Is there such a thing as an all-purpose wine?
If there was a simple hack to solve all of life’s problems you wouldn’t need wine; or me, for that matter. At the heart of your question is a better question. How do you buy one bottle that will appeal to the full breadth of the wine-sipping community, from Mr Know-it-all wine geek all the way down to your dear old teetotaling grandma?
Sadly, no matter how you pour it, you’ll never be able to uncork enough magic to cast a spell on everybody, but you can try.
Ponder the occasion. If you’re buying some liquid pleasure to complement a specific dish then much of the heavy lifting is already done for you. Ask the store clerk for the classic wine pairing suggestion or cruise the internet (starting at quench.me first, of course) for an online suggestion.
Nothing is more “all-purpose” than a glass filled with a wine that makes an ideal marriage with a particular food. If you get a few turned up palates you can always blame the experts for your purchasing decision and smile as the haters swallow that nugget of intel.
If stand-alone drinking is the order of the day, steer towards the middle of the road. Something white (red fans will still appreciate a white wine but not so much vice versa) and off-dry (highly acidic dry wines, no matter the colour, can be as polarizing as a tweet from Taylor Swift). Go for a mid-priced German Riesling or anything made with the Moscato grape. Both have made a name for themselves as relaxed, apéritif-style wines with universal appeal.
On the red side, stick with low-acid, berry-forward wines. That’s France’s Beaujolais region’s stock in trade. A red with a touch of residual sugar, like any of the growing multitude of California red blends, should have the crowd sipping the light fantastic.
And then there’s rosé. Innocuous at its worst and subtly complex at its best, think pink if you’re worried that a red or white won’t tick all the boxes.
If you’re really concerned about the reaction a wine might bring, go local. We’re drinking in a world where questionable local juice is still given a pass so even the most obnoxious imbiber wouldn’t dare badmouth a glass of something pressed close to home no matter the colour or flavour profile.
Do wines made today taste different from those made decades ago?
Whoever said “the more things change, the more they stay the same” never tried to make a living selling wine, especially in Europe, where centuries of navel-gazing (not to mention consumer apathy) had its winemakers hypnotized into believing their output was beyond reproach.
When Europe started taking the shipment of wine to North America seriously (somewhere around the early ’70s), the continent’s wine industry was more like the Wild West than the sophisticated world of rules and regulations we associate it with today.
While there were guidelines in some countries (most notably France), much of what your parents would have seen on store shelves back in their day was pretty pedestrian juice that represented its origins about as well as Nickelback does rock and roll.
It didn’t take long for those doing right by their terroir to see the posers were dragging everyone down to their level and start lobbying their like-minded counterparts to establish some liquid laws to keep their industries in check and raise the bar on quality.
That became even more important to the Old World when New World upstarts from the likes of California, Australia and Chile began pumping out litres of wine that, thanks to their forgiving climates, tasted halfway decent even when mass-produced.
So yes, wine does taste different than it did decades ago, and by different, I mean better.