Thursday 9 April 2015

Countdown to Ecstasy: Denbies Surrey Gold

So a week has passed since all the excitement, and it's back to business, here in the parched and seamy banlieue which I call home.

10.10: I read an email from PK in which he talks urgently about storytelling. I have no idea what he means. I go and make a cup of (instant) coffee.

10.25: For no good reason, I decide to get back to basics and investigate those low-level supermarket chains which I haven't already had a brush with, i.e. Costcutter, Londis, Nisa, Mace. These are the real out-of-town, abandoned A-road, padlocked light-industrial, single chiller-cabinet operations, the sort who sell you a top-up for your electricity bill and keep the liquors and spirits in a special unit behind the counter. These are places for the desperate and the feckless. Depressingly, it turns out my nearest Costcutter is less than a mile away. Londis is even nearer.

10.34: Actually, I know why I'm being drawn to Londis, Costcutter et al. I'm punishing myself for an unexpectedly bibulous few days, starting with a Dry Martini on prize night, followed by some impromptu wine-packed dinner invites on subsequent nights, in the course of which I put on four pounds and my wife lost her voice. Oh, and it involved a Costières de Nîmes which somehow took five days to finish, and was great at the start, but tragic, frankly, by the end. Still slightly dizzy with liver fatigue, I know that I must atone for this, somehow, and that somehow means drinking nothing but the least best wine money can buy.

10.52: Yes, but this is fruitless. A moment's thought (eighteen vague minutes by the clock) is enough to remind me that just because the shops are small and charmless, it doesn't mean that the drink is going to be cheaper than anywhere else. Generic reds and whites are going for a fiver plus at Costcutter, and that's on special offer. Convenience stores (for that's what they are, even allowing for the branding) are graveyards of good value. What I need to do, of course, is drag myself to the nearest Asda or Aldi, some inhuman hypermarket, and prowl the bin-ends like a ghoul, picking among shreds of cold cardboard and damaged plastic for something that costs less than two quid if you buy eighty. The thought is too sad for words.

11.14: No! Here's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to lumber myself with yet another pile of low-end grifter's slurry. I'm going to snap out of the impasse by nipping down to the inexpressible Waitrose at the end of the road, and buying the first wine I see which has no resonance for me at all. A wine about which I know nothing, in which I don't even recognise the grapes, let alone the maker's name. I'm talking about a whole new taste sensation. I'm talking about the thrill of the unknown, something to startle me back into life. It's crazy; but it might just work.

12.03: English wine. A bottle of Denbies Surrey Gold. It's made in Dorking, Surrey, an otherwise charisma-free commuter town! That's about fifteen miles from where I live! This is my local wine, practically. Yes, £7.63 seems a lot to pay for something that I could almost harvest and press myself, but there you are. I can't get beyond Waitrose, I haven't the strength. Handsome label, nice pale straw colour. A mixture of Müller-Thurgau, Ortega and Bacchus, the website informs me. Denbies do reds, as well. And organise tours round the vineyard. Some good reviews. I'm excited.

12.45: It's not without merit. I would query, though, the 'Fragrant nose of peaches' which leads to 'a well structured fruit driven palate with a flinty backbone and hints of ginger', as trumpeted on the packaging. I'm getting almost nothing at the start or finish, but a lot of posturing right in the centre of my mouth, roughly one-third of the way through the encounter - zesty, yes, slightly antiseptic, a kind of palatable rinse if you're suffering from, say, mouth ulcers or thrush, and that's good, we all respond to that. Maybe it's too cold. It does get a bit more articulate over time, and at least it's not a Pinot Grigio, which must now be cultivated on half the planet's land mass, judging by the number of Pinot Grigios filling the shelves.

13.12: And it goes very nicely with a piece of Cambozola which I find in the fridge, or nicely enough, at any rate. Am I going to argue? The day has regained its colour. There are good times ahead. Seriously, that's how they roll in Dorking.


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