Monday 8 October 2012

It's just like… Nectar – Berberana Riserva Rioja

Given some of the wines I consume, I sometimes think I deserve a reward. And finally, here it is. A wine with reward points. Actually, a wine with its very own loyalty scheme.

Now, I’m a little wary of loyalty schemes. Every other shop and service seems to ask me whether I possess their loyalty card. “How dare you, madam,” I am often tempted to answer. “Do I look like one of your regular customers?” 

Or, perhaps, “Are you saying that some people come back?”

Mrs K, however, carries around a wad of loyalty ID like a deck of playing cards. There’s one from the poncy bread shop, one from the gastropub, and several from coffee bars, the very word ‘several’ surely making a mockery of any concept of loyalty. She also has a sophisticated one from the chemist, where I hope never to be returning myself unless I develop a loyalty for verrucas.

So wine is late to the game. Reward schemes have been around for quite a while now; some forty years ago, my father used to collect the vouchers from his Players No6 cigarettes. Designed to look like tiny banknotes, they sat in a sideboard drawer like miniature wads of cash in a villain’s briefcase. Eventually he would have enough for a ‘gift’, from their glossy catalogue. Little did we realise he was smoking himself into an early grave, although I believe someone did publicise the absurdity of the scheme by asking how many coupons they required for an iron lung.

Then there were Green Shield Stamps. Someone has calculated that, in order to get sufficient stamps for a Kenwood Chef in 1965, you would have had to spend £1024, the price then of a large family car. A single book of stamps cost £32 to acquire, which would be a staggering £511 today, and could be exchanged for…a mouth organ. 

In moments of boredom I confess I have participated in online surveys, where I have earned Air Miles, thanks to my fictitious demographic of an immensely affluent globetrotting father of nine. I’ve earned, ooh, several Air Miles. I could probably fly for nothing, right now, from Gatwick to, say, Stansted.

But primus inter pares is the Nectar card, upon which we accumulate hundreds of points by shopping at Sainsbury’s, and driving our car unnecessary miles in search of BP petrol stations. Now, don’t get overexcited. 500 Nectar points gives you £2.50 to spend at Argos, or Amazon. Which means that spectacular-sounding, TV-advertised offer of 1000 Nectar points – a thousand! – when you buy your car insurance through a particular website is actually worth…a fiver. A whole £5. 

So it was with mixed emotions that I saw this bargain bottle of Berberana Riserva Rioja, proudly announcing its “One Cork, One Point” rewards scheme. “Log In, Collect Points, Get Rewards” the back label confirms. 

I think I will approach with due suspicion any wine which has to reward people for drinking it. And a first, tentative and somewhat unsatisfying sip confirms that this is a mediocre, drinkable but actually rather unrewarding wine. However, I am to be compensated for my efforts! I hurry to their website for my reward, like a child promised a sweet after cough medicine.

And of course, it’s a letdown. Out of 17 ‘rewards’, 12 are from venues like hotels which are part of the same conglomerate as Berberana itself. Not one is particularly appealing to me. For 5 points, I can claim two free glasses of wine at their London restaurant; frankly, after getting through 5 whole bottles of this stuff, the last thing I’d want is two glasses more. And the points required for rewards rapidly escalate, through 10, 30 and 75 points (eg bottles), until they are eventually asking 100 points for a “luxury” reward.

Now, I’m sure that Berberana are not suggesting that they are encouraging us to drink to excess. Nevertheless, I do feel it would be medically ill-advised to actually set out to drink 100 bottles of mediocre wine.

This is not because of the consumption of what I calculate to be 1,010 units of alcohol, or just over eight months’ constant daily drinking at current NHS guidelines. 

It has more to do with the potentially violent reaction of one’s wife, as case after case of Berberana are ferried through our front door like Mickey’s brooms in Fantasia

“Don’t worry dear,” I’d cry, as the boxes pile up into a Rachel Whiteread sculpture, “My liver can take it, and at the end we’ll have a luxury two nights at the Hacienda Zorita in Spain. 

“Travel not included.”

Realistically, the only people I can imagine collecting all those corks are waiters and event organisers, pocketing the points from bottles other people have paid for. 

If you are unfortunate enough to pay the full price of this wine, you will spend £1049 to gain your reward of two nights in their hotel. Where you will stay in ‘luxury’ alongside a bunch of off-duty waiters. And never mind that, you will have to consume more than eight entire cases of utterly mediocre wine.

For which I would expect far greater reward.  Like, two mouth organs.


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