Tuesday 25 October 2011

Everyday Drinking: From the Tesco Wine List to Kingsley Amis

So in the general excitement and confusion of getting ready for our trip to Japan (self + wife, not self + PK) almost nothing has made any impact on me except for:

The Tesco Autumn Wine List, which flopped through the front door the other day. This, I was pleased to see, is consolingly reticent in its wine recommendations. The new French range allows the tense punter 'To discover areas you may not have tasted before with confidence', while in the 'Simply' range you can find 'A quick and easy solution to which wine to choose'. 

This is all good, but the real clincher is the anxiety-smothering quantity of industrial name brands dotted throughout the list: Jacob's Creek, Blossom Hill, Torres Viña Sol, even Blue Nun and Mateus Rose, for God's sake. This is absolutely unimprovable in its way, although it's been a while since I did anything much with Blue Nun other than smirk ironically at it. But that aside, we have a selection here that Henry Ford would have been proud of, if he hadn't been a teetotaller, on account of its dependability and its unpretentiousness. You can have your drink in any colour, provided it's red, white or pink; and your only decision centres around the price point. 

There is something in all this that I find unspeakably cheering. Why? I think it may be because (in my oafish way) I find the trainspotter element of high-end wine appreciation so fantastically irritating that the sooner the thousand and one little vineyards with their arts & craft skills and unpredictable vintages go the way of bespoke car manufacturers and wrought-iron furniture wranglers, courtesy of Tesco's wine industrialists, the happier I shall be. I just want a glass of wine, and I want it with Tesco's Fordist imprimatur on the label.

And then, at the same time as the Tesco list turned up, I got a copy of Everyday Drinking by Kingsley Amis. This is actually on loan from the good people at The London Column and I don't know if it's going to make my life better or just shorter. A quick peek reveals the following: the recipe for Evelyn Waugh's Noonday Reviver (1 hefty shot of gin, 1 bottle of Guinness, ginger beer); the following injunction - 'Make up your mind to drink wine in quantity'; and this observation about vintages - 'Most of the crap talked about wine centres on these'. 

This is combustible stuff on just about any level, and I can't wait to get to know Everyday Drinking in greater depth. On sake, Japanese rice wine, Amis merely observes that 'When I heated some on the stove recently to check that it was as horrible as I remembered, it took all the deposit off the lining of the saucepan'. As a consequence, sake is listed in the index as a 'cleaning agent'. 

So no pointers for the Far East, but then I have an idea that Japan is going to be so expensive I won't be trying anything stiffer than tapwater while I'm over there. Or will there be free drink on the plane that I can smuggle into my hotel room? And would it count, anyway?



  1. I LOVE 'Everyday Drinking'. Such a fun read... just like your blog.

  2. Whoa, sure are a ton of angry workers in that pic! Better pour them a glass :D
    -Jackie @ Sediment Control


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