“Life is too short to drink bad wine”. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We live in a time where more wine is available to more people than ever before in history. It has become an egalitarian product, no longer the preserve of the metropolitan establishment or the landed elite – it should be a golden age of wine drinking for all. But is it an age of confidence?

Statistics indicate that around 90% of the wine purchased in the UK is supplied via large multiples, and what we pay per bottle is consistently at the bottom end of available price-points. So what shapes our wine selection today?

Wine choice can be a vexatious affair and determined by a variety of influences, many are straightforward, some hidden in plain sight, others subliminal. Those who wish to sell are understandably keen on nurturing all three. Both brand identity and accompanying descriptors can prove successful at swaying our choice and although purporting to reduce purchasing anxiety, they do little to reveal the character of any given wine.

Much of the language surrounding wine is as florid as it is ineffectual, frequently becoming the butt of class-inspired jokes. At its worse, it can be intimidating. Do “crunchy tannins or hedgerow fruits” really help reveal the core of a wine, anymore than rib of beef would be assisted by “nuance of cattle” or “hints of bovine essence”?

When wine is sipped with an apprehensive heart or chosen with barely disguised intimidation, pleasure is likely to be muted. How many of us have been unnerved by a seemingly impenetrable restaurant wine list or by the visual barrage of miles of in-store wine shelving?

Wine pricing provides little guidance either. When basic glugging wines, the mainstay of supermarkets, have had considerably more investment bestowed on their marketing budget than the contents of their bottle, does it then taste delicious for being inexpensively famous? Conversely, does an exalted first growth Bordeaux, become a greater wine the higher the auction price rises? Does a Van Gogh painting become an incrementally more profound work as its cost climbs faster than real estate? A modestly priced wine can frequently prove memorable but a highly priced wine will not necessarily guarantee delight.

The further addition of a scoring system tends to favour merchants and marketing folk rather than assist wine drinkers. Would a visit to the Uffizi be helped if Piero Della Francesca was given an 86 and Botticelli 95, or the Tate scored Picasso at 98 but knocked Mondrian down to 75? Does art become more readily understood?

Beyond assessment scores, brand building and the desire for footfall, most large retailers have understandably little interest in promoting customer independence. Diversity dents margins, and wider selection undermines stock control.

If diversity, intrigue, confidence and discovery do not seem to be major drivers, then brand identity, price and uniformity apparently do. Just as vacuum packed chicken breasts with accompanying farmyard imagery mask what have now become industrial meat ’units’, so wine is increasingly visualised by dreamy vineyard photographs or purple vortices spinning in glasses, neither of which are likely to match or expand a drinker’s eventual experience. Stereotypes continue their obfuscation leaving the development of genuine choice to drift aimlessly on trade winds.

Good vineyards are not grape factories. They can express a culture, define economic vicissitudes, address a social structure, imbue livelihoods and form attendant philosophies. Many of their owners want nothing more than to reach out and enthrall you. They, like I, want the individual cultural force inherent in their wines, alongside the fun and excitement of opening their bottles, to replace the cynical exploits of global marketers and the advertising falsehoods so commonly in attendance.

One sure way of understanding wine is by understanding its relationship to culture and one magnificent aspect of its culture is the cuisine that has traditionally accompanied it.

The choice of recipes enjoyed by my family, and the accompanying wines that have partnered our meals, hopefully transmit the sensual and intellectual delight we have regularly shared at table.