You Can Judge A Wine By Its Label
Appearances can be revealing. Much more than books, of all things, wine might be the easiest to judge by appearance. Someone once said that ‘there are no great wines, only great bottles of wine’ —which is wonderful but doesn’t necessarily state what I’ve found that many think it does.
As a subject scrutinized by considerable study, and indeed regulations about what can feature on its labels, with a relatively small amount of knowledge in the subject, you can be fairly confident as to what you might find inside a wine bottle (even by going beyond the label itself to look at things like bottle shape, fill-level, color, capsule condition and cork height).
Sure there are variations to this — there wouldn’t be as much written on the subject, nor it be as delightful, if it wasn’t full of infinite degrees of nuance — but as long as the wine itself is from an established region, you can often assume correctly, with a level of accuracy not found in most fields, what you might generally expect to taste inside.
If you’re a fan of a region or a particular wine too there might be no label more evocative than a wine label. Cos is my favorite label and is simultaneously a wine I’ve always found almost consistently wonderful (I had the ’83 on the night before I was married and then had a different vintage each wedding anniversary that followed – sadly before, for no reason I can remember now, letting that particular tradition fade out).
Whilst books do furnish a room, outside of a cellar, wine bottles however do not (with a few rare exceptions — such as a few restaurants and bars I can think of, or the private dining room in the basement at 44 Berkeley Square). Wine racks in kitchens are perhaps the worst offenders — subjecting wine to high temperatures and temperature variations that will never do any wine any good (similarly never store any spirits high up in a kitchen for the same reason). Electronic wine fridges and aging cabinets are of course a convenience but are not something I think are altogether appealing from a visual or sensory perspective.
One of the great things about wine is its capacity to improve with age. An electric fridge or cabinet, as a modern convenience, speaks somewhat contrary to the beauty of that. A proper cellar is of course something altogether different entirely and desirable. I used to love going down into the cellar at Berry Bros. Old, dusty, long since emptied, bottles of grand Bordeaux estates sitting on a ledge beside the worn-oak stair treads eliciting the opposite feeling one might get from the metallic bling and the blue LED lights of a wine cabinet.