The Nose Wine Bar

Monday, 5 April, 2004
The Nose Bar
My father always said I have champagne tastes and a beer budget
My father has always said that I would have to marry a man who could keep me in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed.

I know that sounds rather complicated but - put simply - he means that I have champagne tastes and a beer budget.

I think his comment originated from the fact that I don't like baked beans. I have tried – really I have – to like them, but ever since my mother ordered some smoked salmon for Christmas as a treat, that has always seemed to me to be a far nicer thing to put on a piece of toast.

And nowadays the same goes for wine - the more I drink, the better stuff I like to drink. I was graciously wined and dined by a well-known wine farm the other day and I suppose I wasn't altogether surprised to find that my favourites amongst the wines they showed me were the most expensive by some considerable margin. This happens to me all the time and, generally speaking, I would say that I have a good nose for good quality, and therefore, expensive wines.

But recently, it has become much harder to trust the normal maxim of 'you get what you pay for' which has stood me in good stead for many years now. Instead, I'm finding increasing numbers of occasions where the wine in the bottle couldn't by any stretch of the imagination justify the price tag on the outside and I have ended up wondering just what exactly am I paying for when I buy this wine? It seems to me that some folk out there are getting just a touch greedy.

Far too often, I'm seeing 'Shirazes' labelled as 'Syrahs' as though that alone justifies a three-figure price. Decent, inexpensive Merlot is becoming nigh on impossible to find. And the most prevalent practice of all - far too many people seem to be bottling and labelling their very first vintage, and then trying to recoup the entire costs of building their own cellar, buying all their winemaking kit and designing a snazzy information pack – all in one go.

I guess it's all down to marketing - 'positioning your product' and the like, but it's very worrying to find such unrealistic expectations being raised. You can charge Ferrari prices if you're as good as a Ferrari, but not if you're actually a 1.3 litre Toyota Tazz with a pretty paint job. It's becoming increasingly difficult to know what you're going to get for your money, and I think it's time that some people started being a bit more sensible about their pricing and thought long and hard about the sustainability of the markets they are trying to create.

The good side of coming across so many over-priced wines is that I can finally refute my father's rather gloomy analysis of my character – because nowadays, many of the wines I'm enjoying are not always the most expensive – hooray, my bank manager and long-suffering husband cry!

But still, there are limits to my thrift.

I used to work for a wine merchant who held large public tastings twice a year. An elderly couple always made a point of coming along to every tasting we held, not so much to try the wines (although they always had their fair share), but to fill their specially-brought jugs with all the contents of the spittoons after everyone else had finished tasting - and spitting ...

Apparently they used to cook with it - and may the good Lord preserve me from ever having such inexpensive tastes as that!

Cheers Cathy, Kevin & The Team at The Nose.