Thursday 30 March 2017

Tesco's Worst and Best: Spanish, Italian and Something Else

So I've just paid a load of money into the bank and am feeling dangerously flush. It occurs to me for about the third time in my life that instead of celebrating by going out and buying a dozen pairs of socks or a second-hand external hard drive - something useful, in other words - I could treat myself to a bottle of posh wine. That's what PK would do, after all, and what doesn't he know about lifestyle?

But even as I weigh up the possibilities (nice French red, maybe a decent Chianti for once, or one of those flash New Zealand whites) a friend emails me with the news that Tesco are knocking out own-brand wines for £3.50 a bottle and I should get down there before they all disappear. Not just any friend, but the maniac behind the tanker wine idea and, more recently, Sediment:The Sitcom, so I know it's for real. As he also notes, £3.50 is cheaper per litre than roof sealant, Brasso and Mr Muscle, as well as being a mere 51p short of the classic 1980's price point of £2.99.

Which is when I realise that not only has Tesco got some cheap muck in, but, in an incredible piece of synchronicity, my Brother-in-Law is actually in the process of doing his annual booze run to Calais, in the course of which he has promised to get me a couple of bottles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on offer at £2.99 a bottle. This is one of those moments when you feel the hand of Fate resting on your shoulder, a moment in which you say to yourself, This is my Destiny, like Michelangelo, or whoever, an understanding that this is the path mapped out for you and that you must take it or die. Or take it and die. Either way, you cannot deny your true calling. It is a big moment; and I discard at once any ideas of going upscale.

Instead I get down to the nearest big Tesco and scarf up a bottle of Tesco Spanish Red, a Tesco Italian Red and a Tesco generic Chardonnay, all at £3.50 a go. Actually, there are a couple of Lambruscos at £2.50 a bottle, but there's something clearly very wrong with a beverage that low on the evolutionary scale - even I can see that - so I give them a wide berth and head purposefully for home. Given that the duty + VAT on a bottle of wine at this end of the range is about £3, this leaves 50p for the producer/bottler, as well as Tesco's mark-up - assuming they are selling this stuff at a profit and not just getting rid of a terrible purchasing decision as fast as they can - which is enough to give me pause for thought at a roundabout; but, no, I've been here before, I can cope.

Half an hour later I find myself at the kitchen table with a ham and cheese sandwich and the Spanish Red, something of stand-off developing. Turns out the red comes in at 11% and is a Product of Spain, not even produce, a distinction I find troubling, but I take a deep breath and get stuck in. Bleeding gums raspberry colour, zero nose, followed by grapefruit, insoles, old flower water, some sulphur and a brief up yours of acidity. Perhaps better once I've left it overnight, I reflect. At any rate, I have three cheap bottles of disappointing wine to get through, rather than one equally but differently disappointing bottle for a tenner; so things are about where I expected them to be, and for a properly stoical wine drinker that's good.

More than that, though: also open (and now well into its third sullen day) is a bottle, by way of comparison, of Argentinian Beefsteak Club Malbec which I bought on offer from Waitrose but which has a full retail price of £8.79 - two and a half times the Tesco stuff. This Malbec is rank, sweaty, rebarbative, nothing appealing about it, not even the label, which bafflingly declares Beef & Liberty in stencil-effect red uppercase - a Nigel Farage kind of rubric which only makes things worse. But at the same time it consoles me: it is lousy and overpriced; while the Tesco is lousy and the right price, by virtue of which it becomes no longer lousy, merely adequate. And this is all fine. The spring sunshine has come out, I didn't crash the car on the way to or from the supermarket, the outcome of my trip is almost exactly as I anticipated it, my game remains firmly unraised. In these troubled times, I call that a result.


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