Among my many middle-aged interests like gardening and birds you will also find wine. This sits well with my carefully cultured image as a down-with-the-kids cool as they come dude. Oh yes.
What can I say? It has many of the things that the other hobbies have - lists and collecting, and the opportunity to be hugely boring. But also to write. Now although I know a fair bit, largely gained from, err, first hand experience, I am by no means expert enough to be a wine critic. But the beauty of the internet is that anyone can have a go, and so for the last few years I have. I do take it quite seriously, in fact increasingly so, and every bottle I open is opened for a reason, more often than not to pair with a meal (though sometimes the weather is a consideration). Every sip taken is considered and I frequently take notes, less so at home but definitely when I am at a formal tasting or dinner. Yep, I do that too I'm afraid. In other words my typical all or nothing OTT approach to any hobby. And like many of my hobbies there is a way to make sense of it all online....
Much like there is eBird for birds, there is citizen-led app for wine. It is called CellarTracker. Ostensibly it was created so as to do exactly what it is called, to allow wine enthusiasts to keep track of what is in their cellars. I know this sounds odd, as I expect many people have a small wine rack on their kitchen counter that holds perhaps six bottles, but a wine buff - which I am proud to be - will likely have a few more than this. I've been buying wine since the mid 1990s, some of which I still have, and keeping track of approaching 30 years of ins and outs is a complicated business. It isn't all on the counter. Like all my endeavours it started with a spreadsheet of my own making, but just like the one for birds it ended up being far too ambitious, and so I found myself using CellarTracker. When you buy a bottle of wine, or indeed a case, you enter it onto this website which is basically an enourmous database with a friendly interface. Once listed you can keep track of what you have and where it is stored, what you paid for it versus what it is now worth, as well as the ideal drinking dates. And best of all you can read what other people who have the same bottle as you thought of it when they drank it. Was it ready? Was it past its best? Was it amazing, or was it abominable? All palates differ, but there are hundreds of thousands of users and it is likely that a concensus will emerge. And the best part? You too can contribute. And I do.
When you drink a bottle, or even just taste a glass from a bottle, you have the ability to let the world know what you thought of it - the amateur armchair critic is let loose into the wine drinking world. Well you know how much I like
drinking writing. Oh boy. To date I have written some 750 tasting notes, probably starting in earnest in around when lockdown kicked in. The format is whatever you want it to be, but it is essential that your language be floral and over the top, that you talk about minerality and acidity, and that you sprinkle your paragraphs with words like "citrus", "verve", "round" and so on. You can see why I like this. And do you know what? People read this stuff! I wrote a one line review of a bottle of Champagne that went:
"Did I waste this on Kir Royales? Yes, yes I did. Delicious."
To be fair this is an atypical review that does not really cut the mustard in terms of imparting descriptive wisdom and instead is merely flippant, a style I do well, but nonetheless 6000 people read it. 6000! Here is a more typical one regarding a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape:
"Medium dark red, some translucency. Initial funk needed to blow off, thereafter wonderful nose of fruit such as black cherry, and that je ne sais quoi smell unique to wines of the south. Sunshine I think, extremely inviting. A round feel in the mouth, rolling fruit, swish of menthol, much garrigue, a very typical chateauneuf, even I could blind taste this and get it right. Lip-smackingly moreish. Excellent balance, tannic structure perfectly in tune with fruit still in 2021, smooth and lasting. Can go on. Decanted 2 hours."
Some 1600 people read this. To put this into context, most blog posts I write garner around 100-200 hits. The most "successful" see perhaps 1000 clicks, but there are not many of those, under ten in all the years that I have been doing it. And of course writing a blog post is a time-consuming exercise. Whilst it is true that some can be bashed out in a matter of minutes, the vasy majority take far longer than that. I cannot recall ever spending more than five minutes writing up some tasting notes for a bottle of wine. In terms of connecting with people for almost zero effort there is simply no contest.
I suppose it is like all written media at the moment. Short and snappy is the name of the game, long and windy is history. I am expecting the call from Decanter any day now, but in the event that doesn't happen I am quite content to keep bashing out these small paragraphs for free.