Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Drinkable isn't good enough

Why “drinkable” isn’t good enough

It won’t come as a big surprise to hear that I love wine. It is a drink to be celebrated and to celebrate with. It makes our food taste better and tastes better with food. It is a conduit for conviviality, sharing and enjoying time with our family and friends.

It is endlessly varied, every bottle a surprise. Grape varieties, producers and styles are constantly throwing up something new and interesting.  It can be a source of great joy and enriches our lives in many ways. Of course, there are good ones and bad ones, and all alcohol needs to be treated with respect, but on balance wine is a civilised drink designed to be drunk with food and not to excess.

This is why it annoys me to see wine reviews and recommendations where the wine is listed as “drinkable”. Is this not a basic requirement? Should we not set the bar just a little higher than this? I mean, a food writer doesn’t recommend a restaurant on the basis of the food being “edible”. Restaurants are rightly celebrated when they are showcasing excellence, innovation and value. So why do we set the bar so low for wine?

I realise that there are editorial pressures to keep it real and to offer wines that are widely available and not too expensive, but I think this can be achieved without resorting to recommending the €4 German “Pinot Grigio” in your local Lidl or Tesco on the basis that it is possible to consume it without falling ill. There are thousands of wines available in this market, a huge range of excellent wines, that surely deserve to be promoted and celebrated by our opinion leaders.

So, if you see the word “drinkable” in a wine review, use your noggin, read between the lines and understand that the writer is really saying “I didn’t really like this and wouldn’t drink it myself in a month of Sundays, but I was under pressure to put in a cheap wine and they sent me this sample. I’m pretty sure you won’t require hospitalisation after it”.

Aim higher folks, don’t settle for drinkable. Ask for one that is quirky, tasty, interesting, good value, stunning, amazing……….


DermotMW said...

Oh Gabriel, I don't agree with this at all. If I use the term drinkable it's to say that the wine is drinking now and is good. I think you've got this badly wrong.


Gabriel Cooney said...

Hi Dermot, thanks for that, I suppose different people use terms in different ways. However, in this case I am referring to wine reviewers recommending something usually cheap, usually on offer, with a wine value of about 50c on the basis that it is drinkable. If it is cheap and on offer in a supermarket, it hardly needs support. Wine reviewers are supposed to be opinion leaders. If they find something amazing at €6 or €7, fine, let the public know. Drinkable, where it means "acceptable quality" rather than "drinking well", is just a bit basic and we should aim for better.