When my daughter took a job in London at the end of April, little did I know that I would be visiting her during the historic referendum of 23 June, when the brave people of England voted to extract themselves from the European Union and create their very own destiny.
Apart from the tourists, whose currency immediately got stronger against the pound, the mood on the streets became markedly somber after the vote, at least in London, which overwhelmingly supported remaining in the EU. When I asked a local wine clerk if he was selling more or less wine since the election, he looked out the window in despair, mumbling an answer I couldn’t hear.
My intention was to taste as much beer and cider as I could in this land that is famous for both, to see if wine industry panic over its consumption is indeed valid. Has cider and craft beer become so delicious that it will seriously cut into wine consumption as the industry fears?
Instead of fully engaging with my research, I’ve been glued to my laptop, reading reports on the EU exit as history unfolds. So I don’t claim to have tasted as many ciders and beers as would make my research thoroughly reliable. But so far, I would say to the wine industry, “Calm down. Nothing will replace wine. It is the most varied, nuanced, and delicious alcoholic drink in the world.”
I am enjoying cider, but I haven’t yet found the sweet spot. It tastes either too much like apple juice on the sweet side or not enough like apples on the dry side.
I much prefer beer, which is more varied, ranging from the rich and murky to the lean and golden. By accident, I tasted the legendary Pliny the Elder before it developed its world- class reputation. I saw it listed on a chalkboard menu in a tiny out-of-the-way café in San Francisco and ordered it because I was seduced by its name. It was astoundingly good. Interestingly, I haven’t yet tasted an English beer that delicious.
But as much as I enjoy beer, I would not want to drink it everyday like I do wine. Beer is beer, predictably enjoyable, especially when the weather warms, but not a drink for all occasions, all foods, or all seasons like wine is. Ultimately wine presents an infinite variety of flavors and sensations. No two bottles, even of the same wine, are the same. And exactly those differences create the intrigue that each bottle provides when you take the first sip or even the last in the glass.
In my opinion, those, who truly pay attention to what they’re drinking, soon want to get acquainted with wine. In fact, that’s exactly what Millennials are doing. The generation is now the largest consumer of wine in the US. So let them drink the occasional cider or beer, which is lower in alcohol than wine, much less costly, and definitely enjoyable. Cider and craft beer have a place on the menu but will never dominate it.