So I did like I was told (see PK's thunderous hint at the start of his post for 19 October). I blundered round to the nearest Oddbins, but, unlike PK, did not engage the guy behind the counter in half an hour of witty banter, but merely walked straight across the floor to where this insanely priced bottle stood on a shelf, waiting for me, looking as if it knew I was about to grab it and pay £17.99 for it. I can’t think about the price without having to blink away tears, but there it is.
Three things immediately wrong with this multinational snake oil: no screw cap; tiresomely tasteful label (where is the dry point of a château? where the airbrushed grapes? the gold medal for hygiene, Antwerp?); more than three times the correct price of a bottle of red wine. Quite a lot more, very nearly the price of a fourth bottle.
I took it home, cradling the smug, loathsome thing like a changeling and then had to find a glass big enough to give it lebensraum. Well, we’ve been down this rocky road before (see the post for 15 September) so after ten minutes of poking around I finally found a Christening glass which had been given to no. 2 son and it was about the size and shape of a town-crier’s bell, so I pronounced it good. No chance, as PK would have it, of tipping the grog into the old family crystal wine decanter first, because we don’t have one. We have got an elderly thick-walled carafe which used to hold cheap Californian biddy, but it’s been used as a flower vase for the last ten years so I ruled it out. I could have taught my millionaire’s wine a lesson by pouring it into my now-empty cubi (see 12 October) but even I could see that would have been both childish and vindictive.
And then what? The cork broke. My trusty Screwpull, which has never failed in six years, got jammed in Terlato & Chapoutier’s cork and the cork started to split and by the time I’d dragged the thing out into the open (like pulling a sack of sand across a ploughed field) there was cork everywhere, over the table, an acne of cork bits floating in my bell-shaped glass. I went to get my taster’s notes (including a précis of PK’s verbal fondlings - Cedary but creamy; it sings off the back of the palate; spicy warmth) and check on the accompanying food (a pain in its own right: what do you eat with such a precious commodity? Roast swan? A gazelle?) but I was fulminating all the time. No screw cap, you see. None of that bracing downwind-of-a-petrol-refinery anticipation you get when you open a cheap bottle. Just ten minutes of anguished fury. At these prices I think I’m entitled to expect at the very least, a dependable cork. I suppose it would be expecting too much for them to send me a replacement.
And then the drink itself. My own tasting notes (after Cork fell to bits) struggle to generate enthusiasm, resorting to such joke appreciations as Begins with a peppery flourish and caramel overtones before lapsing into Searches out areas of the tongue (underside, edges) you don’t normally pay attention to and then down, down, into good quality soap, then slightly sinister until at last, dull existential throb. I couldn’t finish the bottle, no matter how hard I tried. It just filled me with woozy, oppressed, overstuffed gloom. It was like thin treacle poured over a flagstone floor. What is it with this terrible stuff? What about singing off the palate? I had to put a stopper in it (see picture) and deal it the death blow the following day.
Questions will no doubt be raised. Not least by me, who, after the ordeal was over, could not get the thought out of his head that one, highly provocative, bottle of Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz/Viognier costs the same as a brace of cinema tickets. Or three paperback books. Or two whole bottles of Tesco’s value whisky - a drink which, I can attest, will provide hours, if not days, of mellowing distraction. But I’d better stop there. I’m getting upset again.