Thursday 15 March 2012

Was that wine expensive? – Lanciola Chianti 2007

We do suffer difficult questions about wine from our nearest and dearest. And we’re not talking vintage comparisons, or the merits of Bordeaux vs Burgundy. If only. The most challenging wine question from my own spouse is, “Are you going to drink all of that?”

My oppo CJ recently had to deal with the particularly loaded marital query, “Is it something to do with Sediment?” I, too, have encountered this particular question, when discovered one Sunday morning drinking wine with my breakfast

“Is that a Sediment wine?” is one of the most awkward queries at my own dining table, as well as CJ’s, implying that I might be about to accompany our supper with some utterly undrinkable joke product. 

But perhaps the most difficult wine question I get asked is “Was it expensive?” For at that moment, the lid comes off the can, and worms are all over the dining table.

“Expensive” is, of course, a completely subjective notion. One man’s expensive is another man’s cheap, etc. However, bear with me me when I say that this man’s expensive is your expensive, too.

The other man, who’s cheap, is, of course, CJ, who once baulked at a wine which cost “a brace of cinema tickets”.  Don’t let this mislead you, however, into thinking that he knows any more about cinema tickets than he does about wine. Ask him how come we missed the start of Frost/Nixon because we were sitting in the wrong screen

My wife is not blind to the cost of good wine. In fact, thanks to Sediment, she is only too painfully aware of the relationship between quality and price. Offered a glass of sherry, Mrs K now asks cautiously, “Is it the nice one, or the cheap one?”

Hence her understandable caution over Sediment wines, and the subsequent notion that if a wine’s nice, it’s expensive. So, is it? Well – and this, to me, is the key thing – the answer is always that it’s not as expensive as it could have been

It was reduced. It was on 3 for 2. It’s three times that price in a restaurant. I got a case discount. It costs a lot more now than when I bought it. It costs a lot more at the posh wine merchants on the High Road. 

So trust me to be lured in by a bargain. Uncorked is an excellent wine merchant, based in the City, and really aimed at customers with deeper pockets than mine. They got a bit upset when I suggested this once before,  but let me give you an example of their customers’ suggested lifestyle from their list. A rather nice claret, Chateau Lanessan 2001 is just over £14 if you buy it from them by the case, but £17.95 by the bottle. And here  is how they describe it: “This 2001 is for drinking: don't squirrel it away, but keep a couple of cases in the utility room for kitchen suppers and weekend lunches.” 

Well, sorry chaps, but £18 for a kitchen supper wine is expensive in my book. That’s a dinner party wine. Mrs K would throw a justifiable wobbly if our midweek spag bol was accompanied by even a £14 wine. Quite apart from complaining about “a couple of cases” (don’t you love the insouciance?) in the utility room blocking the route to the tumble dryer.

However, Uncorked do have sales, and in early February I spotted this Lanciola Chianti 2007 on offer for £8.76. And it was terrific, an extraordinarily well-balanced wine; rich and resonant but without being heavy, soft yet bright and with a long aftertaste reflecting its buoyant nose. It’s light enough to drink with white meat, yet clever enough to enjoy on its own. Brilliant.

By the time I had realised just how nice and yet inexpensive it was, the sale was over. But, I thought, at £116.05 a case, that’s £9.67 a bottle, and still not expensive. A bargain, I’d say. Maybe not a couple of cases, but one case alone would merit the effort of getting it into my racks while avoiding the question of cost. (It’s an exercise like the Great Escape in reverse – how to get things into a cellar undetected…)

But no. I went back, and they now have 0 cases, 0 bottles, 0 available stock. I bought the last remaining bottle for my cellar, at the single bottle price of £10.96. 25% more than I first paid. Damn

So is my bottle expensive? Cheap? Frankly, I’ve lost track. All I do know is that the single unrepeatably delicious bottle in my cellar is now like bloody gold dust…


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