Thursday 30 January 2014

So: Viña Edmara, Chilean Pinot Noir

So PK and I are having a quiet drink in a bar: the drink being a Chilean Viña Edmara Pinot Noir which comes over the counter at something more than £20 a bottle, a bit high-end for me, but, on the other hand, is firm, fruity and nicely-made. We begin talking earnest rubbish, our usual approach. PK is speculating on what a TV series of Sediment would look like.

'We'd start with a long shot of us arriving in a car outside a château in brilliant sunshine, in high summer. The car would be that comedy car, the one that looks like an upside-down wine glass. You'd see it in long shot, this upside-down wine glass crossing the lush countryside of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It'd be a great shot. Then we'd get out.'
'What happens after that?' I ask.
'Well. We'd get out. And then we'd drink some wine.'

We argue about how scripted such a series could possibly be, given that after two glasses of wine I start to sound like a younger, stupider, Fred Emney, while PK, also after two, will pick fights with everybody and everything, including, presumably, the producer.

I then remember what I had on my mind in the first place.

'I bought a router for my computer on the internet,' I say, chimingly, 'and they sent it with a £50 voucher for Virgin Wines. So I bought a case. Was that a stupid thing to do?'
'Hard to say,' PK says.
'I mean, the wines were all priced between £7 and £8 a bottle, so I ended up paying £56. Which included £8 for the delivery.'
'Well, are the wines on sale generally for £8?'
'They are on the Virgin website.'
'But not anywhere else?'
'Well. Not that I could see. Where I looked. To be frank.'

PK purses his lips meaningfully, while I come to terms with the unhappy realisation that perhaps my bargain haul is not quite the bargain I at first took it to be.

'Also,' I say, getting deeper into trouble, 'they sent me an email asking me how I rated the wines, and the wines haven't arrived. They said they were passionate about great value wines and fantastic service. They wanted me to rate my wines and make a real difference.'
'Yeah, right,' says PK.
'They also said that if I ordered before 4 pm, the wine should be with me as soon as last friday. That was six days ago.'
'I see,' says PK.

We then discuss the widely-canvassed notion that nearly all wine clubs and mail-order firms, apart from The Wine Society, operate out of one place, a huge warehouse in Theale on the M4 motorway near Reading. And that only the truly credulous wine buyer believes there to be any substantial difference between these competing online and mail-order entities. This does not make me any more sanguine.

'So maybe I should have passed on the £50 offer? Or gone to Laithwaites?'
'It could be a great offer.'
'But I won't know until I've tried the wines.'
'Which haven't arrived from Theale.'
'If it is Theale.'
'Maybe I should send them an email.'

I stare at my Viña Edmara Pinot Noir, which is at least in front of me in a tangible glass. I can feel PK's respect for me, never sky-high at the best of times, diminishing further, until it is no bigger than a blade of grass in a supermarket car park.

Then he remembers what he had on his mind.

'You know you always start your pieces with so, the word so?' he asks.
'Yes. It's to indicate to anyone reading the piece that I wrote it, not you. Because some people think we're actually the same person. So proves that we're not.'

PK takes a drink. There is a brief silence.

'I'm not sure I really like it,' he says.
'Oh,' I say.
'Just saying,' he says.
'So?' I say.



  1. So I was reading this piece and, when I got to the bit about all online wine sales coming from a warehouse in Theale, a memory was jogged.

    There was a time, not too far back, when I ordered some things from Virgin Wines (never again, I might add). I was on the phone with someone from their call centre in deepest Norfolk and I asked not why my wine hadn't arrived, but why my wine hadn't even been shipped yet. That was when I was told that he had to get in touch with their 'distribution centre' in Preston.

    So there you have it. Preston. Not Theale. But still, it's probably Amazon-esque, a sea of millions of wine bottles, all averaging £6.99.

  2. Isn't Theale the base of Laithwaites and Direct Wines, which owns most of the mail order wine in the UK? Am I missing a joke?

  3. Geordie - the Preston detail sounds all too plausible - as it turned out, the first delivery simply vanished into thin air and they had to take a second crack at it. My booze finally arrived yesterday afternoon. I can't say I'm terribly looking forward to drinking it, now...

    Robert - no joke. Thank you for corroborating the Theale-as-centre-of-the-wine-trade notion: I'm going to take that as read, from now on - I was genuinely unclear before. But why Theale? Is Swindon too obvious?


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