Thursday, 23 February 2012

Buying In Bulk: Shiraz, and plenty of it


As a rule, whenever I buy wine, I march robotically over to the booze section of the supermarket, stand in front of hundreds of unknowable bottles and special offers and bargain disasters for about thirty seconds, then reach out as if in a trance and grab the first bottle that costs about £5. That's it. Everything after that is a matter of destiny.


There is, I know, a grown-up way of acquiring drink, which is to ascertain your preferences beforehand then buy in bulk, a couple of cases at a time, and work your way complacently through the contents. Well, I have two problems with this. First, I can never remember what I like, or if, indeed, I actually like anything. Second (and more pressing) is that even if I can think of something that might be worth drinking, whenever this household orders even the most pitiable caseful of wine, something goes wrong with the delivery.

Tesco are a case in point, with their four deliveries and three monumental cock-ups. But it's not just them. The wife rather daringly went to popular winesellers Laithwaites to order a case of my pa-in-law's favourite wine and have it sent direct to his address as a Christmas present. Fine, the stuff turned up. But the pa-in-law already had an account with Laithwaites, so they billed him for his own present, instead of billing my wife. She called them up, explained, they said of course, we'll sort it out. What happened? Next time my pa-in-law put in for an order of his own, my wife got billed for it and he didn't. This makes no sense. They don't have the same names, they don't live in the same part of the country, they don't share credit cards. How can this happen?

Buying in bulk in person doesn't work much better. The doomed Oddbins (now relaunched, may God save their souls) would sell you plenty of stuff in one go, but it tasted terrible. My most recent visit to a cave in the south of France was so frosty that I ended up buying nothing at all. And I can't be arsed to get down to the nearest Majestic (all of half a mile away) because the parking's rubbish.

Nevertheless, in a last throw of the dice, I have been tormenting myself with the thought of going to France on a day trip, buying a load of cheap grog and bringing it back in the car. Ever since the Pound collapsed against the Euro a few years ago, the idea of the booze cruise has rather tanked, but then my brother-in-law, who has an almost obsessional interest in doutbful bargains, started explaining about some outfit that covers the cost of your ferry ticket provided you buy £200 or more of booze, or at least they give you a voucher for the next time you cross.

Actually, just looking at it, now, in black and white, I can see what a terrible idea this is, involving the purchase of a huge amount of wine I can't afford, plus fuel expenditure, plus the certainty that when I get my £200 of drink back home, it will turn out to be every bit as awful as the stuff I habitually buy from the supermarket. And my car's falling to pieces, so I probably won't even make it as far as Dover.

There must be some way round this. Perhaps I should try and get PK in on the scheme, not least because he has a newish executive-style saloon which won't break down on the M20. 


The drawback with that is that he'll insist on high-end purchases such as cellophane-wrapped ham rolls on the ferry. When we get to the outlet in Calais, he'll want bottles of wine that have dates on them. Plus one of those terrible, terrible bourgeois restaurant meals you get all over France where the food tastes of mud and the service is mediaevally bad and it costs a fortune: 'Thus losing a significant percentage of what you have just saved' as my bro-in-law (who used to be a finance director) observes.

Look: I just want enough everyday Shiraz, from almost any country, to be able to bathe in. Is that so unreasonable?

CJ

1 comment:

  1. Amusingly, the only place in Calais that specialises in supplying booze is owned by Majestic, which apparently you can't be arsed to go and visit. Which then brings the next point about them, why not order your wines to be delivered? It's free at least, and you can always speak to the person over the phone rather than get a mix up of Laithwaites' proportions - the local branch is where the stock is delivered from, not from some faceless depot in Reading.

    CJ, your inverted snobbery is astounding. Suck it up mate and accept the fact that you have to spend a bit more than £3.99 to get a decent bottle of wine. You do actually fit into the stereotype of UK wine purchasers that the WSET generally categorises us - price above quality.

    By the way cheap Aussie shiraz is no longer the norm - they've finally woken up and have realised that they can no longer afford to sell to the UK market at a loss - they've seen that the Kiwi's have played their cards more cunningly, and are now refusing to undermine their own product. Good for them I say, especially as there are other markets that are happy to pay more, and aren't so seduced by 3 for £10s. If you ever bother to read the trade press, you might find that the UK is no longer the market that wine producers are dying to get a foothold in. Seeing that little profit is to be made by a nation that is obsessed with discounts, bulk wine producers are seeking alternate markets that reward them more handsomely. The USA is reaping the benefit of this as their home market is particularly strong (exporting isn't really necessary to the Americans) and so cheaper imports don't really need the aggressive discounting that the UK market experiences.

    Any way. Shiraz? So passe. Malbec is where it's at, and you may as well get your boots full now before the Falklands debacle kicks in...

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