G’day Viewers. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I was up to quite a bit over the festive season; and one of those things was penning a piece for Gourmet Traveller’s annual ‘New Wine Writer Award’. Whilst I wasn’t successful this time around (and can’t wait to read the winner’s article), the upside is that I’ve got an awesome, well prepared blog piece for you this week! It’s a little longer than usual, but extends on one of my most popular posts – the one that spawned ‘Friday Night Pizza Wine‘ as a wine type that no punter should do without.
So, without further adieu, here is the full piece:
A Purposeful Classification
It’s time we had a talk about how we classify wine, and I’m not talking about IGT, DOC, AOC or any of the other alphabet soup titles that are used to rightfully protect wines of a certain name, place & quality. I’m talking about using purpose and utility to help people find what they need and discover new things to drink; by looking at what we actually do with the wine we buy.
Every shop, be it physical or virtual, will have their wine arranged via one of two classification systems: Varietal or Regional. This library-like system may be handy for locating specific bottles but surely could be overlaid with something a little more creative and informative.
Confused? Let me explain.
When I buy wine, I like to think about what I might use it for: ‘Saturday afternoon on the front lawn with friends’, ‘BYO dumpling dinner’, ‘Dinner Party’ etcetera. The oft quoted ‘statistic’ (read: estimate) that “80%+ of wine sold in Australia is consumed within 48 hours of purchase” suggests that most wine buyers also have a use in mind for the bottle they’re searching for. So let’s give the people what they want! Arranging and classifying wines by the purpose they serve would not only play to the intentions of the consumer but would also make it easier for the average customer to expand their wine knowledge and range of labels that they are familiar with.
So where to start? Here are some classes that I see as being critically important:
‘Friday Night Pizza Wine (FNPW)’
A very important category, especially during AFL season! It’s been a long week at work, you may have even had a couple of drinks with your colleagues but right now you feel like sinking into the couch with some easy takeaway and a tasty glass or two. A great FNPW is usually (but not exclusively) red, savoury as opposed to overtly fruity, has some tannic grip to cut through the grease and not too expensive either (although from time to time a ‘splash out’ is surely justified…). Bourgogne rouge sits squarely in the middle of the classification, as does lightly oaked tempranillo; and there are a multitude of Grenache-based wines that are perfectly suited to the task. And of course, a great FNPW is suitable for any night that the need arises!
Any wine lover worth their salt will be able to name all the decent BYO-friendly restaurants within a 10km radius of their house. These places provide a great way to catch up with friends, often on a ‘school night’, and drink well without blowing the budget. As such, wines in this classification will cover a fair range of styles and price points and can be carefully sub-classified into cuisines. Sitting in the ‘Chinese, Japanese & Thai’ section would be plenty of lean, moderately oaked chardonnay from Australia and France, crisp Pinot Grigio, and all the Pinot Noir that didn’t make it to the FNPW section. At the end of this cuisine’s shelf we’d have the Rieslings, moving through the off-dry examples then into aromatics like Gewurztraminer as the section changes over to ‘Indian’. Things would get a bit heavier in the ‘Italian’ section, covering off a number of different red blends and providing a worthwhile home to the noble varietals of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, and Barbera – all too often confined to the wasteland of the ‘alternative varietals’ section of stores that order their selection based on the type of grape.
‘Do Not Operate Your BBQ Without…’
A patriotic part of the store this one. For those of you who’ve been reading and wondering ‘but where are the big reds?’ you can raise a flag and breath a sigh of relief as there is no more suitable home for these wines than in accompaniment to a well stocked BBQ. Sub-categories would celebrate the food of choice (and provide mouth-watering cooking suggestions); Bordeaux (Cabernet-based) blends with some grilled lamb cutlets and roast vegetable and haloumi salad? Yes please. Sparkling Shiraz with some dips and antipasto on the front lawn? Stop it! Sitting next to the cooler climate shirazes would be wines from the Northern Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape, and the section would finish with a large selection of crisp, textural (and DRY!) rose; a chronically underappreciated BBQ necessity and the ultimate accompaniment to a hot day and a char-grilled bird.
‘No Excuse Necessary’
The celebration section! Why wait for an occasion when there should be ‘No Excuse Necessary’?! Whilst all things fizzy (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, and Sparking Whites from around the globe) may be the obvious choice, the main purpose of this section would to break down the psychological barriers that surround enjoying something slightly nicer-than-usual. The better-known premium offerings from the new world (Australia, California, NZ etc.) would be nestled with stylistically similar step-up wines from the old world (France, Italy, Spain etc.). Spending time with good friends and family should be all the occasion one needs to be drawn into this selection and this may be all it takes to find the sort of quasi-religious wine experience that hooks people for life.
So whilst far from exhaustive, with just a few examples it’s easy to see how things could drop into place in this brave new world. Keep this classification system in mind when you’re next shopping for wine, and it might help you discover some new vinous delights that were hiding in plain sight – opening your eyes to possibilities that you never knew existed!
Well there it is, I hope you enjoyed reading it; there was a lot of love put into this one. And if you’re a true believer, then get in touch with me to find out how I can bring purposeful classification into your life.