Thursday 26 February 2015

Cheap Fizzy White Wine On Tap: A Clarification

So I'm reading PK's post last week, the one about Vinovispo, wincing with bafflement and frustration as usual; and while I'm not even going to attempt to unpick his insane etiquette cosmology, the one in which people are forever clubbing their brains about which fork to eat scallops with at dinner, or whether you can call a Bowler Hat a Derby, I am going to offer a tiny corrective to his appreciation of the Vinovispo stuff.

He was quite right, in that the drink we tried in London's glittering West End was not very sparkly, not exactly flavourful, and definitely not cold enough, but: the conversation we had about it afterwards was rather differently nuanced than he suggests. As I remember, it went:

PK: That fake Prosecco was flat, bland and not very cold.

Me: True. What we tried just now was a bit rubbish. But if it were done properly, I could see it working. Imagine you're going to a pub, or a High Street wine bar, let's say with a lady friend, and she says, Oh, I'd really like a glass of fizzy -well, there it is, large as life: you just point at the tap on the bar and say, A glass of sparkling for the lady and large red for me, please, also from the tap. And your evening is off to a perfect start, all thanks to Vinovispo. It is a product which will be welcomed in places as far afield as Reigate and Cheltenham, Ilford and Wilmslow.

PK: Of course you are right, sensei. Your wisdom flows like a spring of pure water.

Context is everything. If you're out for a night of high-jinks, the provenance and quality of your booze will be inexpressibly low on your list of priorities. The beer (for instance) you get in a mainstream pub is, often as not, some kind of generic brown/gold beverage, cool and unassertively flavoured, dispensed from a tap straight into the glass, and it does the job. Why shouldn't wine be the same? Pub wine is a graveyard of ambitions at the best of times, being wildly overpriced, indifferent to the taste, and usually kept knocking around for God knows how long in a dank trio of bottles next to the crisps.

All of which is mercifully swept away once we get with the programme and start using pump dispensers. Along with the Vinovispo chiller/pump combination, there were a couple of other chromed taps, offering red, white, and I would swear rosé, pumped up from a bag-in-box arrangement under the counter. Ideal. A new candour prevails: this is wine, that popular everyday beverage, served with the same quotidian familiarity and consistency as your everyday weak gassy lager, your neither-here-nor-there heritage bitter, and all the better for it. You're not going out on the town for a dégustation; you're not going to treat every encounter as a chance to advertise the superiority of your tastes; you just want to have fun.

Or, as the great Nigel Slater once put it, hymning the delights of a mass-produced burger after a night on the tiles: 'The gherkin smarts on your tongue. A moment of absolute bliss. The doughy bun becomes your best friend. You chase the last bit of sauce around the polystyrene container with a stalk of warm lettuce or a cold French fry and lick the last sweet-salty blob from the corner of your mouth.' Quite: his point being that we can, and should, take pleasure in all things, without guilt, provided the time is right, and we do it as sentient human beings. Why deny yourself the simple, only slightly corrupt, occasional pleasure of fast food or fast wine?

So. If I can get a borderline generic red/white, plus a hilarity-guaranteeing schooner of fizzy straight out of a hygenic tap + corporate logo on the handle, without any of that excruciating titting about pretending to weigh up the pros and cons of some foul Malbec as against an equally disgusting Merlot, as if it mattered, then I will be happy. I simply will not care what it's called. With this proviso: it's got to cost less than the equivalent glassful from a bottle. Since the fancier wine-makers will want to hang on to their perceived premium values by differentiating the bottle from the draught, I can't see this being a problem. The technology is there. The need (God knows) is there. Can we just do this thing?


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