A private lesson with Fongyee:
Wine is not a luxury product
When many Chinese people think of wine, they think of the line from Wang Cen’s poem ‘beautiful wine in a moonlit glass’, but it’s like they forget the second half of the poem… the poet is not having a luxurious life – on the contrary, he’s talking about how wine can get you through the hard times. The glass may have been moonlit but it wasn’t a Riedel and the poet probably wasn’t wearing Chanel clothing!
Wine, particularly premium wine, is often regarded as a luxury. But, although I agree that wine in China is far too expensive, I feel that this is the wrong attitude to take: wine is not a luxury object, it is just a drink, a lovely drink with beautiful flavours, but still essentially a beverage. When you drink wine, it’s a chance to discover and enjoy new styles, new flavours and new fun! So below I have a few suggestions. . .
1. Don’t always pick expensive famous wines
Some people believe that ‘the most expensive wine has the best flavour’ and actually, in many cases, that’s not quite true. There are a lot of wines that have a great taste and a low price.
Actually, many expensive wines are not that easy to drink: quite often when I taste them, I feel these are wines ‘that I respect but don’t really love!’
At home, I often drink so-called ‘regular wine’ with upfront fruit, easy-to-drink in style. In fact my favourite wines are not expensive and are not too cheap either – the best wines for drinking (drinking, not impressing people!) are usually within the 120-300RMB (12-30 pounds) price bracket.
2. Please play with your wine!
When people hear about the ‘wine and Coke’ jokes, they often assume it is Chinese people doing this. However, I do assure you that the first time I came across this was in Spain. In my teenage years, I went to visit my Spanish cousins and it was there where we drank this cocktail. Why? Because the red wine there was really rough – too rough to really drink. Mind you, the Coke was more expensive than the wine!
But what I learned is that sometimes all you want to drink is something easy and fun! And when I was a poor student, if I bought wines that I didn’t like the flavour of, well, I wouldn’t waste it – I would mix it! Sprite, juice, orange slices, sparkling water… In order to give the wine a more fun flavour, I would mix and play. This is a wonderful way to get young people and people not used to wine trying a bit – and enjoying it!
OF COURSE – this only really applies to the cheap rough stuff. I wouldn’t do this with anything expensive – those should be left alone.
3. No need to trust the ‘experts’
Sometimes when I buy wine, I hear people saying ‘oh this wine was given XX points by the expert YY’, so they spend a lot of money on buying it, but then discover that the taste is rather structured and astringent, and feel slightly cheated by this.
You really don’t have to pay too much attention to ‘experts’ and pay a premium for those wines they have praised. After all, everybody has different tastes – and everyone will like different types of wine and your tastes might not mesh with an ‘expert’s’. Moreover, it also surprises my students that quality is not necessarily related to liking a wine. Something to remember! Buy a range of reasonably priced wines and discover your own tastes. Maybe you like refreshing wines, maybe rich ones, and what you find will scored your own ‘expert’ top points. Which leads me onto…
4. To enjoy life, drinks lots of different wines:
Cao Cao once said, ‘I have a drink in hand and sing: “what’s life? Just like the morning dew: ephemeral daunting days” ….. he realised that wine makes the job easier!
The most important thing in life is to explore new things, do crazy stuff, push yourself to discover all the crazy wonderful things on this planet and don’t waste a minute of your time doing the same thing over and over again, drinking the same wine. Life is short – carpe diem!
A delicious glass of wine is just what I need to ‘get by with a little help from my friends’, but that glass can also suit the ‘sound of silence’ – it just needs to suit your tastes and your budget! Here’s to the easy life and the sheer pleasure of enjoying ordinary things, not luxury goods!
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