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, vanillan sheen or hedgerow fruits” really help reveal the core of a wine, anymore than rib of beef would be assisted by “nuance of muscled bull” 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 metres of in-store wine shelving?

Wine pricing provides little support either. When basic glugging wines, the mainstay of supermarkets worldwide, 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 Monet become an incrementally more profound painting 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? Would art then be more readily understood when subsequently faced with a Damien Hirst or a Tracey Emin?

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 categorised by dreamy vineyard photographs or purple vortices spinning in a glass, 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. To follow a vineyard throughout the year is to trace a seam of decision-making, both on the ground and in real time, similar to that which has been undertaken for millennia. It will allow intent to be recognized, context to be revealed and it might help make wine selection more informed.

We will discover the whole story of wine, not just what’s on the label.

We have picked three vineyards, one in France, one in Italy and one in Spain. Separated by grape variety, micro-climate and soil type, their winemakers all share a similar intent – to make exhilarating wines which reveal place as well as express the sensitivity of the winemaker’s intervention. We will watch them respond to conditions in the vineyard, undertake the harvest and later follow their decision making in the winery. We will interview, photograph and record all aspects of our winemakers’ year, and after bottling, arrange to taste the resultant wines with you.

Our initial search takes us to the Southern Rhone where we introduce Stéphan Vedeau at La Ferme du Mont. We will follow the birth of the great blends of the region; Côtes du Rhône Villages, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.