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Reading Between the Wines: why you're unlikely to find those holiday bottles back home

If you have ever been on holiday to a wine-producing country, you will probably have noticed how enjoyably fresh and cheap the wine is - so much so that you try to find your favourite tipple when you get back home.

If you've ever worked in wine sales, you have probably been asked to help someone find a wine they had on holiday, with little more information to go on than its colour and that it was "lovely". Worse yet, you have probably been reprimanded by recently returned holiday-makers telling you how much cheaper Spanish wine is in Spain, and so on.

Most often the merchant will try to figure out what the wine was like and recommend something that might be similar. Unfortunately, most customers will have their heart set on that holiday bottle and leave empty-handed, refusing to let go of the dream of finding it again. Sad story, but true.

The good news is that I can help you track down your holiday bottle! The bad news is that your chances of finding it won't increase very much, and even if you did find it, it wouldn't taste the same… let's find out why.

I'll be blunt; 99% of the time you will never see your beloved holiday wine again, nor will any merchant know the wine you wanted. If you liked a local beer or spirit while on holiday, there is a slightly higher chance of sourcing it, but for wine you can pretty much forget about it.

You see, wine is far more complex and 'boutique' than things like spirits and beers. There are hundreds of thousands of different bottlings of wine in Europe alone, and most of them never make it to the UK. Those that do leave the country are often relabelled for export, or get blended into large quantities of big-brand wine before bottling.

But imagine you really did find your dream holiday bottle! I bet you another bottle that it just won't taste the same. Why? When you had it on holiday, it was in a different climate, alongside different foods and settings, plus the wine would most likely have been local, so young and fresh. In the UK, it will have spent extra months getting shunted around in the back of lorries, on freezing shipping containers and gathering dust in grocery warehouses.

But that's not the main thing - pretty much all of our wine is imported, and the vast majority survives perfectly well. The main difference (and the main reason that the wine won't taste as nice at home) is that you aren't on holiday anymore. On holiday you are relaxed, happy, and predisposed to enjoying your new experiences. It's special, so the wine tastes special. At home, it's just wine. Sad story, but true.

Anyway, it's not all doom and gloom, as wine retailers are always keen to use their knowledge and resources to cash in on holiday nostalgia. One major wine merchant, Oddbins, is currently running a competition where they will start stocking customer suggestions of holiday wine (if they can find it AND they like it, of course!).

But you can take advantage of merchants too. If you want to find your holiday wine, or something like it, get all the information you can. The name of the wine won't do - it could be a non-export labelling or a geographically generic name. You need to note producer, region, grapes (if that info is present), and the year. This is easiest if you take a photo of the label (people still take cameras on holiday, right?). It might feel strange if you've never done it before, but tasting notes help too.

From there you can do your own research, or give that info to someone that knows their wine, and you'll find something that fits the bill soon enough.

Just be prepared to balk at the price when you see how much it costs in pounds sterling…

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Food and drink

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