. Or chocolate.
What about Pancake Day? Is that even a special occasion? Yet here’s Tesco pitching in with a couple of wine suggestions. Okay, you might want to know which wines go with a tricky combination of lemon and sugar; but how many people are really likely to buy a wine specially to accompany something which is (a) dessert, (b) meant to be made from leftovers, and (c) largely consumed by children?
(The real justification for drinking wines on Shrove Tuesday would surely be to finish them up, as another part of your self-denial of the next forty days. This had clearly not been considered by the Pittsburgh Wine Examiner, who wrote with inappropriate enthusiasm about “Your go-to wines for Lent”!)
New Year wine recommendations are invariably and understandably about sparkling whites. And they can be quite useful, in differentiating between the cavas, proseccos and champagnes on offer, and their relative prices. But then there’s always the writer who feels the need to recommend something unusual, just to be different. “People might have one glass of sparkling wine,” suggests a CBS Detroit site, “but then they’re looking for something else.” Indeed – a second glass of sparkling wine perhaps? Oh no.
“Since New Year’s food is usually small bites,” they go on, “we recommend port.”
Port? Are they insane? New Year hangovers are quite bad enough, without the cerebral devastation wreaked on those celebrating with port.
Oh, and I’ve forgotten all of the articles coinciding with various nationalistic occasions. You can forgive the suggestions of English wines for St George’s Day, as with French wine on Bastille Day (although I still prefer commemorating US independence by drinking tea…). But was this writer serious in proposing a St Patrick’s Day recipe for Irish sangria?
So it was with a degree of trepidation that I saw Fiona Beckett, in The Guardian, recommending “the perfect Bonfire night red”.
But Ms Beckett is a trusted wine writer. (Of course we trust a writer who once generously described Sediment as “A blog well worth reading, people”) And unlike, say, Valentine’s Day, with which there is no associated food, “Bonfire night” immediately suggests simple, warming dishes like sausages and stews, served on a cold Autumnal evening.
Resisting any impulse to talk about sparklers, or skyrocketing prices (other writers take note), Ms Beckett steered us towards this food-appropriate “rich, spicy” Pasico Old Vine Monastrell Shiraz 2011 from Sainsburys, at just £5.99. The label does not depict flames, fireworks, or immolated effigies of terrorists. And as you can see from the empty bottle, it was thoroughly drinkable, lightly fruity with just a hint of spice to give it character, and no nasty surprises in the throat.
Mrs K and I drank it happily with our simple Autumnal supper. For once, a thoroughly worthwhile topical recommendation. Just don’t try and tell me I have to wait until November 5th 2013 before drinking it again.