Thursday 26 July 2018

CJ is away

…ploughing the wine-dark sea…

Thursday 19 July 2018

Wine and Football – match abandoned

Wine and football don’t mix. End of. That is one of the clearest things we have learnt during the football-obsessed month from which we are now emerging.

When wine sees a bandwagon, it jumps upon it, even if it bears no real relation to wine itself. So this year, wine eschewed its usual Summer marketing favourites. (“Garden wines! Because you need to drink a different wine as soon as you step outside!” “Barbeque wines! They smother the taste of simultaneously burnt and undercooked food!” “Rosé wines! Because…it’s Summer!”)

Instead, brands and merchants attempted to hitch wine to the World Cup. “Here are the perfect wines to celebrate the dream!” declared a typical Saraceni Wines.   “Are you ready to live to the fullest the World Cup?” Oh yes, to the very fullest.

Majestic Wine offered money back on a case if England beat Sweden, because “Finding great wine should be easier than winning at penalties”, an analogy as strained as the tealeaves in Stalag Luft III.

Oddbins at one stage Tweeted, “MM Cavas are delicious! Which surely indicates a Spanish victory.” Or not.

The Wine Society ran a World Cup of Grapes, and then Tanners Wines simply repeated the idea, a tenuous link with the football in the first place, but one which raised the tantalising prospect of simply rerunning a World Cup to get a different result.

And here’s Astley Vineyard, in Worcestershire: “Wine. Football. Why not!?” Well, before we have a chance to count the ways, they admit “ We're not the biggest football fans, but as the World Cup is on it would be a shame to miss an opportunity!” At least they’re honest about it.

“The idea is simple: taste wines from the top three countries of this year's World Cup - no matter who they are!” As simple ideas go, that one must be up there with the chocolate teapot.

Wine and football simply don’t go together. A few Premier League clubs do have official wine partners; for Arsenal it’s Chilean wine Santa Rita; Man City have done a regional deal with Wolf Blass; and Man Utd still have their contract with Casillero del Diablo, despite endangering the relationship with the world’s worst promotional video. All the world may be a stage, but some people are better off remaining players, especially Wayne Rooney.

(Endearingly, Liverpool don’t have a branded wine deal, but they do offer their own “top quality wines” – through an Official Off-Licence, like.)

But the association really doesn’t work. Because at the end of ninety minutes/when the whistle goes/insert further clumsy football result analogy here, wine is simply not a good partner for football.

Apart from anything else, wine is a drink to consider. It is surely for contemplation, not raw celebration. It is cerebral, not physical.

True, there were some aspects of the football which were as cerebral, nay incomprehensible, as some tasting notes; I’m thinking of Glenn Hoddle’s strategic analysis. “What about these young Merlots, Glenn, how do you rate them?” “Ooh, lovely. At the end of the day, they’ve sneaked through the channel, and they’ve picked our pocket. Beautiful…”

But with football, you need a drink you can gulp. You need to drink in quantity, whether it’s to fuel the fervour, to calm the nerves, or to provide refreshment, especially in this summer’s heat. The idea that wine is a good way to “quench your thirst” while watching sport – thanks, Rude Wines – is somewhere between foolish and dangerous.

And bearing this summer’s most popular football celebration in mind, wine is simply not as suitable as beer for throwing in the air. (When Sediment pointed this out to Rude Wines, we received the prim reply, “In this case we'd recommend having white wine in your glass, less stains to deal with.”)

Wine throwing, as we know, is not a communal affair; chucking wine at someone is a very direct, angry, personal gesture more akin to throwing a punch. And the quantity of wine in glasses would simply not be sufficient to create that glittering, sun-refracted firework display of beer which greeted each England goal.

Of course, it may be that champagne and football do go together. We just never got a chance to find out…


Thursday 12 July 2018

These Vocalisations I Make On First Sampling A Beverage*

- Mm, yeah, yeah, not bad

- No, I like a bit of a head on it

- ...I'm getting loose boxes...spent matches...guacamole...

- You could use it for cooking

- Woah! That's got a nose on it!

- Ah, death and Château D'Yquem. Yes, I know it is Château D'Yquem

- Of course, when we leave the EU this'll cost a fortune

- Is it meant to be this colour?

- ....Mmm...mmm...nnn...

- Woof!

- Shit, sorry, I'll get a cloth

- Oh yeah, yeah, oh God, yeah, that's the one

- Of course, this was Winston Churchill's/Adlai Stevenson's/Sonny Bono's favourite drink

- Oh, for fuck's sake

- This is the last one, then I'm out of here

- Can I see the label again?

- So like I said, at one point the whole of Bob Dylan's backing band was in the CIA

- Wowsers!

- Did you make this yourself?

- I'm going to say a Sainsbury's Rioja. A 2009 Pauillac? Well, you had me there

- How do you spell terroir, exactly?

- ...Eewww...

- The last time I had this was in 1982/Cousin Clive's funeral/the London Olympics

- I dunno, I think I prefer it at room temperature

- Is it meant to be slightly pétillant?

- Seriously, this is it, or I'm going to miss my train

- I dunno, I think I prefer it a bit colder

- And it's been in your family for four generations?

- No, don't worry, I'll get it out with a spoon

- I did have this once in Italy, but it didn't taste like this

- Ah, that's it right there

- Minerality, my arse

- Well if Jancis Robinson likes it, that's good enough for me

-'s pee...

- God, I hate Argentian Malbec. Actually, this is quite nice

- This is a very small glass

- Bang on!

- I think this bus may have already left the depot

- 14.5%? Why didn't you tell me?

- I went to the place where they make this, once. It's absolutely tiny. Or is it quite large? No, wait a minute, it's really huge

- I'm glad to see you've moved on to a screw top

- I dunno, what do you think?

- I can see why they drink so much of it

- Aaarrrp...

- Yeah, Spain. Bit of a mystery

- Lovely colour

- ...Stone know, that thing that comes in a kind of round leathern receptacle...

- Who was that bloke who used to advertise this on the telly?

- Hang on, I've only just started

- I'm only going to drink beer and spirits after this

- Ah, the old Red Infuriator

- Shit, this shirt was clean this morning

- Good stuff. The next one's definitely on me

- I met this guy who told me you could make it out of lettuce leaves and sodium bicarbonate

- There's only one thing you can say about this

- Nope. I'm just getting cat's pee

- You've got to hand it to the French. They can really knock this stuff out

- It's Greek?


*Contains adult language/themes

Thursday 5 July 2018

White rabbit

I’m so sick of white wine. I’ve had three weeks of hot weather, three weeks of fish, and shellfish, and salads, across London and Cornwall. Which has meant three weeks of white wine. Oh, I’ve put away so much of the damn stuff. And I’m thoroughly fed up with it.

Of course we’re going to choose white wine during a heatwave. Everyone keeps telling us it’s “crisp”, and “zesty”, and “fresh”, descriptions which would sell anything during a spell of hot weather. It’s served cold, the condensation calling alluringly from the glass. And we’re eating all those lightweight dishes, which a proper red wine would smother like a duvet.

But honestly? It’s a glass of nayce whayte wayne.  It’s what you have at those canapé and conversation events where talking is more important than drinking. Where you’re never sure of the quality of the wine, and so you pick up a glass of white, because bad white is never as bad as bad red.

White wine is for lunch. As Keith Waterhouse wrote in his magnificent The Theory and Practice of Lunch – a theory and practice sadly forsworn by today’s teetotal lunchers – “the wine that travels best with the lunchtime banter and gossip is not served at room temperature.” (Although of course when that was published two decades ago, few restaurants had their own rooms chilled.)

It’s been the mainstay of lunch at a gentleman’s club, the steely Chablis with the smoked salmon and the Dover Sole. But when the weather’s like this, you have the same kind of supper in the evening at home. You’re not cooking stews, or roasts, or anything else which requires having the oven on for an hour. No, it’s fish and salads and cold collations, which just scream out for white wine.

So you have to accept you’ll have another cold white wine – but then it doesn’t stay cold. Those coolers, whether plastic or terracotta, never really work, and the absence of a home ice bucket means I am faced with constant trips back to the fridge. Even so, the wine simply warms up in the glass, becoming rapidly tepid. Great; I’ve eschewed something which on a hot summer’s day has the look and temperature of blood, for something which has the similar characteristics of urine.

And let’s not talk about the flavour. It’s “steely”, it’s “flinty”, it’s “chalky”. Have you noticed how many of the adjectives used to describe white wine apply to things you would never put in your mouth?

OK yes, I am modern enough to drink chilled reds, and have now purposefully bought a Brouilly for the cellar and a Chinon for the fridge. But I am not going to ask for a chilled red in a restaurant in Cornwall, where I would risk looking like some utter bassoon, coming down here with his trendy Shoreditch ways.

(And don’t get me started on rosé, with its “here comes the sun, here comes the rosé” seasonal marketing, as if the mere presence of sunshine demands that you drink it. Quick boys, the clouds are parting, wheel out the rosé. Well thank you waiter but no, there are people passing my table and I don’t wish to look like a gullible dilbert.)

After three weeks, I’ve had enough. Enough crispy freshness and fresh crispness and perky zesty steely minerality and what have you – and never the deep, resonant weight of a red which sends you off genuinely satisfied.

Eventually, this weather has to break. Spit, fire, spout, rain and all that. We’ll all go back indoors and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the alfresco set and the barbeque boys. But over here will be a happy man, retreating to his dining room with a proper supper and a glass of good claret. At last.