In a recent episode of the BBC’s Food & Drink, chef and presenter Tom Kerridge visits The Ginger Pig in London’s Borough Market and picks up a 500g of fillet steak. Not a cheap cut, I think you’ll agree.
Later, he cooks two large tuna steaks. No mention is made of how much they cost. No apologies either for using what many people would see as luxury items.
Yet when it comes to the wine matches, much is made of the price. We know first that both are under a tenner. Then we find out that the Jacob’s Creek Pinot Noir is £7.50 and the Casillero de Diabolo Carmenère is “seven or eight pounds, something like that”. If the cost of the food doesn’t matter, why is the price of the wine so important?
Now, I’m not having a pop at the hugely talented and fabulous Joe Wadsack, who is clearly working to a brief set by the programme’s editorial team.
What I am having a pop at is the utter hypocrisy mainstream media outlets (including some print) have with how much wine costs, when that is rarely extended to any of the ingredients they use to make the accompanying dishes.
I’m also having a pop at programmes which seem to always apologise if a wine they feature hits the dizzying heights of £10.
An episode of another food and wine show, Saturday Kitchen (the BBC again) prompted one fellow independent merchant to tweet this:
According to a discussion on Facebook, research suggests that a significant amount of viewers might stop watching if the wine was deemed too expensive. Then there’s the dreaded flood of complaints that programme makers brace themselves for. To me, that seems like an editorial policy based on fear. If producers don’t make a stand and try to change the dialogue, it will be forever thus.
I’m not suggesting dropping the cheaper wines at all. But why not have experts to choose a style of wine and then give three recommendations in different price ranges as examples? One under £8, one under £14 and one under £20. If TV chefs can say “buy the best chicken you can afford” why can’t the same be said for wine? Give people choices. Don’t assume they are all one lumpen mass hell-bent on searching out supermarket wine deals for £5.99 or under.
Another thing: when wines are featured from retailers who are only/also online, give the real price per bottle. Not the price you only get if you buy a mixed case of 12. Or make it clear what this price is based on, and that you have to pay for delivery for one bottle and maybe even for a case. Otherwise it’s misleading. (That goes for newspapers and their magazines too.)
Yes, I am a retailer and you could argue that I have an agenda. But continually reinforcing the idea that it’s extravagant to spend much more than £6 or so on a bottle is not good for the wine industry and its future in the UK, which impacts all consumers, not just me.
And, before you scream “a lot of people can’t afford to spend £8 or more on wine” I’ll say “then don’t feature dishes using expensive cuts like fillet of beef and costly slabs of tuna”. Level the playing field and make everything about how to eat and drink within a set budget.
One final thought: wouldn’t it be nice if all those furious complainers instead wrote to their MPs, asking them to lobby for a reduction in the ridiculous duty we pay on wine in the UK? Then we could ALL enjoy better wine.