Thursday 24 April 2014

More Virgin Wines: My Nightmare Ordeal At The Hands of Shiraz Durif

So I'm thinking about for once raising my game to the extent of going in search of a nice Fitou/Corbières – I can't say why, some kind of vicarious wine tourism, nostalgia for somewhere I once went, with the added bonus of some spicy Mediterranean keynotes and big 'foursquare' (as Hugh Johnson calls them) drinking personalities. Nothing tricksy, but some good manly reds, with a follow-through of espadrilles.

But even as I dream of these possibilities, the doorbell rings and my wife lets in a mixed case from Virgin Wines. She calls up the stairs with her usual forensic rigour.

'Did you buy more wine?'
'I did not,' I shout down.
'Well, it's here.'

Pinpoint inaccuracy

I come down and look at the completely-branded Virgin cardboard box. Just because I bought a one-off case a few months ago, it is now clear that their system has tanked and has concluded that I want more of their fairly easy-drinking, borderline sensibly-priced, everyday wines. Which I don't. I laugh.

'Did they send these because you mentioned them in your blog?' asks my wife. Her tone, normally graven with sarcasm, sounds oddly credulous. I catch the mood.
'Yes,' I say, 'it's possible. It's quite possible.'

Half six

I know, however, in my soul, that it can't be possible, as in the three years of Sediment's existence, we haven't scrounged more than six free bottles between the two of us, let alone a whole case for one person. My heart slowly settles like glue coming off the boil. And, sure enough, when I call Virgin Wines to make sure, it turns out I should have read the fine print in the original offer.

'You joined the Discovery Club,' an almost hilarious man on the other end tells me. 'It was on the back of the voucher. We send you a case every three months.' At £7.49 a bottle, it turns out.

'Okay,' I say in a contralto, and cancel my subscription.

A heart-stopping moment

When I tell this to my Brother-in-law a few days later, he merely observes, 'They all do that. All the mail-order wine sellers,' I understand that he has scant respect for my business sense, but it stings. He then produces a 1983 Châteauneuf-Du-Pape which turns out to have a dud cork, with consequent leakage (somewhere on the unknowable floor of his wine store) and wholesale destruction of the wine, which you might think would put him on the back foot (and believe me, we did take a couple of appalled sips just to make absolutely sure, like callow prospectors willing their Fool's Gold to be real), but no. My shame persists. And £7.49!

(Actually, the guy on the phone did offer me a rebate, bringing the nominal price per bottle back down to about £6, so what am I complaining about? Well, like all stupid people who have made things difficult for themselves, I need to complain about something, even if, perhaps especially if, it's the wrong thing.)

'My terrible discovery', says idiot

What have I bought, though?

I haven't gone through the case with any thoroughness. In fact I haven't gone through it at all. I've just emptied it out in fuming silence. Only a 2003 Navarra of some kind has caught my eye: potentially the one classy item in a box of leftovers. Otherwise, so far, of an evening, I listlessly reach into the wine rack and grab one of whatever Virgin has sent me, white, red, I'm stuck with it now. So far, I have got outside a gristly Bel Olivier Vin de Pays Sauvignon; a Coorong Sounds Shiraz Durif (the Durif part new to me, possibly responsible for the fog of tarry morbidity that hung around the glass); and, as I write, a Finca Manzanos white Rioja, which ought to be fine - I mean, who doesn't like a white Rioja? - but which makes my eyeballs hurt just as much as the Sauvignon.

Nine bottles to go. Why does PK not make these mistakes? I'm as intelligent as him, I'm certain of it, reasonably certain, anyway. Nine bottles to go. Does anybody read the fine print?


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