Thursday 25 April 2013

The worst wine I have ever drunk – Leyda Reserva Syrah 2011

I am aware of King Lear’s statement, that "The worst is not, So long as we can say, 'This is the worst' ". Nevertheless. This is the worst wine I have ever drunk.

It started, like so many things in life, well enough. I got an e-mail from a merchant about Leyda Reserva Syrah 2011, which declared, “It has attracted wildly enthusiastic journalistic praise...   at the price it seemed almost too good to be true.” 
That price was £8.75 a bottle.

But I happened to know that it was on offer at Majestic, not only for less, but with a further temporary reduction because it came from Chile. So, of course, I bought some, with an unattractive feeling of smugness at having somehow outsmarted someone.

Now, I must confess to a growing disillusionment with Majestic. It’s become so big that the bulk in which they have to buy in order to supply every branch seems to mitigate against the little, quirky discovery. The piled boxes begin to have the feel of a calculated marketing gimmick, rather than an illustration of their lack of frippery.

And we all now realise that the actual price of a wine is the reduced, “buy two” price. Less, of course, those cyclical geographic discounts – 20% off all Chilean wine that particular month, because… well, because it’s Chile’s turn. The following month it’s somewhere else. Anyone who pays the full, single bottle price is a mug. But I, I had my bargain…

And then, one Saturday night, I tasted the wine.

How low can one sink? Well, the bar on Sediment has always been set lower than a dachsund’s undercarriage.

But this has a taste I can only describe as reminiscent of the disinterred. I have known it said of wines that they have something of the farmyard about them; here, that something is silage.

It is absurdly, intensely blackcurrant, with this pervasive rotting taste and odour. Oh, and it has the consistency of catarrh.

It was repellent. I put it on a shelf and, like a Porton Down chemist who has inadvertently opened the world’s last vial of smallpox, pondered what to do with it now.

Throwing it away was like an admission of defeat. Returning to it had the threat level of returning to a lit firework. I can’t imagine what you might cook with it that could possibly balance its flavour – andouilette, perhaps?

I supposed I could drive back to Majestic and return it, but I worry that they’re going to make an issue out of it, and claim that it’s just my opinion against theirs. “And look at it this way, sir – who drinks the most wine, us or you?,” a discussion in which my wife might get involved.

So a week later, summoning my courage, I open the second bottle. (Because of course, to get the Majestic discount, I had to buy two…) It was marginally more drinkable than the first, ie I could actually drink it; but that may have been because my palate was clenched in anticipation, like a boxer expecting a punch. Essentially, bottle #2 established the fact that bottle #1 had not just been spoiled. The foulness was a characteristic of the wine.

I have now discovered that I am not alone in this judgment. Perhaps not surprisingly, the word “foul” is absent from Majestic’s own description. But a selection of words which feature in their customers’ reviews include “dreadful”, “nasty” and “medicinal”.

One customer gave it one star out of five, only because the Majestic system doesn’t allow you to award zero. I even put in my own, one star review, just to reinforce the position.

So how, then, do Majestic arrive at a rating of 3.5 stars?

I’m just an O Level mathematician, but it appears to me that from a total of 7 published customer reviews, this wine has achieved a total of 14 stars. My pygmy brain suggests that is an average of 2 stars. Not, as the Majestic site has been displaying, an average rating of 3.5 stars. This is clearly a 40% failure of a wine, not a 70% success.

And if half of your customers report that a wine is “nasty”, “dreadful”, “appalling” and “strange”, surely it merits a better response than simply fixing the star rating? Or is this why “This product is not currently available” from the Majestic website?

Never mind. Just think yourselves lucky.



  1. I have the suspicion that many wines are actually cooked up on an industrial estate near Luton.

    1. Well, let's see if Majestic add Luton to their global carousel of discounts…

  2. Hi PK,

    I'm sorry to hear that you disliked this wine. I just thought it was worth a quick note to let you know that if you don't like a wine, you are of course very welcome to return the open bottles with the remaining wine you didn't drink, plus any unopened bottles for a no quibble refund or exchange.

    The 7 reviews you can see of the wine, are the reviews where customers have written comments. Another 4 customers have just left a star rating with no comments - we don't publish these in the listed reviews as loads of star ratings with no comments are a bit boring. The average rating takes these into account as well. We're currently reviewing this system as we agree it is a bit unclear.

    Beth - Majestic

  3. Thanks for such a measured response!

    The rating system is indeed unclear. And it's not helped when someone says of this wine, “Not a long finish...perhaps lacking on the mid palate… OK, not a fine wine…” and then gives it four stars out of five! Ah well, if one man's meat is another man's poison, the same must apply to his wine, I suppose. (Although I wasn't actually poisoned.)

    Sadly, to return wine would run counter to our motto - "I've bought it, so I'll drink it" - however much discomfort that motto may sometimes cause…

  4. I bought two bottles as well from Majestic. The first was very lovely, but the second was as horrid as your describe. I wonder if they were improperly shipped and spoiled in mass.

  5. Interesting to note that Jane MacQuitty, in The Times no less, gave it a rather flattering review (16 March): "lashings of rich, spicy, briary fruit and a fine, creamy, herby finish". Ever get the feeling that paid wine writers have too much of a vested interest to be entirely honest with us? Or maybe the very fact of getting paid to drink makes them universally well-disposed...

    1. Or perhaps Benjamin (above) is right…?

    2. Always possible of course, although one wonders just how "improperly shipped" wines can be these days. We're well beyond "stick it in a barrel in the bottom of a galleon and hope for the best", surely?

    3. Interesting development: I looked at the two bottles and it appears that the first bottle (which was lovely) was the 2010 vintage, while the horrid second bottle was the 2011. I bought them together as part of the Majestic deal. So the explanation could be that Leyda somehow went from making a wonderful wine in 2010 to a horrid muddle the next. I think the more likely explanation is that something happened to Majestic's shipment of 2011 Leyda's.

      It seems to me that the real danger in shipping often isn't the conditions on board the ship, or plane, but how it is handled between different modes of transportation. If it is properly housed for three weeks on a ship from Chile, that isn't going to help it when it comes time to sit in a crate in a port in July for two days! But one would hope that we have these things figured out by now....

  6. Ah, the old Majestic revolving door of amazing 'deals'. This week Oyster Bay sauv blanc, next week American zinfandel. The week after that some Chilean abomination that tastes of blackcurrant mixed with ethylene glycol.

    1. Yes! It was indeed "the week after that" when I bought it!

  7. Ratings... Blah! But I agree with the review. This wine is over extracted. I don't like it.


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