Ugly: The wife ordered a vast amount of cheap Cava from Tesco to see us through the Festive Period. It worked out, with discounts, at around £4 a bottle. Two cases of the stuff. In-laws, kids, disintegrating relatives, myself: all would be catered for, superabundantly and at a bargain price. But Tesco failed to deliver on the appointed day, or any other day for that matter, and it is now impossible to get an answer out of them either by phone or email. So no cheap fizzy for all the waifs and foundlings and orphans. It is Victorian in its cruelty.
Bad: Or not, depending on your point of view. People come over for dinner. Fiendishly, I decant one bottle of my cubi wine (the Terraventoux) into an unmarked container. At the same time, I decant the contents of the Portia 2006 Ribera del Duero that I won at the Wine Show, into another unmarked container. The Terraventoux works out at roughly €1 a bottle, the Portia at, say, €14, depending on where you get it. Roast guinea-fowl to eat with it, a real production. Yes, I tell myself, this will blow the whole premise of costly wines wide apart: my guests will taste both beverages and pronounce each as good as the other and I, with my ruthless austerity-binge take on drink, will enjoy a moment of high triumph as I explain that the ultra-cheap is every bit as satisfying as the expensive.
Unfortunately, there is a clear consensus that the Terraventoux, although refreshingly delicious, isn't quite in the same league as the Portia, which is drained to the last drop, amid low murmurings of This is really very nice and Is it all gone? Since no-one professes to be a winehead, that's about as far as the appreciation gets in purely technical terms, but the trend is clear. And I have to admit that, blithe and satisfying as my Grenache-y Terraventoux is, it isn't as complex, lingering, broad or multilayered as my 100% Tempranillo, four-year-old Portia ('A garnet cherry-red wine with intense fruity aromas' as it sportingly announces on the label at the back). But: using price as the determinant, is Portia really fourteen times nicer than Terraventoux? There was a time when I would have said, unquestioningly, no. I'm not so sure, now. Indeed, if I were to compare true like with like, I would actually have to give the Terraventoux a notional price tag of maybe €7, which is roughly what it would cost, retail, bottled and labelled like the Spanish stuff. Half as good: you see my difficulty.
Good: Hats off to PK, who (bless him) has given me a bottle of Sipsmith hand-made gin for my birthday. Yes, I know, gin isn't wine, I can tell the difference. But let me make this absolutely clear: Sipsmith is not only at least fourteen times nicer than mainstream supermarket brush cleaner (to which I am, as a rule, dismally partial), it is about the only gin I have ever tasted which can be drunk neat at room temperature and still taste delicious. As it is, I have been taking it good and cold with a drop of French Vermouth (Noilly Prat, makes one feel a bit like the old Queen Mother with her Dubonnet) and if there is a more invigoratingly hedonistic pre-dinner drink than this then I will eat my hat. This is a super-evolved gin. This is gin as nectar. This is gin which tells a story of complex aromatics and transmogrifying internal warmth. This is a classic Bentley among gins. Just writing about it makes me want to fix up a little glassful (see the photo), but no, it is only two in the afternoon and I must be strong. Thank you, PK!