I have no idea if I have ever written about wine on this blog before. Perhaps not actually. I've been known to tweet a photo of a bottle from time to time so that the internet knows I'm living my best life, ditto the odd fruity concoction, but for the most part I think my love of drinking wine largely passes by unremarked.
Lockdown - especially the winter one - proved to be hard work. There were many things I wanted to do, many things I ought to have done. Most of these remain in the starting blocks For reasons I still don't understand I have been unable to pick up a book and read it from cover to cover for instance. It was not for want to trying and I probably had about eight false starts, the furthest I got on any of them was about page 400 of A Suitable Boy and with another 600 to go I found I could not sustain it. A shame, as it was the ideal opportunity. Ditto drawing, I got as far as ordering some paper and then found I did not have the motivation and have yet to pick up a pencil or even think about doing so. Organising my cellar on the other hand...
Maybe because it involved a spreadsheet? Spreadsheets rule my waking hours. You would think that as I spend all day working with spreadsheets that once tools down it would be the last thing on my mind. You would be wrong, and unfortunately so would I. I think it is about bringing order to chaos, shining a light on a big mess and finding a way to catalogue it and make sense of it. I just love it. Way back in about 2008 I completed a similar stock take and felt very pleased with myself. For a while everything was well laid out, easy to work with. I had a plan and I stuck to it.
Gradually chaos returned. I've still been drinking wine, and buying more to replace it, but it all became slightly haphazard. In retrospect I drank a lot far too early. I bought too much of one thing and not enough of another. I found I had gaps, big gaping holes where wine should have been but was not. In Chateau L wine is almost always secondary to food, that is to say that we work out what we are having for dinner and then hunt around for the perfect wine to accompany it. You cannot simply pick up any old bottle and think it will work, I mean it would be fine, these are micro problems of the first order, but I am very picky in this regard. No, there needs to be thoughtful consideration, and with consideration comes anticipation.
The trouble with decent wine is that there needs to be forward planning, sometimes many many years of it. A moment of inattention and down the line you will have a gap at some point. That may be three years away, or it may be twenty years away. I appear to have had many moments of inattention. Some are understandable - I went through a somewhat fallow period as far as employment was concerned and buying wine was swiftly deprioritised. Unfortunately that happened to coincide with two fantastic and long-lived vintages, 2009 and 2010, and so ten years later when these started to hit their stride I realised I didn't have any. No problem, I'll just buy some. Ah, the whole world already did that and the prices now are not ones I can easily cope with. And no, I am not nipping down to Tesco to pick up a box of eurozone wine lake, I would rather be teetotal. The same problem exists in 2015 and 2016, I was focused on travelling and forgot to top up. That's not an issue right now, but I can see that gap on several horizons already. And the one you thing you can't plan for is how your tastes and diet may change. In my twenties I just wanted to eat steak and drink long-lived red wine, and that is what I planned for. But now red meats have taken a back seat, and those big bold bottles that pair brilliantly with lamb and so on have little use in vegetarian and Mediterranean cooking. These days I am for the most part after a much lighter duo.
Lockdown this winter proved the perfect time in which to sort all of this out, to take stock of exactly where I stood, and age 46, to work the plan for the second half so to speak. Wines which only peak in 2050 for instance come with a certain amount of risk. Equally, for how much longer I am going to be able to splash out? That too would seem to be finite, so perhaps while the sun is still shining it makes sense to take action. That planning, this delicate balancing act, has consumed lots of my time this year and slowly things are beginning to take shape. The ideal blueprint has been drawn up, the obvious gaps in it have been partially filled, sometimes at over the odds, and where for various reasons there was a glut there has been a rebalancing, which happily has also involved drinking some of it. I still have too much red wine but I can worry about much of that later - indeed it may even turn out to be a decent investment even though that was not the intent.
Most importantly however there is now an immense spreadsheet, ably backed up by a nifty online tool called CellarTracker (the eBird equivalent for wine). I am back to being fully up to date, knowing what is stored where, when it will be at its best and for how long. It is mapped out by appellation, by vintage, and by all sorts of other geeky measures of the sort that would only appeal to a boring wine buff. I know how much storage space I have at home, and how that can be optimally balanced so as to decrease the frequency of food-pairing despair, and when reserves stocks should be transferred to maintain that balance. And so last week I had the pleasure of pressing a few buttons on a website, without any new expense at all a few days later a van arrived with a couple of boxes. By this point you are probably desperately hoping I don't go into what exactly was in those boxes lest further paragraphs ensue. You're right, I shouldn't and I won't. Suffice to say that they contained the joy of planning.