Thursday 23 June 2016

Wine: just add milk and sugar

There I am again, frozen in front of the Wall of Wine. And no, it’s not like a kid in a sweetshop, overwhelmed by the options because all of them are good. This is a grown-up in a supermarket, appalled by the options because most of them are bad.

Perhaps, by comparing wine to another product, I might find the key to conquering this absurd, bewildering choice. So two aisles along, I halt my trolley before the Wall of Cereals.

Breakfast cereals all do basically the same job.
Go to someone else’s house, and if they put any one of them on the table, it might not be the one you’d choose yourself, but you’ll politely swallow it without demur. Like wines. Oat, wheat or corn? It’s like red, white or sparkling.

Up there are the expensive ones, which make you feel you’re moving up a social class; the Duchy Originals muesli (and the Champagne). And down there are the cheap basics; the Essential wine and the generically-branded cornflakes.

There's that name which has been around for generations now, which has years of experience and tradition and quality behind it, so of course it's a bit more expensive.

And oh, look! There’s that colourful character who’s always popping up and going on about how grrrrreat his product is, how different and better-tasting. And how he and his merry band all deliver this product, in a wonderful, almost magical way, which in no way involves conveyor belts or additives or stainless steel tanks. So you feel you just have to buy his cereal. Or is it wine?

You tell your child that cereal A is basically the same as cereal B. Don’t go by the name. You’re just paying for the name. And then you hear yourself telling your wife that wine A is better than wine B. Look at the name. That’s a name worth paying for.

No, you should not make your decision based on the free gift/special offer. But you do.

Yes, you should be comparing sugar content/alcoholic strength. But you don’t.

The only saving grace with the cereals is that the range of prices is nothing like as vast. You might conceivably spent three times as much on one cereal as on another. But imagine if one cereal cost £3, and another £30. If one cost ten times as much as another. Ridiculous, you laugh, as you weigh up a bottle of Basic red in one hand and a Barolo in the other.

Mind you, someone recently opened a cereal café in London, It serves a mind-boggling range of unusual brands from all over the world, all at frightening prices, which you can enjoy on their premises. And mark my words, they’ll be doing it with wines soon. They’ll call it a wine bar, or something.

In the end, it’s of little help. The problem of the Walls remains. But there’s one real benefit to keeping these two particular products in mind, and that’s to measure the state of your life. You see, you should start your day with cereal, and end it with wine. And you’ll know you’re in trouble when those two are the other way around.


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