It’s often said that most wine is drunk within 48 hours of purchase. Quite how much is up for debate, though the Australian company Treasury Wine Estates once produced research that found British shoppers intended to drink 13 per cent of bottles ‘within a few hours’, 22 per cent ‘the same day’, 15 per cent ‘at the weekend’ and a further 34 per cent within a week.
This makes me wonder about the 13 per cent. Are they opening bottles as soon as they can wrangle the trolley out of the supermarket? So that’s why screwcaps caught on.
But it makes sense. For many, wine is an ‘I just feel like it’ buy, picked up to go with dinner, the weather, their mood or all three. Convenience has a price, of course. With wine, that price is most likely to be restriction of choice. Once you’ve tried all the bottles you can afford in the shop at the end of your road, is that just it?
I hope not. The obvious barrier to shopping around is that it may mean ordering by the case. This doesn’t have to increase your risk exposure: you can order 12 different bottles.
But I appreciate that for every person who loves to settle down to a couple of hours’ online browsing, there are probably another 17 (this is not a verified statistic) whose to-do lists simply could not accommodate this kind of activity.
Perhaps, though, you might be willing to have the occasional good root around in order to identify a house wine that you can run with for a few months, picking up additional bottles here and there?
My friend Miles Davis (yes, his parents were into jazz) is part of the team at online trading community Wine Owners, and takes the business of finding a well-priced house wine – he also has an impressive cellar – very seriously.
‘I go to tastings, buy a small amount, give it a proper test drive with food and will only start repeat buying if a bottle passes that.’ Davis has introduced me to some brilliant finds over the years.
These include Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard Mâcon-Villages, a superb unoaked white burgundy that you can find in The Wine Society and Tanners (£11.50-£13.50); and Château Pesquié Ventoux Rouge Terrasses (The Wine Society, £10.95), a generous red from an upcoming area of the southern Rhône.
What you are looking for in a house wine is the best possible value option of a style you love enough to drink over and over again.
For reds, I find blends particularly versatile: easy-going clarets; wines from southern France; the Rhône; Rioja; or from the Douro or Dão in Portugal. That said, there are plenty of exceptions.
The wine merchant Lea & Sandeman sells a brilliant earthy-savoury malbec made from grapes grown in the Cahors area (but not sold as a Cahors) called Gaudou Exception (£8.95/£9.95).
If you prefer chunkier/lusher reds you might be looking at primitivo from southern Italy, carménère from Chile or syrah from South Africa.
For whites, I find most people know the grape they love, though don’t overlook semillon, grüner veltliner and cortese (used for Gavi) if you like bright and citrussy.
Focus on finding the best you can but be prepared to switch around regions or countries as you experiment. For instance, for a better-value sauvignon blanc consider South Africa, Chile or even the Loire or Bordeaux in France rather than New Zealand.
Just one other thing. If you do get round to ordering a case, don’t feel under pressure to drink it all within 48 hours.