Thursday 10 October 2019


So the problem is this. On the one hand, I have a chirpy little article in front of me from the Waitrose food & drink magazine urging me to enlarge my beverage horizons. Love pinot grigio? it demands - then why not, it wants to know, try a Waitrose & Partners Petit Manseng at £9.99 a bottle, instead of the £5.99 a basement Pinot Grigio will normally cost you? Love valpollicella (and who doesn't)? Then it's a Waitrose & Partners Mencia, from Spain, apparently, also £9.99. Love côtes du rhône (no capitalisation on the R)? Cannonau di Sardegna, only £8.99. And so on.

I mean, you can't blame them for wanting to upsell until we're sick of living, but quite apart from the sheer nakedness of the endeavour, the business of moving me into new and exciting realms gets up my nose not least because it has taken me years, years, to reach the point where I stand a more-or-less evens chance of identifying a Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Merlot, or a Sauvignon Blanc, or, maybe , just maybe, a Shiraz, without looking at the label on the bottle. And I am not going to endanger that footling semi-ability by trying to get my head round a petit manseng or a mencia or an arinto from Lisbon, assuming such a thing even exists. I know, I'm closing myself off from a world of extravagant novelties, but penury, anxiety and small-mindedness make powerful allies in this case.

Added to which, and on the other hand: I have a sack of beetroot to deal with. I mean, it's fantastic beetroot, don't get me wrong - given to us by some pals in Cheshire who grow a superabundance of fruit and veg in their loamy Cheshire soil, some of which has made its way back to our place clinging to these gigantic beetroots, as big as cannonballs, not even beetroot-shaped, but full of cavities and whorls, like Barbara Hepworth sculptures in places, crowned with topknots of leaf stems, elemental beetroots in fact - and it's as much as I can do to cut them down to size, stick the pieces on a roasting tray and hope for the best. Seriously, it's a good half-hour of slashing and hacking with my biggest, most urgent, knife, just to get them into some kind of order. The kitchen's covered in red juice; it looks like the site of a gangland slaying. Which then compels me to ask myself, Which wine, of the handful of wines available to me, would go with an incredibly bloody mediæval beetroot? It's a real-world problem and one not helped by all the beseechings from Waitrose.

I sit down and gnaw at the issue. After about three-quarters of an hour I get the beetroots out of the oven, a cloud of steam emerging with them as if a boiler's exploded and I stare at my handiwork. They still look savage and undignified, even cut into bits and shimmied around a bit on the roasting tray. They are, to be frank, unreconstructedly Northern European. Bruegel would have recognised them, possibly stuck them in a corner of one of his larger compositions. They speak of mud and cold and tragedy. They are simply not a wine-related foodstuff. Down in the south, heading towards the Mediterranean, they get truffles and aromatic herbs. They have wine. Up in the north, in parts of Cheshire, they get dahlias and beetroots. What to do? Somehow honour the rootsiness of the beetroot by nipping out and buying some beer? By dousing myself in warm gin? I can't see a bottle of Cannonau di Sardegna fitting in, even if I wanted to make that effort.

As it happens, I find a couple of duck legs, roast them up too, and, with blank inevitability, reach for a half-finished bottle of generic Australian Cabernet Sauvigon which has been sitting around for a few days and let it fight it out with what's on the plate. I call it food pairing. It's okay. Can we just leave it at that?



  1. That Cannonau would have done well with them. We've scads of beets (or remolacha/remolatxa) in Spain and reds of substance are quite at home with them.


  2. And beetroot is never used for describing the nose or taste. Thinking about it, Casillero del Diablo has both.

  3. Well thank you for those sage remarks, no pun intended, both with a strong Iberian flavour. I shall think on...


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