Thursday 21 February 2019

The game name

Of course it was the name which caught my eye. The late Jack Bruce was one of the greatest bass guitarists ever, a man who merged jazz and rock techniques, the member of Cream who wrote their best-known numbers, and a chap who was not a stranger to the bottle. Oh, sorry – this is Bruce Jack.

Apologies for the confusion. There may be people who have been christened Simon Paul, Charles Ray or Vincent Gene – but they haven’t put their name on a wine label. It would be the same if I'd seen a bottle of whisky labelled Daniel Jack. 

It’s not Bruce Jack’s fault, obviously. I blame the parents. But there is his name, celebrity-sized, like an Ian Botham red wine, or a UB40 red red wine. Little wonder I thought it was from the estate of Jack Bruce.

And while we’re used to seeing winemakers’ names on labels, albeit not quite so large, we’re not really used to seeing their photos. You don’t see pictures of Louis Jadot, or Michel Chapoutier, on their labels. But here on his back label is Bruce himself, with his sleeves rolled up, ready for action, ready to, er, “Collect new board from shaper…”

Come again? I think this may be something to do with surfing. It is not a diary item in many wine circles. And call me narrow-minded, but if you’re looking at the actual winemaker’s name and face, and you’re about to buy his product, surely you want to believe that he’s been thinking about making wine? Not about buggering off to his surfboard shaper?

This is particularly important when the wine is being marketed entirely on the name, the face and the character of the winemaker himself. Bruce Jack launched his South African wines in the UK at the turn of the year. Bruce has a background in big, mass-market blended wines like Kumala, which might or might not be a selling point to UK consumers. And according to his website, his wines “reflect the culmination of the lessons I am still learning”, if you would like to sort that sentence out.

Bruce Jack doesn’t just have a story, or values, or a philosophy – Bruce Jack has all three. There are several abstruse thoughts from Bruce Jack on the back label. Some even have a connection to winemaking. “The land has an energy of memory”, and “The real disco is below the soil’s surface”. Others include “Imagination is sanctuary enough.” Sorry?

Of course we’re all buying into concepts of some kinds when we buy a bottle of wine, often to do with heritage, connoisseurship or status. But the more you have to philosophise on your website, the clearer it is that wine itself cannot convey such things as “fairness”, and “humbleness”, and “surfing”.

And sure enough, the wine itself is a perfectly decent Shiraz – steady, straightforward, not over fruity and with a nice touch of bright, peppery spiciness. It’s a red middleweight, not a purple bruiser, and  it will happily take down a herby sausage. I have no complaints.

But it was not the “thrilling experience” which Bruce Jack somewhat ambitiously promises for £6.25. Nor did I get a taste which reflected the fact that Bruce Jack wines “continually interrogate, and expose the folly through our actions, of information from those acting in opposition to our values.” 

Which isn't exactly Russell Bertrand.


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