So the wife and I are in Sicily for a week, and everything is very agreeable, sun shining,
delightful little streets,
fantastic markets selling eye-boggling fresh fruit,
adorable faded Baroque grandeur,
But what seals the deal? Some of the cheapest, and, it has to be admitted, least drinkable wine I have ever come across. The most provoking being a half-litre of white which appears on our dinner table one night (along with an overflowing skipload of fish stew) and which looks fab until you get within sniffing range, at which point it turns out to have a nose like uncapped Araldite plus an oily, bilious mouthfeel so startling that I am quite unable to do anything about it, like send it back, instead humbly chewing my way through about a third of it before admitting defeat. Oddly, there's no perceptible hangover the next morning, even though I am convinced at the time of drinking that I will end up blind and hospitalised.
Everything other than that is a step up: nameless reds and whites, brush cleaner/emetic combinations, a meaningful encounter with some Nero D'Avola, and all is fine and inexpensive, until I get to this:
a whole litre of anonymous red, branded Bella Vite, whatever that means, in a waxed carton, with a plastic stopper and a gouache of a sexy bicycle girl on the label, all for €1.40. It is only 10% alcohol, but that's fine, too: I can drink it unheedingly without getting tinnitus or the blue horrors. You tell me if life gets better than that.
Actually, I may know the answer even before I ask the question: the day after my €1.40 red, I find what seems to be exactly the same stuff - minus the girl on the bicycle - for a scant €1.30. And next to that, a terrifying stockade of clear, two-litre plastic bottles, each the size and shape of a party Fanta, completely unlabelled, holding red, pink and white. Wine, I guess. They work out at €1.00 per litre, but I am half-way through my holiday, and with the best will in the world, I cannot get outside two-thirds of a litre of unmarked gutrot every day, just before dinner. The experiment must remain untried. There may be yet lower highs I can try; but for now, the bottom-dollar Bella Vite will do about as well as anything costing less than a daily paper possibly can.