Wine is a matter of taste, and taste is personal. So trying to adjudicate on whether one wine is objectively better than another is a bit like trying to prove that Wham!were better than Spandau: in the view of this columnist, an interesting argument, but not one you’ll get a firm answer to. So there’s really only one maxim worth remembering about wine: a good wine is a wine you like.

Some wines are made more elaborately than others, have a better back-story, and reward you with more different flavours if you shut your eyes and think for a bit. Serge Hochar continued to tend his vines as Syrian tanks rolled through his vineyards in the Lebanese civil war, and the wines (Chateau Musar) fetch decent prices. They also happen to taste pretty good. On the other hand, Gallo, a Californian wine producer, knocks out about 900 million bottles per year, and you can pick one up for £5.50 at Sainsbury’s (it’s fine, but even that’s over-priced, and you can do better).

"A Sainsbury’s house wine knocks a Jacob’s Creek for six"

But none of this really explains why some wine goes for £4 a bottle and some for £4,000. Well, some people attach lots of meaning to how much they spendon wine. In the words of HSPSers everywhere, it’s ‘socially performative’. That’s not necessarily a cardinal sin: the reason the word ‘wine’ crops up 231 times in the King James Bible is because we tend to attach more meaning to it than, say, orange squash (zero mentions in either the Old or New Testaments, since you ask). But how to suss out if a bottle’s really worth your buck? A few tips.

Basically, when you buy a £5 bottle, only about 40p goes towards the actual wine. A far greater proportion is tax, packaging and shipping than in – say – a £7 bottle. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, but as a penny-pinched student there’s a sweet spot between £5 and £8 that’s worth your time. It’s almost inevitably true that wine produced in truly industrial quantities is never going to be quite as interesting as smaller-scale wines produced by someone motivated by love as much as money. But it’s still possible to tickle those taste-buds without breaking the bank. Finally, think twice about big brands. A Sainsbury’s house wine (ignore the dour labels) will get you funny looks, but it knocks a Jacob’s Creek for six… and you get to be smug about wine snobs. This columnist can’t think of much better than that.

What to drink this week

Remember, recommendations are a matter of personal taste and a good wine is a wine you like. If you think mine are rubbish, do please send postcards with abusive comments (or a bottle of Gallo white, dog poo, or any piece of crockery bearing the Trinity crest) addressed to Edward Pinnegar, St John’s College, Cambridge.

Montaignan Viognier 2017 IGP d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (France). Cambridge Wine Merchants, £6.37 (with 10% student discount).

If you like your whites like your men (plenty of muscle, a little bitta fruit and a fat lotta spice), this is the way to go. Chardonnay’s kooky cousin and – in my view – the most underrated white grape of them all. A good match with curries and spice; a rare thing in a wine. Open up and leave it out of the fridge for 20 minutes before drinking… if you have the necessary self-discipline. This is a fabulous bargain!

If it were a human it’d be: the infinitely cultured captain of a women’s football team (much more refined)

Vilacetinho Vinho Verde 2017(Portugal). Cambridge Wine Merchants, £6.26 (with 10% student discount).

If prosecco bubbles get up your nose as much as prosecco drinkers get up mine (they don’t really), this is a great alternative. A blend of four different grapes and with the hint of fizz that’s traditional for the region, the relatively low alcohol content (10%) means you won’t get a headache unless you drink it in the quantities that, quite frankly, it deserves. Sainsbury’s Alvorado Vinho Verde (£5.00, vegan) is a bit plainer, but also very good.

If it were a human it’d be: that spritzy friend who never has a bad word for anyone but under no circumstances will shut up in the car


Mountain View

It's time to wine down

Sainsbury’s Fairtrade Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot(South Africa). Sainsbury’s, £6.50 (on offer; save £1.00). Vegan.

After two punchy whites, something more classic. You know those Crushbridges searching for dependable, rock solid boys and girls? There might be a shortage of such people at Cambridge, but thankfully there’s no shortage of their vinous counterparts on Saino’s shelves. This is a stolid, full-flavoured red with no hard edges that will bring you a cold winter evening’s comfort after two lectures and a supo.

If it were a human it’d be: gloating to you about its place on PwC’s grad scheme. Drink it before it annoys you

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