How I first discovered wine (and an unintentional ode to Jacob’s Creek Grenache)
When I drank wine for the first time, it was a Jacob’s Creek Grenache – at least as far as I can recall. I must have been 10 or 11. A mid-shelf bottle of Australian supermarket red wine that somehow inspired me to like it, to tell my parents – who sat there waiting for my face to crease as I tried wine for the first time – that it was delicious and, yes, I would like some more.
Maybe it was the label. Maybe it was the idea of this “adult” drink with dinner. Maybe it was from the movies I’d seen. But it felt good, even if it didn’t taste of much more than a vaguely fruity burning liquid.
It’s thanks to that Grenache that I still remember what wine that tastes like wine tastes like. Alcohol, vinegary fruit that I cannot imagine anyone in the world liking. I tend to bear this in mind when I talk to people who don’t like wine. It also helps me realise how good even the most average wine is these days.
Whoever said there was anything wrong with a grapey, cloying tipple that makes your head dizzy and your mouth say words meant for the back of your brain?
And then you grow up, taste buds mature, and you try wine next time and go, ‘Oh, okay, that’s alright – but it is wine, it’s what wine tastes like’ – or you try it and you go, ‘Nah, not my thing’. Either is fine, but generally adults can agree that wine is alright, if nothing special to some, and if the world to others.
Of course the only way to break out of the “wine tastes like wine” ditch is to drink more wine. When you move from red to white, or visa-versa, for the first time, you’ll notice quite clearly how different it is. Zippy, racy acidity that makes your face go a bit screwy with most whites, but hey it’s refreshing, and the gravelly crushed red berries and “hot feeling” a lot of newcomers associate with red wines.
Then you might try two reds; a bottom level, oak-stuffed claret and two days later be treated to a red Burgundy, that really just seems to taste of old shoes and squashed strawberries. But at least those old shoes and squashed strawberries taste alright with a melting bit of stinking bishop drooping off your cream cracker – and are a damn sight better than sucking on the plank of old wood you tried in that £3.99 claret.
Oh, and don’t get me wrong, it’s not a price thing. I’ve tried plenty of quaffable, moreish, even beautiful wines for as little as £5 or £6. Just I don’t much get along with a wine that tastes like someone’s dropped saw dust in it.
You realise, as you taste more, that oak can be just as beautiful as it can be disgusting. Remember all those bulk-produced, heavily oaked Australian Chardonnays that tasted of rich, fruity cream vanilla and put a generation off the grape variety? Well now you can find an Australian wine using oak with finesse, adding honey to tropical fruits, or, with age, making a wine complex, toasty, and warming.
So oak is another thing that you realise isn’t good or bad, but merely fab in moderation and a disaster when used as liberally as a child with a crayon.
Of course, I have been back to try one of the red wines from Jacob’s Creek – although a little disappointed to have seen the Grenache varietal has disappeared from shelves. Nonetheless, a glass of their Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon blend is ballsy, juicy, fruity and gluggable – and that’s as much from a change in me as I’m sure it is Jacob’s Creek winemakers’ ability to craft finer wines on an ever thinning budget.
I guess the most obvious lesson here can be split into two things:
- Wine is subjective. What I tell you is good is good for me. You may completely disagree.
- But the more you drink, the more you know. I can help people discover new favourites because I’ve tried so many wines. I know what’s out there and can recommend what you might like. And as with the phrase “practice makes perfect”, everyone knows the real way to learn about wine is to taste as much as you can – albeit responsibly.
So whether you’re a the stage where Jacob’s Creek Grenache is a recent memory in a sea of hundreds of different wines, a wine that just feels ‘alright’, or even a wine that just tastes like wine, be open to change and try something new.
Your next favourite is waiting for you.
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