Good, better, best - there’s wallpaper wine and then there’s the rest.
It’s not your average wine blog that kicks off by citing the work of a 20th century German philosopher and musicologist but then I’m not interested in ordinary wine.
Theodor Adorno, born in Frankfurt in 1903, lamented the decline of music into what has been described as “industrial” - always treading the expected path, avoiding anything new, exciting or challenging. He championed the avant-garde and adventurous, the “non-industrial”, and the need to be immersed in music rather than experiencing it superficially.
His work has been referenced in current discussions on how to reward musicians in the days of downloads and streaming. Should work that requires listening to, that demands your attention, be more highly valued financially than music that just plays in the background, as wallpaper to your daily life?
How does this relate to wine you are no doubt asking by now, assuming you have read this far.
In the wine-nerd bubble I inhabit there is a lot of excitement about wines that push the boundaries, wines from producers who are working at the extremes, wines that are absolutely unique whether that is because of the vineyards the grapes are grown in, the way the are made, a particularly good - or difficult - vintage or numerous other variables. These are very often wines that demand your attention and probably someone who also lives on planet wine to share and discuss them with. Not only because they can be pretty expensive and splitting a bottle splits the cost but also because they are just amazing drinks and talking about them is half the fun. These are perhaps what you could call non-industrial wines. Not everyone will like them all of the time and that’s just fine.
But sometimes what you want is something less demanding, something that is an accompaniment to socialising with a group of “normal”, non-wine nerd people for example. Or writing a wine column perhaps. There’s little I find more distracting than a glass of something delicious by the keyboard. Though that is often the reward for finishing the job.
Call it a wallpaper or industrial wine if you like. I like the French phrase, vin de soif, (wine for thirst) and the term glouglou, (pronounced gloo-gloo), meaning a wine that is super easy to drink - you may have heard of a bar in Shrewsbury with that name!
That doesn’t mean it needs to be industrially produced however, the vineyards chock full of agrochemicals and processes mechanised and standardised.
Many of our favourite producers who make wines that stop you dead in your tracks when you taste them also make wines for everyday. For one thing they need something to drink themselves and share and if they drink all their best, they have nothing to sell. These are often wines made from younger vineyards, or ones that are easier to work or have bigger cropping vines. But they receive the same level of care, talent and attention as do the top cuvées.
These are wines that everyone will enjoy and that won’t split the vote, in the same way that some music can just exist in the background while some makes you listen, not just hear. Wallpaper wines perhaps but ones that enhance the occasion, not create it.
Two to try -
Domaine du Bablut, Topette a Lundi, VDF, Loire, France - a true vin de soif, this is a light red using local grape Grolleau, organically grown and made without added sulphites. ‘Topette’ is the Angevin dialect's informal goodbye, originating as a phrase local slate miners would call to one another after filling their little 'topette' wine bottles for the weekend. Topette à Lundi - see you Monday!
Chateau de L'Escarelle, Les Deux Anges, Côtes Varois en Provence, France - Super pale and über elegant Provence rosé is the perfect accompaniment to a sunny afternoon, a leisurely Sunday lunch, or meeting an old friend. Chateau de l’Escarelle has spent the last few years transforming itself into one of the regions leading organic producers with impressive results.