Devil's Advocate - Making Wine More Than a Summer Romance

There is a huge gap between the wines we enjoy on holiday and what we drink at home. Robert Joseph suggests a possible way to bridge it.

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Robert Joseph - the Devil's Advocate
Robert Joseph - the Devil's Advocate

As we approach the date in September the French call la Rentrée, when children go back to school and the adults acknowledge that the northern hemisphere summer holidays are over, many of us will look back on a couple of weeks or so when we lived rather differently. We lounged on beaches or next to pools, went for long walks in beautiful landscapes, visited museums and cathedrals and enjoyed dishes and quite possibly wines we rarely, if ever, consume at home.

And, of course, like me as I walked back from the friendly bakery carrying a box of freshly prepared pasteis de nata custard tarts in Sintra, near Lisbon, many will have daydreamed, imagining - if only momentarily - what it might be like to live in one of these idyllic places and to wake up every day beneath its skies.

A lucky few, of course, turn that dream into reality, but the vast majority head back home and pick up where we left off, doing the same work, going to the same places and eating and drinking the same things.

Those delicious sweet, creamy tarts are pushed into the back of our mental store cupboard, like a brief summer romance. And so, for most, wherever they spent those summer weeks, are the local wines with which they briefly fell in love.

Soon forgotten

Will any of the friends with whom I holidayed in Portugal this year take the trouble to seek out Vinho Verde or white Douro in the UK? I doubt it, despite all the positive comments they made about the bottles we drank with our lunches. No, they’ll go back to the white wines to which they are accustomed.

I’m not just talking about summer wine romances. The same happens six months later every year when millions of people take to the ski slopes of Eastern France and quaff huge volumes of local Savoie wine which almost none of them ever thinks of buying at any other time.

Human beings are creatures of habit. We like novelty, but only in small doses. Which is why Hollywood studios that don’t want to waste their money, rely so heavily on series and remakes. And why today, millions of wine drinkers shopping for wine reach for the bottles of Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Macon Villages and Merlot that are treated with such disdain by so many critics.

They know what they like and they like what they know.

Millions of words are written about wine tourism, an activity that is indulged in by a tiny proportion of the wine drinking public. Far too little is done by wine regions to build longer term relationships with the vast numbers of people who visit their countries and casually discover their wines.

What would happen if, in the departure lounge of every airport in Portugal, passengers were given a discount voucher to be used when buying six bottles of Portuguese wine in their own country - and providing an easy way to make that purchase?

Would most take advantage of the offer?

Almost certainly not.

But would some?

Most probably.

And might some of those reorder, or at least be more likely to occasionally pick up, a Portuguese wine rather than their usual French, Italian or Spanish one?

I think so

Just as they might for pasteis de nata.




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