This summer, my teenage son and daughter and their friends have been buying alcohol. This has mainly taken the form of beer, wine and vodka, and price has been a key consideration.
On holiday in Portugal, my son and his travelling companions tried several bottles of local white wine selling at €1 and found one that was acceptable – though admittedly much improved with a slug of orange juice. The 5 L jugs of sangria were, however, generally preferred.
In the UK, my daughter discovered an Aldi Pinot Grigio del Veneto for £3.89 which, given the UK’s savage duty rates, probably left the cellar at roughly the same price as that Portuguese wine.
Drinkable alcohol, for the primary purpose of conveying alcohol into the bloodstream...
I can’t comment on the style or quality of the latter, but I did taste the Pinot Grigio. It was more rawly acidic than other, better, examples of that grape and, frankly, I struggled to find any stylistic resemblance to those wines. But it was drinkable. And, like the vodka and beer, it served its primary purpose of conveying alcohol into the bloodstream where it would, as it was said, loosen tongues for singing and limbs for dancing.
I’m sure there are some people reading this who are shaking their heads, at least metaphorically, and mumbling that I should have taught my offspring to drink less but better. And, over the years, I have, indeed, tried to do just that. I’m sure both of my kids know the difference between a good wine – or beer — and a poor one and, all things being equal, they’d prefer to consume one rather than the other. But all things are not equal, and they and their friends are all on a budget that has to cover a wide range of other activities and purchases.
Wine is not now, and never has been, all about terroir and food matching.
As for drinking less, I’d suggest that the head-shakers cast their minds back to the last few dinner parties they have attended, and the number of bottles that were consumed. Wine professionals are very good at talking about moderation but I’ve not seen many of them practicing what they preach.
Those teenagers treat wine and every other form of alcohol in the same way most human beings have done since they first discovered fermentation and distillation. The arrival of increasingly varied and palatable non-alcoholic alternatives may affect their behaviour and, to be honest, from what I’ve seen, I think my children and their friends behave a lot more responsibly than I probably did at their ages. But watching and listening to them is a useful reminder that wine is not now, and never has been, all about terroir and food matching.