Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Finer Things In Life

A strange duality is occurring as I get older when it comes to those diminishing levels of return that comes with greatly escalating investment. Back when I was young I was very keen on my HiFi, and although I was never in a position to afford to high end stuff (that end of the market where vinyl is still very much king, CDs are sneered at, and the mention of an MP3 is like inferring carnal knowledge of someone's mother) but I was always spending much time reading the magazines to determine what the experts considered the best quality kit that could be afforded if I routed 80% of my student grant to deck, amp and speakers, and lived off pasta in white sauce with green beans for the whole rest of term. And at the end of the day, I probably spent most of the time just pretending I could hear the 'startling increase in bass definition and subtle warmth in the high end vocals' from one HiFi setup to the next.
Nowadays, I think I'm a little more pragmatic about things, and for the amount of time I end up listening to music, that accursed MP3 file in it's little metal iHome that he shares with 8764 of his mates, is just far to easy and convenient to ignore, and the bits of old HiFi now sit in the transistor and valve graveyard of an attic waiting for that mythical time when I'll 'get them fixed up properly'.... Yeah, right!
So I've settled for something decent enough and usable. But strangely, the converse is now true in other areas where I'm now far more willing to throw extra money into things to try that little extra, again probably without have the ability personally to make the distinctions. With some items it's a matter of 'just in case' such as the mattress topper we bought the other day. Having gone through the shop looking at them all, of course they seemed to be better and better the more expensive they expected, and when dealing with the possibility of ensuring my wife gets the best possible night's sleep (and hence my best possible waking day) then it just seemed to make sense to say, let's have the best we can. Did I feel like I'd had any better night's sleep? I'm really not sure, but I still don't begrudge spending the dosh there.
With wine however, I seem to be caught in a bit of that same youthful feeling I had about HiFi. I so want to be able to appreciate the difference between the 'levels' of wine value and actually do enjoy a decent bottle more than others, but once you get beyond the realms of what the 'average' person might spend on a bottle, can I tell the difference? I so want to be able to, and at the same time my logical mind says, 'hope for your wallet's sake that you can't!'
I've always said that it has to be a very, very dire bottle of red before I'll actually not enjoy drinking it (in fact I can still count on one hand the occasions when I've had a problem drinking a red), so I was quite content quaffing the contents of the Coop box of cab-sav on offer, but I could instantly tell a huge leap in yumminess when switching to a delicious Californian cab-sav from Charles Smith at about the £10 a bottle mark. Yeah! My aspiration to wine snobbery seems to be happening, but then I went from that to the converted bottle of Amarone that I parted with £25 for as it was on offer at half price. Hmmmm, now here is the most expensive bottle of wine I've ever bought, so again just like my student HiFi days, I'm not going really high end (it's no 'chateau d'ReMortgage'), but I guess it's fine wine much in the same way my amplifier and speaker were HiFi as opposed to being a 'stereo centre'. And what did it taste like? Well very, very nice it has to be said.... But at the end of the day, it looks like my logic and wallet are going to win, as nice as it was, being brutally honest, I couldn't say for one moment it was any nicer that the Charles Smith of the night before.
So for wine at least, I think I have found my level beyond which the diminishing returns are tending to zero. I wonder what the next luxury item will be that will start to tug at my wallet and ingrained desire to be a snob :)