Thursday 21 February 2013

Tales of the Occult: 2011 Côtes du Rhône Pt. II

So the stuff I unwisely acquired a couple of weeks ago is still with us. I've worked out that the least worst way to get through a bottle is to open it a day in advance and take the first glassful very cautiously indeed. On this basis I have managed to eliminate a couple from the gaudy heap in the kitchen, only it doesn't seem to matter how many I dispose of, the same number of untouched bottles always seems to remain, lying in wait for me. Either I'm trapped in a tale of the occult, a W. W. Jacobs story, or something by Conan Doyle, or for that matter a variation on The Sorcerer's Apprentice; or it's guerilla warfare, in which the kitchen has become French IndoChina and I am forever swatting back the forces of the Viet Minh only to see them regroup in larger numbers in a slightly different part of the wine rack. It is not a good way to be.

I Google What to do with a lot of really bad wine, which turns up some interesting suggestions. Make casseroles with it is an obvious one, but Turn it into Sangria rings the changes, as does Bathe in it (it's vinotherapy, and keeps your skin supple), Use it as dye (for that artisanal look), Add it to the compost, or Make it into wine jelly. Interesting but somehow not persuasive. And not close enough to just drinking it, which is the circle I want to square. The tragedy (it now appears) is that my filthy CDR is not white. Had it been white, it would at least have allowed me to chuck in some Crème de Cassis or Noix to adulterate the taste and get through it that way.

Sullenly I open a bottle of Minervois, bought from somewhere, a supermarket probably, to take my mind off things. Only to discover that the mainstream Minervois is almost as repulsive as the CDR. Why should this be? But before I have time to query the testimony of my own senses, the ground opens up beneath my feet and Hell gapes as I realise that this is the way the story is unfolding: all my other reds now taste as bad as the CDR and will continue to taste as bad, until I finish off the CDR - which I can never do.

There is only one thing for it: I must give up drinking wine. Given the sort of wine I usually consume, this will, God knows, not be much of a hardship. And to take its place? Whisky, of course. The wife gave up still wines long ago, but loves her Scotch (although not so much her Irish, and not at all her Bourbon) and it has to be said that although we've drunk some fairly shabby whiskies around the world, very few have been too revolting to keep down.

The only one I can recall - in fact, the only whisky which we couldn't stomach in any combination - was some stuff we got in Cairo a few years ago. We kept the bottle as a souvenir. The label - a tantalising knock-off the famous J & B logo - announces the contents as MARCEL A BLWND (sic) OF THE SUPER OLD DRINK EGYPTION, which is not only a Porduct of Egypt but also BRODUSET AND BATTLED BY THE SAMIOS COMPANY. Sadly, Egypt - a miraculous and wonderful country in so many other ways - is not a great whisky-producing nation. Whatever went into the Marcel - grain? grape skins? potatoes? - came out as a kind of marsh gas in thin syrup, undrinkable with still water, fizzy water, or even Coke. Which I suppose is an achievement in its own right.

Marcel aside, I see blue skies and calm seas ahead, in my new whisky-only regime. A nice Speyside for special occasions; a supermarket blend for everyday. Plenty of ice in hot weather, and a mere splash of water in the winter months. Why didn't I think of this before?

Unless, of course, this is just another twist in the plot. Man forswears wine, takes to whisky instead. Whisky slowly begins to taste like Marcel, whatever its provenance. Man moves on to gin, brandy, vodka, beer. They all become undrinkable. Slivovitz, kummel, arrack, rum, mezcal and absinthe all take their turns, every one of them doomed. In desperation, he resorts to tea and coffee, cocoa and even drinking chocolate, sometimes laced with rubbing alcohol, sometimes straight: same result. Soon, tapwater is all that's left, but when he cannot keep that down, he dies of thirst, the last thing he sees being the mocking labels of the oh-so-affordable Côtes du Rhône he acquired at the beginning of the story. Where did he go wrong? Are the gods of wine-drinking punishing him for presuming to get away with a drinkable wine at a bargain price? Was there an essential flaw in his character that led him to his destruction? Could we all learn from this? And was it wise, in the first instance, to get the stuff from an outlet called the Satanic Wine Warehouse?



  1. This is not a wine for drinking. This is a wine for laying down and avoiding.

    "But," you say, "I've bought it so I'll drink it."

    However, you don't have to drink it now. I have a suggestion. Mulled wine tastes filthy, so it doesn't matter what you make it with. Plus, people will drink anything hot when it's cold. Hold a bonfire night party. You can enjoy a CDR-free eight months with a clear conscience and hopefully get rid of all the filthy stuff in one night.

    True, you may have no friends left on the 6 November.

  2. Well of course now you mention it, that's the most sensible course of action. The problem is, can I hang on for eight more months? I just know that at some time in May, I shall look at those ghastly bottles and say, What was so bad about them anyway? And open one up to remind myself...

  3. My father, rest his soul, consumed vast quantities of what I call "tank car wine," purchased in gallon jugs, four to a box. CDR, in contrast, would be whipped cream compared to shaving cream. His "secret"? Dilute with water or ginger ale and drink with food. Cheers!

  4. Now this may sound sacrilegious, but if this the wine from hell...
    You say that "Had it been white, it would at least have allowed me to chuck in some Crème de Cassis". Well go with that thought, I say. Chuck it in ANYWAY.
    Judging by your comments, you'd be hard pushed to make the stuff worse than it already is, but you might just end up with something that tastes like a slightly sweet version of a New World cabernet blend. It's actually beginning to sound quite palatable... Maybe served chilled as an aperitif...

  5. I am not insensitive to the pain of your dilemma, but this is quite hilarious. Surely, you could use it up as a marinade or in such dishes as a variation on boeuf bourguignon. Although recipes always recommended that you use a wine you would actually drink, so that may once again eliminate a choice.

    Could you just not take a bottle each time you go to a party or larger gathering where it can get lost among the other wines and nobody knows who brought it?

  6. I found this interesting webpage

    when I googled your Egyptian hooch and the following is an extract:

    "Shihab goes on to confidently explain that knockoffs and Zibib liquors can be made by mixing cheap sugars, corn or pomace with yeast, extracting the alcohol with a little pressure cooker, and then filtering it through a T-shirt or cloth; the whole process takes under two weeks. Bouza, on the other hand, can be made within 48 hours by mixing crushed granulated sugar or barley with runny bread dough (to provide yeast), giving it its tahina-like look, and then adding “other” alcohol.

    “It’s not as good as things abroad, but it works the same for most people,” he laughs."

    I also remembered the Alexandria Quartet, read decades ago, and the death of Scob who drank this home brewed stuff. CJ, you're lucky to still be with us!

    1. Gad...this is getting serious...but then, how about that transparent spirit they use in France as a base for home-made fruit-flavoured digestifs? What do we know about that? And do we hold an opinion on it?


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