Thursday 28 January 2016

Should wine be "convenient"?

What is this obsession with “convenience” in wine?

It’s more “convenient” to have a screwcap than a cork. To have wine in a box than in a bottle. To buy your wine at a corner shop or supermarket, alongside your groceries, than to visit a wine merchant.

A wine you can drink now is more “convenient” than one which needs to be cellared. A wine you can pour from the bottle is more “convenient” than one which needs to be decanted.

And wine you can carry with you ready to drink, in a can, a plastic bottle or a sealed plastic goblet, is more “convenient” than wine which requires those obstructively inconvenient items, a glass and a table.

Buying it, opening it, keeping it, carrying it or storing it, convenience seems to be the one thing everybody wants in their wine. Except me.

A little inconvenience can be a wonderful thing. Filling up a fountain pen before you write. Watching Guinness settle in a glass. In this always-on world, there’s something to be said for anticipation, for ritual, for slowness. And to me, inconvenience only enhances the enjoyment of wine.

I want a bottle, an actual bottle, brought back from the wine merchant’s in a twist of tissue paper. Or brought up from the cellar after due deliberation, perhaps with the added allure of a little dust on its shoulders. Not a box, parked in the kitchen, dispensing wine like handwash.

I want the peeling of the capsule, the squeaking as the corkscrew goes in, the deployment of the wrist in using a Waiter’s Friend, and the pop as the cork comes out. Not the crack, twist and toss of the screwcap.

I want my first sight of its colour, and first whiff of its bouquet, from the careful pouring into a decanter or glass. Yes, glass – not a prepoured plastic goblet. I’ll let you know when I want to drink my wine out of the equivalent of a yogurt pot.

Should this idea of “convenience” be interpreted generously, as an attempt to offer the pleasure of fine wine as easily as possible? No, because the wines which are marketed as “convenient” are rarely “fine”. They come from producers who simply believe that the more easily we consume, the faster we will buy more.

And hence the extension of effortlessness into even the wine itself. “Easy-drinking” – what a damning description of a wine! “It just slips down…” – without relish, without savour, without thought.

Well, I do not want to live in a world of “convenience”. Of clip-on ties and Velcro-closed shoes. Of elasticated waistbands, and long-life milk.

There are so many areas of life nowadays in which slower, traditional ways have returned and been acknowledged for their qualities over the easy and convenient. Proper coffee over instant. Slow roasts. Open fires. Pleasures where the rituals of preparation, and the growing anticipation, add to the enjoyment of the result. Pleasures worth waiting for.

So let us expunge from the vocabulary of wine such terms as easy, effortless, quick and handy – and, most of all, convenient. I don’t want wine to become an easy, flip commodity. I want it to remain slow and considered, prefaced by its rituals, enhanced by anticipation and enjoyed at leisure.

There are many good things about wine – and more of them come to those prepared to wait.



  1. Well shared sentiments. We have so much immediacy at work, that when a duchess farts, I'm looking for the slow contemplation, the smugness in choosing the right bottle for the occasion, at the right time, and remembering that bottle with the right company.

    "Pleasure is first found in anticipation, later in memory."

    1. Thank you - and delighted to hear from someone else who knows that the noise made by a correctly-opened bottle of champagne is that of a duchess farting.

    2. Plagiarizing a little, unashamedly, from Sediment. I have found no better way to describe a correctly-opened bottle of champagne. You guys have provided countless hours of jaw-aching humour and Sediment is an absolute pleasure to read, in a paint thinner fumes and holiday socks aromas kind of way. Will definitely be getting your book. Cheers!

    3. Well, thank you so much! And hopefully it is appropriate to point out that our publisher has a half-price offer on our book until the end of January: Hurry!


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