Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Pleasure – or not – of Côtes du Rhône

The concept of ‘guilty pleasures’ is one I fail to grasp. Surely it is countered through the pursuit of a simple philosophy: if something makes you feel bad when you do it, then don’t. But be that as it may; it seems that Côtes du Rhône wines have been running a promotion entitled Guilty Pleasures.

I have only felt guilty about wine myself when I have paid too much for it. Perhaps not surprisingly, that seems not to be the gist of the Côtes du Rhone campaign.

“Côtes du Rhône wines are ideal to share with friends,” they say, differentiating them from precisely zero other wines. 

However, they go on to claim that these are, uniquely, wines to “enjoy everyday during those ‘Guilty Pleasure’ occasions such as indulging in your favourite TV series, eating a juicy burger or treating yourself to a pampering session.”

Do you feel guilty watching your favourite TV series? There must be some vegetarians who would feel acutely guilty about eating a juicy burger, and I would advise them not to do so; but that doesn’t apply to me. And nor does a pampering session, to which I am not aware that I have ever “treated myself”, although I have felt quite indulged during a visit to a tailor. But watching my favourite TV series? That’s something I enjoy. That’s why I do it.

But here, in one of their campaign ads, are the guilty parties, as it were. Perhaps their favourite TV series is Police Camera Alcohol, in which drunks fight, vomit and fall off pavements in economically deprived towns – and the reason these two feel guilty is that they’re getting themselves into a similar state, but bingeing on Côtes du Rhône rather than vodka, with the evening terminating in the comfort of their plush-looking sofa rather than the confines of a police van.

So she dances into their living room with a remote control in one hand and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône in the other. Calm down, dear, there’ll be a spillage! He, on the other hand, has taken the adventurous step of loosening his tie, a hideous mauve example which bodes ill for his taste. It all looks such fun; in fact, the ad must have done its job, because I feel I should copy them, perhaps in my own living room, where unlike the one in the ad, a security lanyard is not required.

With the name implanted into my psyche by the promotion, I scan the supermarket shelf like an average punter for a bottle simply and boldly labelled Côtes du Rhône – and there it is!


(No, I did not enter their competition, by posting this picture of my bottle with the hashtag #myrhoneguiltypleasure. Because by the end of the month a whopping 21 other individuals had done so on Twitter, and I worried that 22 might break the internet. Also, the winner is picked at random, which I was always taught was not a competition, but a lottery.)

This particular Côtes du Rhône cost £5.50. The back of the label suggests that it is “perfect with mid-week suppers such as spaghetti Bolognese or sausages and mash”, suspiciously avoiding any connection whatsoever with the flavours of French cuisine.

And equally, it seems to avoid any connection with the flavours of French wine. A slightly oily bouquet, a vague taste of postage-stamp glue and fruit gums, but essentially a bland and flabby wine, empty of flavour and character. Which might put any newcomer off Côtes du Rhône for good.

And ay, there’s the rub – because there is no single Côtes du Rhône wine. Even when that name is prominent on the label, it’s not a uniform and consistent product like Gordon’s gin. It’s one of the biggest appellations in the world, with over 5,000 growers. I have to wonder at the value in promoting Côtes du Rhône as a brand, when its wines vary so much, from the most magnificent, expensive examples down to, well, the one which the promotion got me to drink.

Which at £5.50 didn’t make me feel guilty. But certainly wasn’t much pleasure.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Leaked Clues From The IWSC Jumbo Christmas Crossword

So the big surprise this week, here at Sediment at least, was the partial leak of the IWSC's Wine and Spirits Christmas Crossword puzzle. Normally the IWSC goes to formidable lengths to keep its brain-teasers (high point of many a oenophile's year) under wraps until the week of Christmas itself, but this year someone's hacked the compilers and got out not quite half the clues and none of the actual grid. The solutions are also out in the wild, but heavily encrypted; they'll take a while to unscramble.

Anyway. Too excited and intemperate to wait, I've decided to put up the stuff that we have got, so anyone who wants to can get stuck in. I've managed a couple already (I'm pretty sure 15 Down is Chianti), but others are slightly harder going. Solutions should be through in a fortnight.

4. Familiar appelation unites us from the Sixties (6)
7. Sell a Gallic sweetheart? Take your pick! (8)
8. Here I live in fear (7)
13. Sweet, mistaken, earnest us (9)
14. Familiar aroma in odd pet case? (4,3)
19. See 27 Down
22. Ventoux mechanism turns white (10)
26. Writer gives up for old Antipodean (8)
30. Missouri anticipates mixture of dregs and an abrupt left to create a flower (7)
34. Flavour like Kew? (9)
39. Fizzy, favoured six-legger contains harm? (9)
40. What we're left with, 'e claimed to argue (8)

2. Prophet rises and gets working for a piece of California (6)
6. Adhesive dyestuff? Buff's commonplace (6,7)
11. Messy slob's tipple (4)
13. He waits for battle, story-teller loses article but invests a quarter (9)
15. Some kind of CIA suggestion - Machiavelli might recognise it (7)
18. Magical object loses player, gains most of actress - it's the water of life (8)
23. Look in the residue, Rosemary, for traces of a river (5)
31. Common Era's not suited? It's a mess near Dijon (5,2,5)
35. German opera contains mixed-up falsehoods? Hock the lot! (8)
36. Typical Chardonnay to evoke a serving hatch (7)
37. Keatsian Hippocrene (3,4,3,8)