I read with great interest the comments by Anna Murphy, who writes in The Times, about her experience tasting wine with committed oenophiles in the South of France. She met a head sommelier at a top hotel who had also worked in London and commented on how he felt it was the most sophisticated wine city in the world. However, he complained that there was now a shortage of high rolling Brits who had the knowledge to drink the top wines. Apparently the diminishing cellars of the top city firms are to blame. The cellars and the salaries have gone and so, he felt, had some of the knowledge.
I am afraid that I disagree. There may well have been some fine wine drunk in the 'good old days' but I dispute that many people actually knew what they were drinking. A hefty price merely gave an opportunity for a fat cat to show off and sometimes a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. Most were clueless as to what they were drinking but it tasted good and was expensive and at the time this was the main criteria. I have met far too many people with impressive cellars but little knowledge - those who have money to burn, follow a particular wine guru and just buy on recommendation - and often for purely investment purposes.
This is not wine knowledge. Knowledgeable wine people would not be so stupid. They would seek out good growers or vineyards and look for value for money, interest, terroir, vintage - or they would chose wine to pair with food.
Don't get me wrong - we had someone spend almost £3k on three bottles at the Oxford Wine Café recently. Loved them, but I think you get my point!
On a more technical note it is interesting to read that Bollinger Champagne is planning on reintroducing some of the permitted champagne grapes in order to add more acidity to theirs which have been affected by global warming. In the Champagne region there are only three grape varieties planted, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. However most people do not know that four other grape varieties are actually legal but have not been used for years. I remember seeing a few only planted at Madame Bollinger's house (not for production purposes) when I was there a few years ago.