So, I think I’ve got some explaining to do. I have repeatedly found myself, of late, with a chunk of time set aside for this blog, fingers hovering above my keyboard in clueless, limp inactivity, like a puppet on a coathanger. There’s no hiding it, when the number of posts published makes it absolutely clear: wine and I had a difficult 2014.
There are a couple of obvious causes. The main one is the building work that gutted the heart of my home during those key summer months and presented new and enormously demanding ways to spend my spare time. The cyle of research, decide, purchase, repeated again and again. To someone who is prone to letting research spin hopelessly out of control, there simply wasn’t time to do all I felt I needed to do and to live, so living took the hit. On the plus side, I learned a lot about lighting and flooring and kitchen door handles.
It wasn’t just the lack of free time, it was also the lack of wine. For those months – the start of May to the end of September – I basically had nowhere to put it, so I pretty much didn’t buy any, or drink any. And it was the lack of money, all of which, way more than we planned, was poured into our home, the result being that budgets in all other areas have been slashed not just for a few weeks or months, but for the foreseeable future. I’ve never been accustomed to drinking particularly expensive wine, but it’s a pool I enjoyed dipping my toe into. I’d keep an eye out for bargains, and occasionally I’d snap up a bottle, or a case, of something a bit special. No longer.
And then the builders departed, and I found myself with several lovely new walls and nothing to put on any of them. I’d only ever bought one painting, hadn’t ever given art much thought. So I started researching (as I do) and found a fascinating new world, and a passion that has several key advantages over booze. It is a world, like wine (and many others, I expect), filled with fascinating, creative people with stories to tell, only unlike wine what these people produce can be enjoyed not just once, fleetingly, but for ever, or until your tastes change. A picture doesn’t require the right stemware; it does not look better on a fruit day; it can be appreciated equally whether you’re eating steak au poivre or coq au vin or a tangerine or nothing at all; it does not turn to vinegar if you keep it in the living room for a couple of summers; and you can enjoy it greedily for as long as you like and still be left with something at the end of it. (The picture above, incidentally, is from a screenprint by Eelus, one of a couple by him that I got this year)
But even if I stopped seeking out good wine or giving it great attention, every now and then I would drink something that struck me, reminded me of the potential pleasure my new ignorance was depriving me of. So here are my two favourite wines of last year:
I loved this. Loved it. Love. Monte Bruna Barbera d’Alba 2010. A piffling €10 or so if you happen upon a bottle in Italy, a slightly less piffling £18.20 if you need to go to Hedonism Wines in Mayfair for one. Barbera is a focus area for the next 12 months or so: the Wine Society’s Poderi Colla 2012 is also more than decent, for £8.95.
From UK supermarkets, I thought the De Martino Carignan I got from Marks & Spencer for £9 in one of their 25% off events (it’s £11.99 normally) was excellent. Waitrose, meanwhile, have let the range in their shops slide a bit in the last couple of years but are hiding some nice stuff online and the Laurent Miquel viognier 2012 (£14.99, or £11.24 if bought in their 25% off events) is exceptionally good for its price.
As for 2015, well, time will tell. I am feeling moderately enthused. At the very least, there’s a few blogposts from the second half of last year that I failed to complete then due to overwhelming guilt at my lack of enthusiasm, but will be completed shortly. Probably. And one thing that’s absolutely certain: I won’t be involved in any building work for a while.