Thursday 7 February 2013

Open All Hours - 2011 Côtes du Rhône

So my Brother-in-Law is set to go on one of his cross-Channel dashes in search of drink, and very kindly asks if he can get anything for me while he's there. There being The Calais Wine Superstore, chosen by him not least because it is strong on New World wines, his kind of wine, and also because they have given him a free ferry ticket for himself, his partner, and his car. If there is the tiniest inconvenience in this deal, it is merely that he has to go in mid-January, and a Severe Gale Force 9 is forecast.

The only other inconvenience, or at least it would be an inconvenience to me, is having to work out how much drink to buy in order to maximise the differential in duty between French and English prices, as well as make enough of a turn on it to cover the cost of the petrol. But this is easy for him, because he is a financial wizard, such a wizard that he actually aims to save about £300 net by getting his drink this way. 

Off he goes in the severe gale, but both he and P&O are made of the right stuff, and the Force 9 blows but fruitlessly, and he returns with the booze and his partner and the car headlights pointing at forty-five degrees up into the night sky on account of the incredible quantity of drink in the back.

And what has he bought on my behalf? Well, I had a quick scan of the Calais WIne website before he left and succumbed to the old old tendency: in other words, I dived straight to the bottom as if I was trying to salvage a Mediterranean wreck, and found this generic 2011Côtes du Rhône going for an eye-wateringly sensible £2.69 a bottle. Usual cockamamy reasoning: at this price, it doesn't matter what it tastes like. I'm the only one drinking it. If it doesn't kill me, I'm ahead of the game. I can always use it for fence paint.

Get me some of that, I said. My Bro-in-Law thought he could squeeze in half a case.

Now, as it turns out, he has been able to squeeze in a whole case, which is extremely decent of him, only for me, alarm bells are starting to ring. It is not exactly a question of retrospectively being careful what you wish for, but something like that. Six bottles of poisonous crap I can deal with, if indeed it turns out to be poisonous crap. Twelve bottles, on the other hand, are a bit more of a burden, a bit more difficult to get rid of, even if they do cost the same as a single bottle of good wine, even if they cost virtually nothing. How many chicken stews will twelve bottles make? How many marinades? How many solitary tussles with my liver will I have to endure? The stuff will be hanging around forever, like a curse.

Still. It comes in a nice bottle with a cork, and certainly looks the part. In fact it looks almost as good as a 2007 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru which I drank last week (not at all bad, suave but a bit one note, a bit George Sanders) or a 2009 Crozes Hermitage, also drunk last week (not bad either, a bit more frantic but still one note, kind of Al Pacino), so that's promising. And the cork comes out okay, too, not something you can always take for granted at this level.

The taste, though, the taste. Straight off the bat, there seems to be no nose, and no finish. In the middle, however, there's a disturbing amount of action, involving a tangled blackberry sensation, some sandpaper, and most worrying, an invisible chemical gas I can't put a name to, the kind of smell that comes out of a car body shop or the duty-free section of an airport in the tropics. I start to fret that it, whatever it is, might blind me or cause irreversible brain damage. I am, frankly, scared. So I cork the bottle up again and leave it for a good six hours.

By evening, it's calmed down enough to drink without hurting, and, paired with some really aggressive Italian cheese, it could almost be wine, with a personality oscillating wildly between Sid James and Rutger Hauer. And in the morning, I feel no lingering effects beyond the usual ones of age and alcohol. So I think we can get through this. The lesson learned, being to let the stuff breathe for about half a day before drinking. And keep the windows open. And probably not attempt more than one bottle a month. And choose more wisely the next time someone offers a helping hand. And, now I think about it, I might as well update my will, just in case.


PS: Two weeks later, CJ is still trying to get through the wretched stuff:

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