Like a lot of blokes, if there is one attribute that I can claim wholeheartedly, it is the guiding principle that whatever decisions I make, they will be made with unswerving confidence. Do I need a map? No, I know exactly where I am going. Is an angle grinder really the right tool for the job? Of course it is and besides, I don't know what I've done with the pliers. Should I really be putting white spirit on the charcoal like that? Yes, I bloody well should, how else am I going to get this thing started? No, the burgers won't be tainted with the smell, now will you just go away and leave me to get on with this? Please?
Yes, you can be safe in the knowledge that whatever I do do, I guarantee you that I really do know what I am doing. Because I am a do-er. And do-ers gets things done.
Take choosing wine for instance. Spot me in the booze aisle of a supermarket and you will have the pleasure of witnessing a man masterfully in charge of his own destiny. Watch him as he peruses through the different sections and picks up various bottles to hold up to the light. Just look at his inquisitive face as he scrutinises, ponders and considers with tenacity and thought. Marvel as he wistfully travels the globe and meanders through the vineyards and terroirs of his mind, recalling grape varieties from worlds both old and new. Smile with him when he finds a particular vintage which obviously sparks a particular memory within. Of hands held, fingertips trailing through long grass and cool, straw coloured nectar, drunk in view of a crumbling Cathar stronghold on a baking hot day in a breathless valley, set somewhere in Languedoc.
Then wrinkle your nose and drop your jaw in horror as you see him make his way to the promotions stand and bundle up half a dozen bottles in his arms, which have miraculously been reduced from a RRP of £10 a bottle to 3 for £10. Finally, shake your head sadly, as he skips off triumphant into the distance, full of the joys of spring; knowing full well that in the morning, a thumping head and grimacing, purple stained teeth awaits.
I said I was confident yes, but do I really know what I am doing half the time? Well, in all honesty, no, I don't. So why I was invited to the launch of WineTrust100 is beyond me. I do like wine, I love it in fact but what do I actually know about wine? If you were to hand me the wine list in a restaurant or put me charge of purchasing the social juice* for a party or something like that, I would feel entirely daunted and all at sea by the prospect. Drowning, not waving.
But after listening to the people at WineTrust100 and hearing about their mission to supply the best 100 "quality to price ratio" wines in the world, I suspect that I fall squarely into a category of wine consumer that WineTrust100 wish to court. That is folk who enjoy wine yet remain conservative with their purchases, particularly when it comes to brands and cost. And who, in all frankness, could do with a bit of help when it comes to branching out and experimenting.
Having belonged to various wine clubs in the past, taking delivery of anonymous cardboard boxes every quarter and gone through the long drawn out process of umming and ahhing in the aforementioned supermarket aisle far too many times before, the premise of WineTrust100 does sound appealing. Three Masters of Wine ("These are not the wines you are looking for") select 100 wines a month, the best for their price, from around the world, from small independent producers and categorise them according to style and cost. So far, so very simple. And the website replicates this clean, unfussy approach very well. It sort of sounds daft to highlight but by simply grouping wines by their tasting type - i.e. 'crisp, dry whites', 'full-bodied, rich reds' - the whole decision process is made a lot easier. Think back to the scatter gun approach of how wines are stocked in supermarkets, where eyes have to flit all over the place, up and down and across shelves loaded with random numbers and tidbits of information. Well, that's what makes my brain ache. Plus the pricing structure is pretty straightforward too.
Getting a handle on this quality to price ratio business however, or QPR for short, was a little bit more difficult. One of the Masters of Wine (or MW's for short) Nick Adams is obviously also keen on crunching the scoring numbers for the wines they select, which are based on the individual wine’s vibrancy, balance and character. Yet when he reeled out the various ratios, I did blink vacantly into space somewhat and zone out for a bit. To the uninitiated, the classic scoring system of wine rating, upon which the ratios are based, can seem quite alien and not that many people know what it means to get all excited about a 93 or a 97 or whatever. So perhaps some more clarity could be put in place surrounding this 'QPR'. But overall, coupled with Sarah Abbot's enthusiasm for big gobby reds and John Hoskins friendly, boyish charm, the three MW's projected a warm, engaging and humorous authority on the subject of wine which made it very easy to ‘trust’ them. Again, another principle, that I am sure this new venture is keen to promote.
With regards to the wines they selected for the evening, well they were wonderful and I wish I could extrapolate further…..no, OK I can, the rich, heavy and very juicy Primitivo di Manduria was by far my favourite; although the fragrant, strawberry flavoured Pink Moscato came a close second. Which is quite a good stab. Still, when it comes to wine, I can’t help but become coy on the subject. I literally feel the confidence drain from my feet when it comes to speaking up and trying to describe wine.
Interestingly, when I expressed this lack of vocabulary or commitment to wine writer Fiona Beckett, over a very noisy table, she gently scoffed and said:
"I don't know what it is about you food bloggers and writers; you could whittle on about the quality of cheese or beef for hours if you had to, talking about how it tastes and whatnot, why do you get all clammed up about wine?"
And she had a point, but by then, my cerebral cortex had been sufficiently soaked with alcohol; far too much to warrant to sensible response. So I just sniffed and nodded back in the direction of John Hoskins, who curiously reminds me of a certain Hollywood actor and replied with:
“Ah, what does it matter what I think about wine anyway, as long it tastes good and doesn’t cost the earth. And besides, I’ve got Kevin Bacon buying my wine for me now. Cheers.”
Visit winetrust100 at www.winetrust100.com to find out more.
Photographs by Michael Pilkington
*social juice pinched from Thirst for Wine's Robert McIntosh