Thursday 12 March 2015


So another week goes by, and what have I drunk? A bottle of Waitrose's bargain own-brand gutbucket rosé, which looked the part and was great for about five seconds; and after that was like windscreen washer additive, and yes, I have drunk windscreen washer additive, lots of it. Then, a bottle of low-end CDR, in an attempt to put the horrorshow of a couple of years ago truly behind me. This was so-so, therefore an improvement on the rosé, but still tasted of sucked pennies and coal gas. Finally a Riesling which crept in from somewhere, again okay, but not really what I wanted, unless what I wanted was flat Appletiser from a bottle the shape of a hoover attachment.

I look yearningly at my bottle of Sipsmith and contempate a zesty G & T, but the great gin project has stalled, on account of the fact that the Sipsmith is so expensive and precious, I can't bring myself to drink any. It just sits there in its bottle, like ambergris. And the whisky we nowadays acquire in catering-sized carboys leaves me a bit cold, so nothing doing there.

Then, a chance of redemption. What do I see written up in one of the freesheets which litters the morning train? Orange wine. Orange wine, as in leaving the white grape skins to macerate with the juice, creating a salmon blush, rather than wine made from oranges; which I could go for, too. Apparently, 'This trend has translated into the mainstream', causing 'mass-market retailers' to stock 'more than one variety of the amber nectar'. Well, if there's one thing I love, it's a trend which translates into the mainstream. These translating-into-the-mainstream orange wines are 'grippy', 'soft', 'approachable', 'earthy', 'honeyed' and 'completely different'. They look fantastic in the pictures, tainted and unnatural and oddly Victorian. They come from Georgia. Or Croatia. Almost the first thing I do, several days later, is try and buy some.

I check out a nearby M&S - the retailer mentioned in the newspaper piece as stocking this stupendous drink - and they have scores of presentable-looking wines, but nothing orange, and, now I think about it, why would they? I look around helplessly, as if I've lost something that matters to me. I may even be talking aloud. Who, actually, wants orange wine? Only someone utterly craven with boredom would give it more than ten seconds' thought. But I have not only given it valuable headroom, I have failed to observe one of the most basic rules of wine-buying: that anything publicised in a newspaper will be unobtainable the moment you take an interest in it. I know that. If I could kick myself without flattening a nearby stack of modularised M&S crostini I would.

How many times, I say to myself, aloud or under my breath, do I need to be reminded that wine writing inhabits a parallel universe: one in which cars are road-tested by magazines, but can never be ordered from the manufacturers; non-existent programmes are earmarked as essential by the TV guides; completely inaccessible holiday destinations are routinely endorsed; must-have smartphone apps can only be downloaded from the planet Neptune. It all comes back to that pitiful convention, almost universally observed, which asserts that much of the appeal of wine lies in its otherness, its refusal to be bound by the normal laws of supply and demand - part foodstuff, part artwork, part myth, wholly conoisseurial, real and abstract at the same time. Obviously, if I thought anyone was reading Sediment, I would try and do the same, and give them some preposterous fictitious hot tips just for the sheer heartless irony of it, but that's not going to happen any time soon. So I am the mug punter, and I remain the mug punter.

Only good thing: when I get home from the orange futility, I find that my Bro-in-Law is set to do another of his booze runs. Yes, it's horrorshow time again, only this time I am going to get him to pick the booze, because he is level-headed guy who knows his way round a discount wine mart, and this time we are going to get through it unscathed. Orange wine! I can laugh at the idea now!


Next week - Cane toad wines: get ready for the great taste of summer

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