So wine has taken a bit of a back seat in the last few days, on account of: the younger son finally coming down from University with (a) a degree (b) his girlfriend; my Brother-in-Law's 60th Birthday (for which I actually gave him a bottle of well flash Aloxe Corton); the imminent arrival of some friends all the way from California, which meant licking the entire house clean, a job which took a week; and the collapse of the living room ceiling.
This last happened on Saturday morning at half-past nine. We were seriously thinking about getting up, when a huge crash announced itself from the room below. We blundered downstairs to find the room looking as if an IED had partially exploded, crap everywhere, plaster dust hanging in the air like a cheap special effect and about a quarter of the ceiling on the floor. We can't get it all replastered and repainted in time (now that we've licked the living room clean again) so we and our guests will have to sit underneath this sinister hole (which can at least act as metaphor for the state of the nation) and try and make conversation without getting tense. And when the Californians leave next week, another friend, this time from New York, arrives a day later to take their place. Insofar as I have any mental space for wine, I am seeing it mainly as an analgesic.
Very well: a dash to Majestic, currently the front-runner for acceptable mainstream grog at tolerable prices, will sort out all my problems. In I go, haunt the French reds in a dazed and seamy fashion for a few minutes, get some fizzy stuff at the same time, pant my way over to the till, where the intelligent young operative in charge asks if I would like a printout of the tasting notes that accompany the point-of-sale price information.
'Well, I don't know,' I say, trying to sound competent.
'It's just there, you never know, it might be worth looking at.'
'Isn't it the usual things about floral notes and supple finishes?'
'Some people find it useful.'
'Oh, all right, then,' I say, keeping a note of authority in my voice. I mean, the kid's half my age.
'It doesn't take a minute.'
Nor does it. I go home with my case and a ½ of booze, plus a crib-sheet telling me what to think about the stuff I've just paid for. As in, Fleurie 2011, Labouré-Roi...Red fruit and perfume nose...soft finish with supple tannins...lots of fresh fruit... Or the Côtes du Rhône Belleruche 2010...Rich aromas...smooth tannins, rich blackberry...partner most meat dishes... Or the Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene...Ideal as an apéritif... I don't know if this enhances my appreciation of the wines or not; but I do acquire the unshakeable impression that whatever I may think of myself as a connoisseur, the young man at the till clearly reckoned me as vacant as an empty fire bucket and in need of filling up with something useful.
What did I just buy? It was a bit of a mix. Enough to suggest that I don't really know what I'm doing, the usual story, and grab recklessly at anything that looks right. What should I have said?
'No thank you. I won't bother with the crib sheet. I think if I know anything, I know my wines.'
'Of course, sir. Your bearing confirms it. Please don't impugn our motives in your wine blog.'
And then I could have simply enjoyed my Chilean Champagne substitute, Undurraga Brut, which I took round to someone else's house to try out. There a fellow-drinker said it had a bouquet of elderflowers, and by heaven she was right. It does, and it's delicious - as sheerly cherishable as the bottle of ￡3.99 Tesco Sauvignon Blanc I picked up in a moment of inattention, which tasted of nothing in a cleasing kind of way, but did a great job of dulling the pain of (a) the tasting notes (b) the hole in the ceiling. Good night, everybody.