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Lifestyle

Is there such a thing as bad wine? | Fiona Beckett on wine


“Why don’t you write a column about really bad wines?” my neighbour Adam asked. “Because I have limited space and reckon readers find it more useful to know what’s worth buying, actually,” I retorted.

Still, I take his point, and it’s a subject that comes under periodic discussion among wine writers. Why don’t we include adverse reviews more often? After all, restaurant reviewers do, and it makes for entertaining reading, even though it’s a given that not everyone can get to the restaurant in question. Theoretically everyone can get hold of a wine I write about, though that may be a bit of a struggle right now.

The thing is, personal taste comes into play with wine, and perceptions differ. The reason Adam asked about bad wine was because he’d just bought a bottle from the Co-op – its 2019 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico (£6, 12.5%) – that he thought was disgusting. I tasted it and thought it pretty decent myself: a typically neutral Italian white that doesn’t stand out in a line-up or even make particularly thrilling drinking on its own, but that rubs along really well with food, particularly a plate of pasta.

What you think of a wine depends where you’re coming from and your tolerance of sweetness and acidity. If you’re sensitive to the latter, you may find wines such as picpoul and pinot grigio too sharp. If you don’t have a sweet tooth (as I don’t), you may find an appassimento red overly rich and cloying. And if you’re used to conventionally made wines, you’ll probably find natural wines weird and funky. Like your reds light and fresh and served cool (see the Gaillac in today’s panel)? Then you probably won’t enjoy a beefy, Barossa shiraz.

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That said, some wines are just not very well made : as with chefs, winemakers can be good or bad at their jobs. Wines can also suffer from the conditions they’ve been kept in (under hot shop lights, for example) or the fact that they’ve simply been kept too long: bin ends are bin ends for a reason.

There’s also the issue of price. You generally get what you pay for, though I have to say the Isla Negra Merlot I bought the other day in my local Tesco Metro showed remarkably good merlot character for £5.25 and was a much better buy than the weedy and unpleasantly sharp Wine Route Merlot that was part of the same store’s “meal deal”, but priced individually at £7. Now that was a poor wine.

Three wines I like …


Is this It? Pinot Blanc 2018


Is This It? Pinot Blanc 2018

£6.50 Co-op, 12%.

An appropriate name, given the subject of today’s column, but this is actually a really nice, smooth, Hungarian white with a dash of fashionable grüner veltliner to add a bit of pep. Drink with creamy pasta, rice or fish dishes.


Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Gaillac Rouge 2017


Taste the Difference Gaillac Rouge 2017

£8 Sainsbury’s, 12.5%.

A refreshingly dry, fruity red from south-west France, made mainly from the local braucol grape with some syrah, merlot, duras and cabernet sauvignon thrown in. Should appeal if you like lighter reds such as those from Beaujolais and the Loire. Food-wise, think charcuterie.


Roero Arneis 2018, Tibaldi


Tibaldi Roero Arneis 2018

£14.50 Tanners, 13%.

If it’s quality rather than quantity you’re after, it’s worth splashing out on this elegant, crisp, Piedmontese white that I greatly enjoyed with some Middle Eastern-style cauliflower fritters the other day. It would be good with all kinds of seafood, too.

… and two I really don’t like


Kumala Eternal 2019 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Pinotage


Kumala Eternal 2019 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Pinotage

£5.50 Tesco, 12.5%.

So far is this from being the “complex, full-bodied and well-rounded wine” described on the back label that I’m tempted to invoke the Trade Descriptions Act. Vegetal (as in beety), rather than fruity; and unpleasantly sharp, too. Avoid.


Dino Trebbiano Pinot Grigio 2018


Dino Trebbiano Pinot Grigio 2018

£6.50 Tesco, 11%.

The kind of wine that gives pinot grigio a bad name: tired and flabby, which is a bit how I feel at the moment. Dull, dull, dull.


For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com

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