I am aware of King Lear’s statement, that "The worst is not, So long as we can say, 'This is the worst' ". Nevertheless. This is the worst wine I have ever drunk.
It started, like so many things in life, well enough. I got an e-mail from a merchant about Leyda Reserva Syrah 2011, which declared, “It has attracted wildly enthusiastic journalistic praise... at the price it seemed almost too good to be true.” That price was £8.75 a bottle.
But I happened to know that it was on offer at Majestic, not only for less, but with a further temporary reduction because it came from Chile. So, of course, I bought some, with an unattractive feeling of smugness at having somehow outsmarted someone.
Now, I must confess to a growing disillusionment with Majestic. It’s become so big that the bulk in which they have to buy in order to supply every branch seems to mitigate against the little, quirky discovery. The piled boxes begin to have the feel of a calculated marketing gimmick, rather than an illustration of their lack of frippery.
And we all now realise that the actual price of a wine is the reduced, “buy two” price. Less, of course, those cyclical geographic discounts – 20% off all Chilean wine that particular month, because… well, because it’s Chile’s turn. The following month it’s somewhere else. Anyone who pays the full, single bottle price is a mug. But I, I had my bargain…
And then, one Saturday night, I tasted the wine.
How low can one sink? Well, the bar on Sediment has always been set lower than a dachsund’s undercarriage.
But this has a taste I can only describe as reminiscent of the disinterred. I have known it said of wines that they have something of the farmyard about them; here, that something is silage.
It is absurdly, intensely blackcurrant, with this pervasive rotting taste and odour. Oh, and it has the consistency of catarrh.
It was repellent. I put it on a shelf and, like a Porton Down chemist who has inadvertently opened the world’s last vial of smallpox, pondered what to do with it now.
Throwing it away was like an admission of defeat. Returning to it had the threat level of returning to a lit firework. I can’t imagine what you might cook with it that could possibly balance its flavour – andouilette, perhaps?
I supposed I could drive back to Majestic and return it, but I worry that they’re going to make an issue out of it, and claim that it’s just my opinion against theirs. “And look at it this way, sir – who drinks the most wine, us or you?,” a discussion in which my wife might get involved.
So a week later, summoning my courage, I open the second bottle. (Because of course, to get the Majestic discount, I had to buy two…) It was marginally more drinkable than the first, ie I could actually drink it; but that may have been because my palate was clenched in anticipation, like a boxer expecting a punch. Essentially, bottle #2 established the fact that bottle #1 had not just been spoiled. The foulness was a characteristic of the wine.
I have now discovered that I am not alone in this judgment. Perhaps not surprisingly, the word “foul” is absent from Majestic’s own description. But a selection of words which feature in their customers’ reviews include “dreadful”, “nasty” and “medicinal”.
One customer gave it one star out of five, only because the Majestic system doesn’t allow you to award zero. I even put in my own, one star review, just to reinforce the position.
So how, then, do Majestic arrive at a rating of 3.5 stars?
I’m just an O Level mathematician, but it appears to me that from a total of 7 published customer reviews, this wine has achieved a total of 14 stars. My pygmy brain suggests that is an average of 2 stars. Not, as the Majestic site has been displaying, an average rating of 3.5 stars. This is clearly a 40% failure of a wine, not a 70% success.
And if half of your customers report that a wine is “nasty”, “dreadful”, “appalling” and “strange”, surely it merits a better response than simply fixing the star rating? Or is this why “This product is not currently available” from the Majestic website?
Never mind. Just think yourselves lucky.