There is a merchant who keeps sending me brochures, but whose wines I simply cannot buy. It’s not that they are worse than everybody else’s – after all, I don’t know – it’s just that I can’t stand the way they describe them. Too many exclamation marks. Too many over-effusive descriptions. Reading their brochures is like walking through an east end market, being assaulted by over-the-top sales patters from tradesmen all the way. In the end, you just ignore the lot of them, and go somewhere quieter to do your shopping instead.
“Lavish, barrel-aged Shiraz – from one of Oz’s most exciting young winemakers!” they cry. “Be quick to savour a gloriously mature 2002 Australian Cabernet from a 5-star winery!” they shriek. “The Gold-medal winning triumph returns, richer and smoother than ever before!” they yell. “Powerfully deep and as popular as ever, keep your glass full to the brim with El Bombero!” they squawk.
And then they add something about how not only do you simply have to buy this wine, but you have to do it RIGHT NOW! “Cellardoor-priced Aussie marvel and a must for red wine lovers – act now for this amazing one-off!” they yelp. “Rich, dark and thoroughly satisfying. Don’t miss this treat from one of Portugal’s finest!” they bellow. “Seductive and elegant arrival from one of Central Otago’s best – secure your share today!” they whoop.
Then there are the constantly pushed case “deals”: more of the same, only with more exclamation marks than usual. As much as anything, I detest being sent an apparently generous £50 voucher only to discover that it is redeemable against only one, pre-selected mixed case, composed entirely of basically the same red wine only with different labels on.
I reckon I could spot the average Laithwaites description at 50 paces – they bring me out in spots and induce a chronic case of the shakes. I am Laithwaitesdescriptionphobic. So here’s a little test, for interest’s sake. How clear a style do Britain’s major wine retailers have when they describe a wine? There aren’t many wines that are available in every single major retailer, but Bollinger’s Grand Cuvée is one. Can you tell which retailer is responsible for which description?