Much of the past few weeks has been spent in a bleary daze. It is prime wine tasting season, which all my friends understand to mean, “Your job is basically a party,” and actually means I spend most evenings lying on the floor with a glass of water, or going to bed early with a lemon verbena tea. Not exactly rock ‘n’ roll. I have a rule not to taste more than 100 wines in a day, it simply becomes impossible to do them justice, though I do often break the rule and plough on to 150 if that’s how many bottles are opened in the room, because then at least I’ll have an idea of which of the last 50 it’s worth asking to see again and which are No Good. This is chicken feed to some other tasters (mostly men) who regularly swill and spit samples of 300 or more, like circus strongmen lifting bars with ever mightier weights, then go out for dinner and put away a couple of bottles for fun.
I did drink a glass of wine for pleasure the other evening, after a day of not-tasting. It was the new 2014 vintage of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc from New Zealand which has just been released and costs £21. It smelt incredible, mainly because it smelt like being 23 and going out and feeling utterly irresponsible. I’m not sure how this works but Marlborough sauvignon blanc has such a distinctive, upbeat, BANG of a green gooseberry, elderflower and passion fruit smell, and Cloudy Bay, after all these years, still nails that so brilliantly I get a ‘school’s out’ endorphin rush at first sniff. Aaaand relax.
But. Actually drinking the wine was less exciting. They make gallons of this stuff and it shows. There’s lots that is good about it but the first word to clatter into my mind when I took a mouthful was, ‘commercial’ (i.e. supermarket, the second was ‘sherbet pips’ ) and at £21 (and the rest, in some places) a bottle that’s never going to make me part with my cash. Better, if you’re going for the prestige Marlborough savvy option to buy Greywacke or Dog Point or Astrolabe. Or go for Jackson Estate’s excellent Stich (it’s £12.99 in Waitrose) or experiment with one of the good premium Chilean or South African (Iona, de Grendel) sauvignon blancs and put the extra tenner towards a different bottle of wine altogether.