Thursday 2 May 2013

Tanker Wine - More Ventoux

So I'm having a drink with a pal who is normally something of a genius when it comes to original and creative thinking, and the pal says, this is what Sediment needs: We need to acquire a small tanker, or bowser, drive it down to the South of France, fill it full of rough red wine, the sort that retails down there at 50p a litre, drive it all the way back to England, turn up at one of the many Farmers' Markets you find in and around London, and sell the contents of the bowser at 50p a litre + transport costs, piping it into the customers' own receptacles through a petrol hose, like that Ventoux I bought all those years ago.

'It can't fail,' he says. 'It is one hundred per cent guaranteed success.'

As ideas go, I reply, this is less terrible than his other idea of building a novelty bubble car in the shape of an inverted Paris wine goblet, and driving it through the vineyards of Burgundy as a promotional tool, but only just.

'No, no,' he says, 'you're not seeing the full potential. Just think, the customer brings a plastic bottle, or flagon, to the Farmers' Market, and gets it filled up with authentic cheap red wine at an authentic price. How desirable is that? Maybe by a guy wearing a stripy vest and a beret.'

On a spectrum of terribleness, in fact, I would put it on a par with PK's now-discarded plan to launch the Sediment Roadshow, a kind of rock'n'roll wine tour ('Hallo, Oswestry!') in which PK and I charge an audience money to drink taster samples of bad wine, which we then disparage from the stage, amid bright lights and possibly dry ice. It has taken me a year to convince PK that I would rather eat loft insulation than submit to such an ordeal, but just writing it down, now, will probably set him off again.

'All you do,' continues the pal, 'is buy the stuff in sufficient quantity. You can't lose.'

I point out that the moment the bowser crosses the Channel, it will attract an eye-watering level of duty, which will instantaneously wipe out the bargain-basement advantage the grog originally enjoyed. Assuming, that is, it's survived the 700-mile drive, swilling about in a stainless steel container like the contents of a readymix cement truck.

He wrinkles his brow, as another insight comes in to land. 'No, you don't want a metal tanker. You want an actual oak wine vat, a really huge one, with Sediment painted on the side, attached to the back of the truck. People are going to queue up. The moment they see the huge vat, with the Frenchman in the vest. You could hire a Frenchman, a real one.'

But the staves of the barrel will move as the thing bounces over potholes, and the wine will leak out, and the Frenchman will be quite expensive in his own right, I say, not knowing why I'm even trying to rebut the concept - which seems to have acquired a life of its own, a Golem idea which cannot be killed.

'And the petrol hose coming out of it.'

There must be something about wine itself - some profound sense that it is not, still, quite culturally routine enough to be simply taken or left, used or not used, that draws the twitching hand of novelty towards it. I cannot believe that anyone would direct the same energetic whimsicality to grapefruit juice, say, or potatoes. Wine is still, at base, such an alien thing that it needs crazy repackaging, or off-the-wall tasting encounters, or special train journeys through wine-producing regions, or madcap stunts at Farmers' Markets, just to break through the otherness of it all.

But there it is. My fortune is going to be made by a huge, mobile barrel of undrinkable and overpriced red wine with a spreading puddle beneath it, served through a petrol hose by a comedy Frenchman, into washed-out 2-litre Coke bottles, and bought by people who can readily afford good, drinkable wines, properly presented in glass bottles with labels.

'If you can't see it,' he says, 'you're mad.'



  1. I spent a couple of months in Budapest in the mid-90's and there was a man at the market that had a trailer/cart shaped like a large barrel. He stood inside it and sold gallon-sized plastic jugs of cheap red wine. You'd bring back the empty and buy a new one without paying any deposit. It was in the Bulls Blood style of Hungarian red, a bit sweet and best if you drank it in the company of people getting drunk while trying to look sophisticated. The people getting drunk were trying to look sophisticated, I didn't try to look sophisticated because I knew it was cheap wine.
    I still buy Bulls Blood occasionally at our local Trader Joe's - it's not any better now and I sometimes wish I could buy it at a tacky barrel shaped stall at a market. Trader Joes is tacky, but in an entirely different way.

    1. Well, that does sound appealing. A tanker on every street corner would be the ideal, but failing that, a barrel with a man in it selling red wine in plastic jugs would definitely do. But as I said, I am just not crazy enough (yet) to make it happen. PK, however, is worryingly keen...

  2. Red wine, one of the best option in wine tours. I was on a cruise before with my wife during my trip to France. We enjoyed the red wine and still thinking about that trip. That was my best vacation in France.


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