Thursday 31 May 2018


So PK drags me along to the London Wine Fair, partly with the intention of re-kindling any interest in wine I might once have had, partly so he's got someone to talk to. And what do you know? Turns out this year's London Wine Fair is unexpectedlly entertaining, although not because of the wine, as such.

Over here, for instance, we have a really quite large stand run by Celebration Drinks, whose thing, it turns out, is champagne perry, done up to look like actual champagne. It's a kind of Babycham, in fact. 'We do a lot of bingo halls, hen nights, that kind of stuff,' says the guy in charge, who looks as if he might be a bouncer the rest of the time, at, indeed, hen nights and bingo halls. His Champers Demi Sec is the business. Even PK senses its grubby allure.

Over here, on the other hand, we have Dracula wines of Romania - an outfit with an apparently huge budget, dedicated to upping our awareness of a whole rainbow of Dracula-themed products, including the Power of Dracula plum brandy, Legendary Dracula sparkling wine, Dracula Fangtasy (sic) praline chocolates, and a Vampower phone charger. A couple of stalls away, the regular Wines of Romania exhibitors stand around examining their nails, but on the Dracula stand, anything goes. In my excitement I accidentally tread on the trailing hem of a blood-red dress worn by a spectacular blonde woman who offers to have her picture taken with me, or grant me immortality, or both, provided I get off her dress.

And the animals! The animals are everywhere except Dracula: if there's a theme to this year's Fair, it's wildlife. A Chilean sauvignon blanc has a llama on its label; another Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand, sports a kiwi, self-evidently; a Portugese gin (yes) has a picture of a cat with a monocle and a dog with a top hat, just reeks of class; a South African shiraz has an elephant; an English red sports a chiffchaff; a grenache lives in a bottle done up with an imitation record label and calls itself The Bee Side because it comes from a vineyard with the word abeille in its name. Crazy! Animals are all over everything, apart from the Dracula wines and a shiraz which comes in a tin can and calls itself Take It To The Grave (with a Day of the Dead ornamented skull motif) plus, of course, the many blingtastic rosés and sparkling wines, which have altogether other goals in mind.

Some of these sparklers are done up in faceted, spangled, dimpled containers like giant scent bottles; some of them are encased in bottles held within copper lattices like the windows of a Renaissance strongroom. Some of them - the rosés, usually - turn up in hypertrophied three-litre whoppers for the summertime bash/superyacht crowd, who apparently like nothing more than a jerrycan of sunset blush to round out their day, even if it means having to bring along a special mechincal pourer, given that the bottles are too large to pour by hand.

And then, just when I think things can't get any more deliriously frivolous, what do we stumble upon? Only Roger Daltrey's own-brand champagne, that's what! I mean, this is the Roger Daltrey, out of The Who - for my money the greatest rock'n'roll band there ever was - that Roger Daltrey, the definitive rock front man, Jagger and Plant notwithstanding, and he's put his name on a champagne that comes in a bottle with a kind of Tommy-themed packaging! How cool is that? The fact that it seems to cost £95 a go comes as a slight shock to me and PK, but actually that's cool too, because a lot of that big-ticket price goes to good causes, hospitals and so on, so it's worth shelling out. We try some of the Daltrey cuvée just to make sure he's not pulling a fast one, but all is groovy - or at least, it tastes pretty much like champagne, or something that would pass as champagne, especially if you're the sort of person who otherwise buys champagne in a bottle dressed up as a Florentine specie cellar; or Champers Demi Sec. It's still cool.

Four hours after we go in, we stagger out of the Wine Fair into the weak daylight. Clearly, I have some thinking to do: if wine is now all about Dracula, wild animals, phoney champagne, real champagne that looks like phoney champagne, joke-sized rosés and cuvée Roger Daltrey, then this is not the time to miss out. In fact there is only one thing absent from today's treats, I ponder, as I collect myself on the pavement. And that thing is wine in a bottle shaped like Thunderbird 2. I'm just putting it out there.


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