Tesco wine fairs
It's great to see Tesco, the UK's largest wine seller, running some consumer wine shows, in four cities over the next couple of months. It's so important to get people tasting, thinking about and enjoying wine. The more people who become interested in wine, the better it is for all of us (the only downside is more people chasing after small production gems, pushing the prices up). We need more consumer events like these.
But part of me is disappointed that all these people are making the effort to taste and learn, but they're not being shown all that many wines that you can really get excited about. I'm not knocking Tesco here, who do a pretty good job; it's just that any retailer of this sort tends to carry lots of correct but boring wines on its shelves.
Let's be brutally honest. Most commercial wines are crap. The Tesco buyers are talented individuals, but the constraints they work under mean that they're largely buying wines that I suspect they wouldn't choose to drink if they had the choice. There are some very notable exceptions (and given the commercial constraints it's amazing just how good some of the wines they carry are). But most of them are still dull, especially those from the old world classic regions where buying to a price point is a tough job.
If I was given free rein to choose from Tesco's range, I could certainly put together a very educational and enjoyable tasting for consumers. But I know that I could do a lot better if I were to source wines from elsewhere.
The problem here is the modern retail environment, which requires economies of scale. To play at all, you have to be big. And it's hard to be big and good when it comes to wine. The compromises that must be made in scaling up production are almost inevitably tasted in the glass.