Thursday 17 September 2015

House & Garden & Asda

So PK points this out: WInes of the Week on the House& Garden website, with Joanna Simon pairing a Spanish red with a Languedoc white, both from Asda. PK a) notes the unlikely conjunction of the wincingly chi-chi world of House & Garden with that of Walmart's blue-collar food and drink wranglers; and b) broadly hints that I might want to check out the wines concerned. It's been some time since I last went searching for disappointment in a really big, bleak, supermarket, so of course I get down to the nearest Asda, and it's vast, the size of Belgium, and astonishingly, contains both the wines plugged by Joanna Simon, although the Côtes de Thau is already running low. Back they come, the Spanish Bobal, whatever that is, and the French one, and I compare my own impressions with Ms. Simon's typical wine-writer's assault on language and meaning.

For the red, she has bakewell tart and liquoricey chewiness; okay, I have Hobnobs and floor polish. It's a bit pungent, but otherwise all right. She does state, though, with respect to Bobal, the grape variety, that for some reason they keep the name under wraps. I'm going to guess that's because of the unhappy chime with the name Bohpal - site of the world's worst industrial disaster, where an escape of toxic gas from the Union Carbide plant killed four thousand people and poisoned half a million more. But it's only a guess.

The Côtes de Thau, conversely, has a grapefruit and nettle tang and would go well with a Vietnamese glass noodle salad, which I don't believe is a real dish. Actually, I'm with her on the grapefruit, but with an additional kind of high-pitched whine (no pun), like a mosquito in a bedroom, but this is scarcely Ms. Simon's fault. Taken together, both wines have screwtops, smart labels, are on the cusp of drinkability and are under a fiver, so I'm not complaining. Indeed, I now feel a new, unfamilar, warmth towards Asda, a chartreuse-themed Tesco with fewer fat people and better-organised parking.

But it's the online context which really intrigues. These two workaday wines are sharing H & G's conceptual space with Elton John's Windsor home ('Surrounded by artworks by the likes of Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois and Grayson Perry'), Paolo Moschino's Sussex farmhouse ('Transforming the barn into an enchanting guest wing'), a small palace in Marrakesh belonging to someone who claims to be both a design writer and a civil rights consultant ('I have a schedule'), plus twenty-seven things to do with a courgette. This is so exciting. High-end celebrity lifestyle, rubbing shoulders with products from the Walmart family! At last, we can start to bridge the gulf between legitimate aspiration and the dazzling nullities of the glossy magazines! But then - a moment's thought reminds me that it was bound to come sooner or later, the gap between the rich and everyone else nowadays being terminally insupportable, the pressure building from below. A readjustment had to happen, and here it is.

Expect, therefore, to see in the next few months:

Condé Nast Traveller: A fabulous month at Pontins, Camber Sands, containing a full review of the Chuckles Milk Lagoon, a day at the Fun Factory, and four hours in the Jungle Bouncer. Plus: the Pontins all you can eat breakfast buffet - best value south of Filey?

Vanity Fair: In-depth profile of Anthony N. Thompson, CEO of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Photo-essay by Annie Leibowitz; words by Joan Didion. Also: Mike Myers - the comedians' comedian; and is Supertramp's Breakfast in America the best pop album ever made?

Country Life: The Duke of Roxburghe shares his passion for shoelaces.

Car and Driver: 1,000 miles in Nevada, forty-five minutes in Wichita Falls, half an hour with a damp cloth: pitting the insane Kia Picanto against the awesome Dacia Logan.

World of Interiors: Donatella Versace reveals how she furnished her stunning Manhattan appartment with items from Poundstretcher, Netto and visits to the local tip. And a Kensington-based power couple share their hard-won design secrets (hint - they include expired wallpaper, poster paint, and a lot of love).

Royal Academy Magazine: Parking around Piccadilly just got easier!

There will be others. The great thing is not to let the moment go by. The democratisation of wine has been a long time coming, but at least it's here. Now we can use the wine itself, freighted with its new mobility, as a basis on which to build a progressive social dispensation. That is the true meaning of WIne of the Week, this week.


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