Monday, 30 January 2012

Booze Snobbery Part 2: Any dedication to wine.

The king of all booze snobberies has to be the love of wine. Excuse me if I go a bit over the top here, because there’s no serious evidence for it, but real wine lovers seem to have an innate belief that their interest is superior, don’t they? And people just accept it. All other drinks – especially beer – pale in comparison, and must literally step aside, stand in the gutter and bow down as wi-i-i-i-i-i-ine rides past.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t like wine – it’s fine, but that’s about it; I can’t get excited about it. And there’s so much of it! It’s like it’s the only acceptable drink. If you’re going to have a works do with alcohol, they’re not going to provide beer and whisky, are they? No, they’re going to provide wine. You’re at a wedding; what drink is going to be served with the meal? Wine. If you’re going to provide wine, at least provide beer as well! Because sometimes all you want is a beer. Alanis Morissette might call it ironic and say, “It’s like having unlimited free wine when all you want is a beer”.

The thing is, all things that are worth liking have followers who are just a bit too serious – as we’ve already seen with whisky, it’s like that with everything else too – whatever it is; beer, music, films, cheese… I don’t mind! I mean, it’s good to like things, to be enthusiastic about them, just don’t go being all smarmy about it because you know more about something than someone else, and you think you know how to enjoy something better than someone else. And some things are just annoying, aren’t they? Like wine. 

A lot of people find wine intimidating. They don’t know how to tell a good one, they don’t know how much they’re supposed to spend on one. It’s especially so in restaurants because you have those wine lists that give you each wine’s Facebook status, and they make you feel like you’re supposed to care. And they make you feel worthless because you only really have a choice between the one at £14.99 (or ‘house’, as it’s known) and the one at £16.99. You’ll probably go for the one at £16.99 because you don’t want to look too cheap, but you’re not fooling anyone. And secretly you’re glad you don’t know anything about wine, because otherwise it might ruin your meal if you didn’t spend at least £30 on one. But then you feel stupid because you ordered white, and you’re having steak. 

Then they make you try the wine, and no one’s told you yet that you’re only checking to make sure it isn’t ‘corked’, so you think you have to say something intelligent but all you can manage is, “yes, it’s all right, that.”

And if you don’t order some wine straight away, the waiter takes your wine glasses, as if it’s not allowed to have wine later.

Incidentally, here’s a website that offers some interesting advice on ordering wine in restaurants - as well as a guide to wine bottle etiquette in a restaurant - This site actually advises that you should order a bottle priced somewhere around the median (it actually used that word) of the list, because they tend to be less ‘marked-up’, and the house wine tends to be more ‘marked up’. That’s forgetting – isn’t it? – that some of us don’t care if the £14.99 bottle is marked up more than the bottle at £25.99 – we don’t want to pay £25.99 for a bottle of wine. We just want some wine with our meal.

By the way; if you’re talking about the etiquette of something, you are a snob. You are also a snob if there are rules. If there are new rules -, and those new rules aren’t that there are no longer any rules, you are king of all snobs.

Last Christmas, Brenda and I went to a wine tasting event at Didsbury Tennis Club. That sort of thing wouldn’t normally appeal to us, but some friends were going, and we thought it would be fun. Was it fun? Yes. Did we get pissed? Yes. To be fair, a lot of people that went looked like us – that is, they were our age, and looked like they’d gone to get pissed. It wasn’t bad for £20 each, but there was a definite expectation that we were going to buy cases of wine – cases… of wine. All we wanted was to try some different types, but we had to stand around pretending to be interested in grapes and thinking of intelligent questions while trying not to yawn. It’s like they were deliberately trying to stop it being fun.

We actually learned quite a lot, but I don’t think we could remember much of it now.

 You’ll notice that wine doesn’t get much of a look in at Drink it How You Like it. I’m just not into it, and as a couple, Brenda and I aren’t the kind of people who buy cases of wine. We don’t even tend to drink it at home. We’re the kind of people who buy a bottle if we’re going to see friends, or if we’ve got friends coming over, so a case of wine just ain’t happening. Sorry, but yes we are merry, we are leaving, and we haven’t filled anything in on your guide-that-is-actually-an-order-form.

Buying cases of wine seems to have become a bit of a trend recently though, hasn’t it? People buying cases of wine – as if it’s a normal thing to do. They have online wine vendors that work in the same way as a Lovefilm membership, though presumably you don’t send the bottles back when you’re done with them. I once met someone at a party who said that she starts to panic if she has less than 6 bottles of wine left in the house - actually, I don’t have a problem with that. It means people are embracing their right and their choice to drink – casually, frequently and frequently on weeknights. Good for them.  Because you don’t have to buy into this whole superiority thing. You are free to enjoy wine if you like, but you don’t need me to tell you that. 

The experts at the tasting we went to categorically told us that the more expensive the wine, the better it is but… can you tell the difference? And if you can tell the difference, does it matter that much anyway? If you can’t, don’t feel bad about buying three bottles for a tenner. If you can, but you still like cheap wine, that’s ok too. If you can’t drink cheap wine… you probably don’t really like wine after all. We tasted some very expensive wines at the tasting, and we liked some, we didn’t like others. That’s just how it is. 

My point is, enjoy your booze, don’t be intimidated by it, and if you’re drinking something as a status symbol, you’re drinking for the wrong reasons.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Product evaluation: Ice Balls!

I mentioned previously how my fiancĂ©e, Brenda bought me a bottle of Jura Superstition and a book about 101 Whiskies to try before I die for my birthday. Not everything she got me was booze related, but there was another thing – ice balls. You might have seen these before, or something like them. They are little plastic items, filled with liquid, that you stick in the freezer and use to chill your drinks – like ice, but they have the advantage of not melting, and therefore not watering down your drink. 

I don’t want to criticise Brenda’s gifts – it was certainly very thoughtful of her - but that’s pretty much the only advantage. I tested them out last night with a glass of Cointreau, and found one or two disadvantages. First, there were only six in the pack – you can stick as much ice in the freezer as you like – so with the ice balls you can only have two to three drinks before you’re back on ice.

Second, they don’t chill your drink as much as ice does, so you certainly wouldn’t be able to use them for making cocktails, and you lose the benefit of having an ice cold drink.

Finally, you have to wash them before you refreeze them.

Simply wash? You never have to wash ice, do you?

Well, they’ve thought of something for everything haven’t they? You like your drink cold, but you don’t want it watered down – ice balls. Possible alternative: stick your drink in the fridge?

I think Brenda got the idea when I complained that the ice was watering my single malt scotch down. Since then I’ve just learned to drink it neat – if it’s nice enough, you can. So I don’t really need the ice balls. If your whisky isn’t nice enough, then you probably don’t mind the ice watering it down a bit, so ice still wins for me.

Nevertheless, it was fun to try [I'm easily amused], and it was a good excuse to try Cointreau on its own, which I’ve never done before. I never realised it was a clear liquid – it comes in a dark orange bottle (or something), so I assumed it was orange coloured. Well, I never did!

So! It’s the weekend again, and this one promises to be another quiet one. Brenda and I have been on austerity measures since our return from Canada at the start of the month, so it’s been weeks of staying in. Brenda’s been studying, and I’ve been taking advantage of that by playing on the Xbox a lot. My budget has only stretched as far as 4 cans of beer on a Friday and a game of 5 a side on Monday.

It’s pay day soon though, and we have bigger plans for next week which I’ll tell you about then. For now, I have one or two booze related experiments in mind, but I can’t tell you about them just yet. Brenda has put in a request to try BabyCham tonight. Neither of us have had it before, but I remember seeing it advertised on telly in the 80s, so I’ll be making another trip to Levenshulme’s Tesco after work to see if they have any in. 

Have a great weekend, everyone. And enjoy yer booze.