Shop in haste, repent at leisure

A while ago (seven years! Where does the time go?) I wrote something on this blog about a pretty humble wine from the southern Rhone which I’d snaffled en primeur for a handful of loose change a few years earlier and was enjoying drinking at the time. I used the opportunity to promote the idea of buying reasonably cheap wine before it was ready to drink, forgetting about it for a while and then some time later enjoying “a wine that a) didn’t cost very much, and b) you paid for so long ago that it now basically feels free”. And it is a recommendation that I myself embraced with great and now slightly regrettable enthusiasm.

In 2014 Victoria Moore wrote an article in the Telegraph suggesting “that 96% of all bottles are drunk within 24 hours of being bought”. That same year Jancis Robinson wrote that “according to some estimates 90% of all wine bought in the US is consumed within 24 hours”. I can’t find any particularly recent survey results on this – in my more nostalgic moments I yearn to return to a time when pollsters had nothing better to do than to ask about people’s wine-buying habits, back in the days before someone lit a giant match under the leaking butane canister that turned out to be British politics – but we can probably assume that it remains broadly true. Most people get a couple of bottles of wine with their weekly shop, probably taking advantage of a special offer, and drink them within days; if they’re going to a friend’s house they might pick something up on the way there, perhaps with some nice Australian indigenous fauna on the label, and consume it within hours. Put the two situations together and the average bottle is drunk within a day or two of purchase.

These days I rarely drink wine that I bought less than five years ago.

Somewhere along the line it all got a little out of hand. The key problem is that I keep buying wine in slightly greater quantities than I actually consume it. When stocks at home dwindle and I go online – where I do the majority of my wine shopping, for my sins – to replenish them, I’ll spend a couple of hours putting a case together and then realise that I already own loads of stuff, lurking in this or that merchant’s storage facility, that should probably be drunk soon and get some of that delivered instead. I didn’t entirely stick to my own advice, though, because some of it wasn’t even that cheap. Here’s a delivery from a few months ago (it’s not all mine, to be fair, but most of it is). Look at the state of it. There’s some Barolo there, and wine so posh it came in a case made of wood.

I still enjoy drinking wine, and talking, thinking, reading and writing about it, but there is now a significant hurdle to me being able to write an actually useful blog (in addition to laziness, obviously). Given a change in my work patterns a few years ago that made attending trade tastings harder (I work more daytimes, and generally from home) and a change in viral patterns a few months ago that has made putting them on largely impossible, I can only write about the wine I’m drinking at home, which quite often is now only available to readers with bulging wallets and/or access to a functioning time machine.

Plus, any old fool can buy Barolo from a highly-rated producer and have a nice time, but one of wine’s pleasures is truffling out cut-price excellence and drinking exuberant young wine at its fruitiest, and it’s one I’m not enjoying enough. The solution I suppose is to spend a lot less on wine, and then wait five or six years. One thing’s for sure, though: I’m in no danger of going thirsty.


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