Wednesday 1 September 2010

Tesco California Red - Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a load of others...

It's been so long since I drank this wine, I'll be frank with you, I can't really remember much about it. I've been away a bit, you know how it is, things get disorganised and...I can remember buying it (Tesco Metro, £4.15, got some sandwiches at the same time, it's etched in my mind) and I can remember sitting at the kitchen table and staring at it for a while, preparatory to drinking it, and then: it was red; it was wine; I was left with an empty bottle.

This, of course, makes it sound like a Ray Milland/Lost Weekend blackout, but, honestly, it wasn't. I didn't even drink it in one. No, the problem is that I have a poorly-developed sense of taste and an equally immature capacity for taste recollection. Which makes me hugely unsuited, clearly, for a job as say, a wine-taster, but well-suited to write for Sediment, provided we make room for certain observations:

1) Sediment is only partly about wine as such. Naturally I don't want to drink any fermented grape beverage that blinds me/makes me sick/is likely to prompt spontaneous combustion at home or in a public place. At the same time, I exist in a netherworld in which price point is King, with palate considerations down among the level of Rook (screwtop fastening and attractiveness of label coming in round about Queen and Knight). My ideal is never to spend more than £5 on a bottle, and that's it, that's my ethos. Now, PK, my oppo, takes a different view. Not only does he know his Merlot from his Pinot Noir, he is quite capable of spending £8 or even £10 on a bottle if he considers it a good deal (see his last, fiendishly clever, post). He even has a small cellar, which he maintains assiduously. In this scenario, I become Igor to his Baron Frankenstein, but there's nothing I can do about it. I aim low, and hope to undercut even that. One of the greatest of all book titles is Reach For The Ground, by the late Jeffrey Bernard. Says it all.

2) How much does a novel provenance matter? Another underlying Sediment objective: get the stuff from somewhere you don't expect. Mace and Tesco have already been name-checked in Sediment reports, but how far do we take it? I am looking forward to spending quality time in Lidl, Aldi, Costcutter and the rest, but this is only the start. France and Spain have yielded happy past encounters with stuff that comes in unmarked plastic flagons and recycled Badoit bottles, and I am keen to bring back those good times, just as I am keen to have a go at all manner of home-brewed filth and Drinks That Cannot Be Named. Let's have a poke around the back of the garage! Just to see.

3) Contexts and evasions. Is it really true that a cheap red wine, properly decanted, is indistinguishable in quality from a decent red served from the bottle? Can you reliably serve the decent stuff at the start of a dinner party before covertly switching to gutrot (round about the arrival of a fatty, pungent, main course) without your guests noticing? Does wine taste better if you drink it greedily and selfishly on your own, or convivially with another person? Hugh Johnson's World Atlas Of Wine: aid to understanding, or the wiring diagram for a ham radio you will never build?

There are more questions. In the interim? Tesco Calfornia red? I think I liked it. In fact, I'm almost certain I did. It was red, wasn't it?


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