Christmas is coming, in case you hadn’t noticed, and the weight of tradition weighs heavily upon the wine selection. We have just one day a year in which we can relive Dickensian England, by eating old-fashioned food, going a-wassailing, and sending the children up the chimney.
Inevitably, the same desire to step back into the past must apply to our choice of wine. Don’t tell me it’s all about taste, because even if it tastes fabulous, when Mum, Gran and Auntie Janet are all coming to Christmas dinner you’re hardly likely to put out a bottle of Sexy Wine Bomb. Having a wine which looks suitably old and grand is as key to the Christmas table as candles and crackers. Even if you can’t actually afford it.
But that’s where Messrs Sainsbury have come to help, with this magnificent-looking bottle of wine, retailing for the princely sum of just £7. That’s from its formerly ducal price of £9.
I mean, just look at that label. The generations of winemaking encapsulated in that traditional typeface. The touches of gilt. The crest, with its crown and lions regardant. This is clearly one classy product, with no pictures of falling leaves or bare footprints. Surely the kind of thing one could put proudly upon one’s dining table to project an image of history and tradition.
No picture of the chateau, mind you. Fair enough, there are several grands crus which don’t depict their chateau. But there’s no actual mention of a chateau here, either. Or, for that matter, of a grand cru. Still, they do proudly declare on line two of the label, which should be enough for most Sainsbury shoppers to pick it up with confidence, that Roc de Lussac is a marque deposée. Or ‘trademark’.
And it’s a Grand Vin de Bordeaux! A Grand Vin! That’ll impress the Christmas crowd. Well, those who don’t know that it carries no actual classification weight whatsoever, and is a non-specific suggestion of quality, rather like a pint of best, Tesco Finest or Greatest Hits.
Saint-Emilion, though, eh? Everyone’s heard of Saint-Emilion, even CJ. Unfortunately, this is Lussac Saint-Emilion, which is five or six miles from Saint-Emilion itself. Like visiting Abingdon and then saying you’ve been to Oxford.
But at least it’s recommended. And a recommendation of such significance that it’s actually printed on the label. Like printing a good review on a book jacket. Recommandé par Damien Dupont, no less.
You know, Damien Dupont. Chef Sommelier France. What, the chief sommelier of the entire country? Head of all sommeliers in France?
This is hard to verify, as my trusty friend Google seems unable to find Damien Dupont, in his prestigious position as Chef Sommelier France, among the various project managers and trainee psychotherapists who share his name. Perhaps he is a chef sommelier, in a restaurant somewhere in France, a sort of rural wine waiter. In fact the only other wine reference I can find to Damien Dupont is on the label recommending another Bordeaux wine, with the remarkably similar name of Roc de Chevaliers, from the remarkably similarly named producer, Producta Vignobles.
(In fact, Producta Vignobles market eight wines with Roc in their title. “The name ‘roc’” they explain on their corporate website, “gives an impression of solidity, balance and heritage.” Hope you got that impression too.)
I have to say that my own judgment differs from that of Damien Dupont. Considerably. After a brief initial burst, the bouquet of this wine becomes thin and woody, rather like the cardboard from a new shirt. On the palate there’s a marked absence of any of the flavour you might associate with wine, such as fruit, leaving only a nasty bitter taste more like chewing old citrus pith. And finally a belt of acid and alcohol as if the product is better suited to some kind of vehicle maintenance.
Look, you can listen to Damien Dupont, or listen to me. I can recommend this too, along with other festive non-consumables like crackers and candles, as something that would grace any Christmas dinner table. Just as long as you don’t drink it.