Supermarkets swept clear of wine options
Time was, if you decided to "get into wine", a copy of Hugh Johnson's Pocket Guide and a handy supermarket were just about all you needed
The names on the labels were those of the wineries, not imaginary fantasies dreamt up by marketing donkeys with all the character of a damp scarecrow in a muddy vineyard.
Just a few years back, some of wine's more treasured creations could be pulled from a supermarket shelf.
Australian greats like Penfolds RWT, Yalumba's "The Signature", Leoville-Barton from Bordeaux (and many other a recognisable Chateau), Hugel's Alsatian wines... And all from Safeways (only 10 years back; they're mostly all Morrisons these days).
Today you're more likely to find identical wines spread four or five abreast across the shelf front; not four or five different wines.
It's a crying shame. You could read about varieties and not stand a snowball's chance in hell of finding them on those supermarket shelves. Heading to a specialist wine shop would be your only chance, or hit the internet.
Whilst I despair at that reality, you can't really just simply blame the supermarkets for being that way.
They're dynamic, market-savvy machines that are only too aware of what sells and what doesn't from their shelves. Wine isn't the only casualty. Take a glance at the food shelves and you'll frequently see things reduced "to clear"; not because of sell-by dates, because it simply doesn't sell and so is taking up valuable space.
So we have ourselves to blame for the reduced choice. They've simply done the complicated maths, worked out that keeping many lines of great wines just doesn't add up when they're sitting on the shelves for so long, and decided to reduce the choice.
I doubt it's reversible without a groundswell of people complaining about the lack of choice, and that's just not going to happen.
Most wine drinkers are more than happy to stick to either what they know and like, or plump for the offer of the moment.
All that does as far as the wine trade is concerned is place the power of choice, quality and difference elsewhere. It's why mainstream media's insistence upon recommending from the big chains is less and less worthy.
It's why you should learn to seek out those better wines.
Refuse to accept below par alternatives.
And go the extra distance to buy wines that are really worthwhile.
Not so easy, for sure. But the alternative is just so dreary and depressing.
Make the leap. Don't sacrifice quality for convenience.