Magazine article The Spectator

Multiple Choice

Magazine article The Spectator

Multiple Choice

Article excerpt

When I open a list of wines for sale, I expect not to have heard of most of what is on offer. I am familiar with the basic outline, of course; but should I decide that a Pinot Noir is the very grape I want, I pass immediately into a kind of noman's land where a host of further choices confront me. Which country of origin?

Can I afford a Burgundy, and, if I can, do I only go for one I've heard of? If I cannot, how do I tell the difference between the truly bewildering number of possibilities in this category if the price is of no help. To put this more bluntly: the Wine Society's current catalogue offers a bottle of 2003 'Maison Dieu', Nicolas Potel for £9.95. For exactly the same money you can have a bottle of the 2002 Australian Yering Station Pinot Noir; or the New Zealand 2003 Spy Valley Pinot Noir; or the 2003 South African Glen Carlou Pinot Noir; or the 2002 Lemelson Six Vineyards Pinot Noir from Oregon; or (for £7.95) the Chilean 2004 Vina Leyda Las Brisas Reserve Pinot Noir. Given that I haven't heard of any of these, it will be necessary to decide whether the fact that the French wine, coming from an area where the best is very expensive, is too cheap to be as good as the New World ones; or again whether the Chilean one, coming from a place where the good stuff is relatively inexpensive, is going to be the tastiest because it is almost as costly as the others.

But eventually it is very likely I shall buy a bottle of something I've no knowledge of; I shall enjoy the process of choosing it; and I shall enjoy drinking it.

I mention this because on the face of it our record magazines present almost exactly the same situation. For the same sum of money -- say £9.95 -- you can buy all manner of recorded music that you have never heard of. Again nationality will probably be a factor in what you finally choose, as will vintage (or epoch in this case). Even the write-ups can sound similar. Here are some of the phrases used to describe a recent recording of Franz Anton Hoffmeister's Notturnos in International Record Review: 'This is a delicious release. . . . Night is clearly a time for friendly interaction . . . warmth and richness . . . a fund of delicious ideas . . .

neater and crisper than usual . . . excellent blend, sweet yet unaffected in character.' The Wine Society's summer list includes the following descriptions: 'fragrant, round, well balanced and enormously seductive . …

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