“USB wine” on tap – heaven or hell?

Last night I presented a Portuguese tasting in University College London’s Jeremy Bentham Room which, for two weeks last year, was occupied by some 200 students in protest at the government’s plans to increase student fees.  I salute them – I reckon my generation has little to grizzle about  – in my day we had it lucky.

The embers of revolution were evidently still glowing – I was asked is there any point of drinking wine if you’re not best placed to appreciate it, i.e. enjoying it in the context in which it was produced?  The question was prompted by my observation that, because of their edge of tannin and acidity, many Portuguese wines show at their best with food and, for white wines in particular, really come into their own when you enjoy them with local fare – shellfish with Vinho Verde, bacalhau (salt cod) with the white wines of Bairrada, suckling pig with its reds.

My reply?  I think our experience of wine is filtered through the context in which we taste it or drink it.  No question the best part of my job is to visit the region, preferably the vineyard from which a wine comes, meet with the winemaker and gain an understanding of the people, place (geography, topography, soils, climate) and food culture behind a wine.  It helps explain why a wine tastes as it does and enhances my appreciation of the vinous one.  And when I write about wine or present tastings, I’m much more interested in communicating this than scoring wines – after all tasting is only ever a snapshot.  And I encourage others to follow suit and visit wine regions.

Of course, it’s not always possible, nor is it of interest to everyone to interrogate why a wine tastes as it does – for many, it’s a social lubricant and source of pleasure pure and simple.  Nothing wrong with that.  Still, a shiver ran down my spine when I received this link about “USB wine” here from a friend this morning.  Imagine, a wine writer would never need to leave their desk – what an impoverished experience of wine that would be.

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