PK and wine retailers

PK goes shopping

1 Befriending a wine merchant

2 Oddbins

3 Marks & Spencer

4 Tesco Express

5 An upmarket wine merchant

6 Waitrose


8 Majestic

9 Aldi

10 Berry Bros & Rudd

11 Harrods

12 Fortnum & Mason

13 Majestic revisited

14 The classic wine merchant

Befriending a local wine merchant

When you have sunk to the bottom, you can only go up. Even Sediment, when agitated or disturbed, will rise. In a bid to remind my palate, not to mention CJ, of what wine is all about – and having sunk to the depths of the cheapest wine I have ever knowingly drunk – I decided to find a good, complex bottle of wine which I might actually enjoy. An interesting wine.

As an aide-memoire to what decent wine is about, I’ve been re-reading Simon Hoggart’s book Life’s too short to drink bad wine. Well, not on the Sediment blog, it’s not, old chum. Not my life, anyway.

But in between making me obscenely jealous of the wines he has tasted, Hoggart also offers advice, including the following: “If you have an independent merchant near you,” he writes, “or a good well-run branch of a chain – the sort that trains its staff and keeps them – make friends.”

Now, from my parents to my business partner, people throughout my life have exhorted me to “make friends”, usually with the complete failure resulting in a sandpit fight. Or its adult equivalent.

Nor can I say that I am “friends” with any other shopkeepers. I have been to our local paint shop several times, but I am still treated as a stranger. Mind you, I have never gone in with what I suspect might be a memorable request for "an interesting paint"...

Nevertheless, I thought I would try out Simon Hoggart’s principle in order to purchase a wine which, in both senses, was not bad. So I entered my local branch of Oddbins with the lazy gait of the flaneur who has nowhere better to be, and an ingratiating grin.

The assistant certainly looked as if he was trained – unlike the staff in my cornershop, he had clearly been taught that his job description was best fulfilled behind the counter, and not outside having a smoke. Nor was he glumly perusing his P45. ("Ah no mate, interesting wine comes in next week - but I'm afraid I'm off to work up the road, in the paint shop...") All systems go, then.

I explained that I was looking for something of a treat, something complex I could drink by itself. He asked what kind of thing I liked, and I said I really liked old clarets with a backbone, like St Estephes. He immediately offered me a 2002 Medoc, which frankly smacked of the obvious rather than the interesting. Then he proposed a Tuscan, a much more stimulating idea.
I said “Hmm…??” in a quizzical manner, meant to suggest, “Perhaps you have something even more interesting hidden away for your friends?”. Clearly this was misinterpreted as “Can I spend a little more?” It led to the offer of an extremely expensive mature Rioja.

It was actually me who suggested the Terlato & Capoutier Shiraz/Viognier. I had seen this mentioned on an American website, as one of the best value wines of the year. (Not cheapest, but best value, a distinction lost on certain wine writers.) And I was intrigued by whether comfortable Australian Shiraz had been lifted into something a bit more complex by a great French winemaker.

“Ah, now that is an interesting wine,” he agreed. He went on to say that it was an unoaked Shiraz, which meant you could drink it younger, and that the Viognier added primarily to the nose.

Reasonable guidance - but what makes this wine interesting to me is the union between one of the great old winemaking names of the Rhone, and an enthusiast from the New World. Like that duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie. (Well, that was a bit ropey, actually, but you get my point.) What happens when the traditional skills of France meet the modern, affordable produce of Australia?

He suggested opening it an hour before drinking – and added that “opening” really meant pouring it into something like a glass, with greater surface area. All of which was extremely good advice.

As he wished me an enjoyable evening, I liked to think that our exchange had gone beyond the merely fiscal. I couldn’t say he’d become my friend – but perhaps, and who can blame him, he was a little wary of the unctuous grin.

The wine itself was absolutely delicious, a description I am thrilled to be able to employ within the Sediment blog. First I gave it an hour in a claret decanter. The nose is cedary but creamy, and the wine has the richness, the spicy warmth of a Cote-Rotie; but with the weight reduced by the absence of oak, and the little lift of the Viognier (a grape I associate with appley white wines), it just sings off the back of the palate. There’s a lighter, fruity note of summer about it, rather than the autumn and winter I associate with Shiraz. If I have any criticism, it’s that the absence of the oak meant I missed having something to tether the wine down, and make it a slower drink – but perhaps that’s my justification (if any were needed) for polishing off the bottle in a single session.

This was everything I wanted – a reminder of how enjoyable wine can be, and a genuinely interesting treat. And as to my burgeoning friendship with the chap in Oddbins, I will try and remember to report if I go back whether he remembers me, or ushers me outside to avoid upsetting other customers.


A little knowledge: Oddbins' Macon-Lugny Eugene Blanc

The English are among the few people who will actually mock someone’s learning. Too clever for his own good. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Know-it-all. Too clever by half.

By embracing a dismissal of all matters vinous beyond price and taste, CJ shrewdly avoids this mockery. I, despite my broad erudition, only plead guilty to a little knowledge of wine myself. How dangerous a thing can that little knowledge possibly be? Well…

You may recall (or, with the wonders of the internet, may now look back upon) my somewhat futile attempt to follow one wine writer’s advice and “befriend a local wine merchant”. My chosen local merchant was an Oddbins – shortly afterwards, the chain went into administration.

My attempts at striking up friendships have often been rebuffed – there are playgrounds, student bars and even people’s dining rooms to which I can never return – and many is the shop where assistants now disappear into the back room muttering “It’s that bloody man again…”. But closing an entire retail chain to avoid me is a little extreme.

However, my local Oddbins remained, to some shabby extent, open. A scrappy handwritten note appeared in the window, explaining that it was now being run by EFB/Whittalls. (In fact this is European Food Brokers, which operates Whittalls, which is trading as Oddbins. A search throws up locations like Halifax, Walsall and Dorking. Hmmm.)

But for weeks and weeks now, it has offered only rubbish wines. I mean real bottom shelf, corner grocer stuff, like Marques de Caceres, Yellowtail, even Blossom Hill – I ask you, Blossom Hill? What is this, a convenience store? Walsall? A Spar?

The shelves have been sparsely stocked, and the simple, bare wood interior of Oddbins, which once presented a charming, rustic simplicity, has had an air of downtown Mogadishu.

Then this week, they put a board outside proudly announcing, “The tide is turning” – and amongst the rubbish, I saw this Mâcon-Lugny in the window, and I thought yes, at last. There, my little learning told me, is a white Burgundy, a wine that could grace my dining table.

And £9 is a good price for a white Burgundy. Perhaps, I thought, this might be a signal to people like myself. Oddbins could be offering good wine again. Or, it’s a bin-end from the old Oddbins, a quality wine being shifted at a bargain price to ease their cashflow, and which passers-by may not notice.

But, given my little knowledge, was I being “too clever by half”?

The wines of the Mâconnais, says my old Sotheby’s guide to classic wines, are “broad, solid structured… with a harmonious balance between lemony fruit and sinewy virtuosity”, an astonishing turn of phrase from David Molyneux-Berry which is as hard to comprehend as it is to pronounce.

What does Oddbins say? I can do no better than show you the back label:

Now, why reduce something to its lowest common denominator? Yes, it is chardonnay; but if you’re selling a Rolls-Royce, you don’t describe it as a car.

As someone may have said, as 183 fighter planes appeared over the horizon of Pearl Harbor, this does not bode well.

If there’s one adjective everyone uses about good white Burgundy (and indeed Chardonnay) it’s “buttery”. Sadly, this wine is more like those low fat alternatives, which nobody tells you are also low flavour.

An initially fresh, grapefruity bouquet simply evaporates from the glass within minutes, disappearing like cars from a traffic warden. And similarly with the flavour; any richness you might detect in an initial sip (beware the in-store tasting!) is long gone before the second glass. No “sinewy virtuosity” here, and as far as fruit is concerned, there’s just a thin flavour of lemon fruitgums, with a clenching aftertaste. In fact, served with food, people might not even notice it; or, if you put a slice of lemon in the jug, they could confuse it with their water.

(Incidentally, whoever wrote that back label – it has neither a good depth of flavour, nor a concentration of fruit. It is, however, arguably, dry. Frankly, I’m beginning to wish I was.)

Now look. I’m really rather copped off about this. I’m sitting here with a £9 bottle of wine, which is about twice what CJ pays, and God knows he moans enough about the rubbish he has to put up with.

If somewhere is selling classic wines, it is going to start attracting people like me, rather than corner-shop customers who are simply trying to obliterate the preceding day for a fiver. I’ve been lured in, by a classic French appellation, and a little knowledge.

I don’t want a load of comments about how it’s hard to turn the business around, get new stock, etc etc. Because this place is open, and it’s selling stuff to customers, and if the owners don’t feel the stuff on their shelves is representative of their operation and their brand, then they should close until it is.

Or perhaps this is what they drink in Walsall…


M&S Palataia Pinot Noir

Like many English boys, I grew up hating Marks & Spencer. Now I’m middle-aged, do I have to succumb to their wine? To say nothing of their elastic-waisted trousers…

Marks & Spencer are hailed universally for the quality of their goods; so it’s perfectly credible when a wine critic of the calibre of Tim Atkin suggests that M&S may be currently selling the best value Pinot Noir in the world. It’s credible, it’s financially appealing (£8.99!), and its only problem is years of ingrained prejudice against M&S. Which, as a middle-aged man and potential core customer, it’s perhaps time I overcame.

Kids, you see, often hate M&S. Because when they want some overpriced hip brand of clothing, their parents insist instead on buying them good quality, cheaper versions from M&S – which almost look the same. This makes the children a playground laughing stock. See a teenager wearing M&S jeans, see a victim of bullying in waiting.

But then, as you grow older, and start working and earning, Marks & Spencer pulls you in from a different direction. For the aspirational young professional is lured into M&S not by their clothes, but by their food.

It may be worth taking a moment to try and explain Marks & Spencer food to readers from our former colonies and elsewhere. Unlike their largely practical clothing, their food is unashamedly indulgent. M&S are known mainly for their ready-made dishes, which as their TV ads once breathily intoned, is not just food – it is M&S food. This means it is very good, but also very expensive. To illustrate the cash-rich, time-poor nature of customers of their pre-prepared food, one need only look at the frightening price of, say, their pre-roasted potatoes (£4.98 for approximately £0.68p worth of potato

And their notion of “pre-prepare” can be as broad as, say, peel, chop and put in bag. Hence, and I kid you not, their bags of pre-cut carrot batons…

The thing is, M&S food is really food for yourselves. Most people would feel “cheated” if they went out to dinner and someone served them pre-prepared M&S food. It looks as if you have made no effort. Well, you have made no effort. Unless you count queuing.

What, then, about a recognisably M&S wine? The store consistently win awards for their wines – but again, the “no effort” issue rears its head. Rightly or wrongly, it looks like an afterthought. Turn up at a dinner party bearing a bottle of Marks & Spencer wine, and it looks like you popped in to get some elasticated – sorry, Active Waist  – trousers, and grabbed a bottle of wine just because you were there. No effort. Social faux pas.

So why, I ask myself, why do they always declare on the label that it is an M&S wine? Some kind of misguided brand status? “We take the awards, you take the praise” they announced in one of their wine ads. Praise for what? Your ability to find an M&S? Your disposable income? Your understanding of the command, “Cashier number four, please”?

CJ once declared his taste for an M&S House Red;  but in his house, spying an M&S wine label is something of a relief, given the menagerie which usually parade across the front of his bottles and announce another ugly compromise between flavour and finance. 

At least in one’s own home, one can decant a wine and hide its label. If this really is “the best value Pinot Noir in the world”, then I will happily disguise its provenance. If it looks like Burgundy…

Few people go to M&S specifically to buy a bottle of wine. I can honestly say that I was the only person in my (lengthy) queue holding just a bottle of wine. Most people are clearly buying their supper, an entire meal for one or possibly two; I looked embarrassingly as if my whole evening was going to be spent with only a bottle of wine.

(I must just relate the story of the chap arriving at a checkout with a basket containing a small loaf of bread, a half bottle of wine and a pre-prepared meal for one. “Single, are you?” asked the checkout girl.

“Yeah,” said the chap, “Can you tell from the food?”

“No,” she replied. “You’re just bloody ugly.”)

Anyway, it has to be said that this is a delicious, fragrant Pinot Noir. It has a light, strawberry bouquet with a hint of spice, all elements which carry through to its delicate, easy, almost ethereal flavour. It is as good as many Burgundies. It received fulsome praise from Mrs K, who then drank too much of it. No, it is not the Labouré Roi Échezeaux Grand Cru 2007, which I pretentiously told CJ tasted like choral evensong; but it is, as they say, singing from the same hymnsheet. And, even though a single bottle was actually £9.45, that is one-tenth of the Burgundy's price. Very good value indeed. 

But. It does not like being decanted for long. That fragrant delicacy disappears like smoke after an aerated hour. You really should serve this to a gathering, and from the bottle. Which means revealing where you got it. 

And I can’t do it yet. I just can’t. Any more than I would pour it wearing shoes which almost look like Sperry Topsiders. Giving up the effort, like succumbing to Active Waist trousers, means abandoning the reward.

So – recommended for those who would serve, in M&S terms, not just pork, but a prime cut of Scottish out-door bred pork matured for tenderness, de-boned and tied to make carving easier. For family, therefore, not guests. 

For guests, you’d surely want to go the whole hog.


Normal wine for normal people: Tesco Sicil…

It may be hard for some of you to accept, but CJ and I are normal people. That’s why we spend much of our time on Sediment consuming and considering wines which are neither excessively expensive, nor excessively rare – and, consequently, not excessively good.

And like other normal wine drinkers, we do not necessarily have the wines we would like at hand. As we all know, the wines in my own (tiny, Mrs K, tiny) cellar are not for drinking. Yet. They are all either too young, too expensive or, I hope, too good to accompany a normal midweek supper, comprising the remains of Sunday’s gammon, with egg and chips.

Despite its similarity in price to pizza, no-one seems prepared to whiz round to us on a moped with a single bottle of wine. (Now there’s a business opportunity…)

Hence, I need to go out and buy a bottle, like a normal person – the kind of normal person, that is, who uses words like “hence”.

And so I am thrown upon the resources of a High Street which seems to be able to provide, at eight in the evening, a tub of ice cream of consistently good quality at a competitive price – but not an equivalent bottle of wine.

My local Tesco is called a Tesco Express, a nicety which may be lost on some readers from our former colonies. “Express” is used to differentiate my little Tesco from a Tesco Extra, Metro, Super, Pennypincher or whatever other suffix they come up with. It is not, in fact, faster; it is simply smaller than some of the others in their hierarchy; and therefore lacking any of the promoted or reviewed wines they might have in a Tesco Massive.

So I am faced with the usual sad choice of the branded and the blended. But then I notice a kneeling assistant, assidously putting bright yellow stickers on to a bottle which I can consequently only see is called Sicil…Vino Rosso Si…

I thought for a moment she might be applying a recently won Decanter award; or, at the very least, a price reduction. But no; this was a sticker proclaiming that the bottle is “Security Protected”.

Now, I have been fooled once before with the security protection on a bottle of wine, when I naively thought it might suggest a classier, more valuable product. But this bottle costs £4.15.

Why would anyone, faced with a display of wines, some as eye-wateringly expensive as £10.99, steal the one that costs just £4.15? I asked the girl putting on the stickers, who simply replied “Believe me, they’ll nick anything.”

Well. What a heartwarming view of one’s clientele. Presumably this embodies one of Tesco’s stated corporate values, to “understand customers”.

My local shoplifters clearly need a little enlightenment themselves, in the effort/reward ratio. Surely one bottle is as easy to steal as another; why steal one of the cheapest?

Or could it be that the eyes of the impecunious are instinctively drawn to the cheaper items on a shelf; then, when they realise they can’t afford even that, they steal it – without ever having looked at the more expensive stuff?

Anyway, the effect was to make me feel that I was in the kind of place where people would steal a £4.15 bottle of wine. Which must be a pretty lowly place. Remind me next time to bring both my Clubcard and my stab vest.

I paid for my bottle, like a normal person, intrigued as to what Sicil…Vino Rosso Si… might taste like. It was, as I had begun excitedly to deduce, a Sicilian red wine…

And it was incredibly…bland. A light cherry bouquet, and then a soft, barely detectable, blackcurranty flavour. None of that cheap vino alcoholic clench; more like sugar-free Ribena. The label says it "shows" flavours of red fruits; I prefer the verb "suggests".

This is the most drinkable, if least memorable, of all the sub-£5 wines it has been my sorry misfortune to drink. In most instances its consumption would be a pointless exercise, save in the pursuit of inebriation. But in terms of accompanying my supper, it succeeded in the same manner as, indeed, a successful shoplifter – by lacking any noticeable presence.

Was it worth it? Not was the tasteless wine worth £4.15 a bottle; that’s an almost academic question. But I’m left wondering whether it is worth a normal person being regarded as a potential thief amongst thieves in order to buy it.

However, I should just say that Mrs K claims no normal person would drink a glass of wine with gammon, egg and chips. She says a normal person would have had a cup of tea…


Upmarket merchant, downmarket wine

At the posh wine merchants down the road – the ones (like all posh wine merchants) with an ampersand – austerity is clearly taking its toll. Facing the door, and hence visible from the street, a rack has recently appeared, proclaiming a selection of wines for under £10.

This is clearly designed to attract the paupers, riff-raff and ne’er-do-wells who shuffle past their door en route to the Tesco Expressnormally pausing only to raise their eyes in longing like a labrador outside a butcher’s.

An immediate posh giveaway (apart from the ampersand) is the fact that they consider “under £10” to be unusual enough to merit announcement. To put this into perspective, the web site of this merchant offers 943 wines above £10. They do have wine at over £1000 a bottle. 

Their signs look as if they are written in chalk, but in fact are painted permanently. Perhaps this is a recent development, now that they’re trying to attract the sort of people who make it so difficult to leave up a chalked sign for shitake mushrooms. 

They are clearly uncomfortable in promoting their wares at this end of the market. “Good wine for under £10” one sign declares. “Good”? As an Englishman huffily responds to most forms of advice, I’ll be the judge of that. 

“Change from £10 oh yeah!”, which sounds like one of McCartney’s clumsy earlier lyrics.

And finally, “Only got £10 no problem”, which raises a couple of issues, only one of which is grammatical. If you had literally only got £10, I suspect you would have a lot of problems, and spending your sole remaining tenner in a wine merchants would be way down your list of fiscal priorities.

However, it has to be said that this particular merchant has a few issues describing the wine at the upper end of their price range, too. Take the opening of their description for a bottle of 2004 Burgundy, costing £335: “Still only just finishing its malo, so hard and gassy …”

“Hard and gassy”? That certainly does not encourage me to spend £335 on a bottle. It sounds like a couple of the guys at Stamford Bridge.

It’s bad enough when CJ says a wine tastes of old newspapers and seems to think that’s a good thing, but at least his wine’s only £3.99. 

But, hang on. “Just finishing its malo…” – what? What??

There are, presumably, people for whom the malolactic fermentation of a wine is a key purchasing influence, and for whom terms like “needs some time”, or “not ready yet” are insufficiently specific. But what makes this particularly obnoxious is the chatty abbreviation “malo”, like, yah, that’s the way we in the know always banter about our £335 wine. Yah.

Anyway, in I stroll. Of course, I try to give off the air of someone who was intending to saunter all the way down the store, to the First Growth clarets and the £355 Burgundies finishing their malo at the far end, only to be rudely interrupted by the under-£10 display in my way. 

Oh, what’s this? Wines for under £10? Crikey! Do such things exist? How charming.

I am not interrupted with “assistance” as I look at the modest selection, because obvously for £10 you’re not going to get the unctuous fawning you expect when you’re spending £300+ on a bottle, never mind the banter about vintages and the repartee about malolactic fermentation. 

Besides, they presumably don’t want to frighten away those who have been lured, nervous as sparrows, across their threshold, but are more familiar with the self-selection of the supermarket.

It’s a sunny day, and I plump for an intriguing Italian white, Anima Umbramade primarily from the Grechetto grape, which I’ve not encountered before. It has a couple of troublingly downmarket elements, such as gold foil on its label, which lends it a sort of bonkbuster paperback appearance; and I find when I get home that it has a green plastic cork, which is a vile and unnatural thing, resembling some kind of medical bung.

But actually, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable wine. Intensely floral on the nose, lovely creamy texture, and then an extraordinary balance of full, apple and peach, fruit notes, with a crisp, refreshing aftertaste. Just the kind of acrobatics which create an excellent white to drink on its own. Yes, it is good wine for under £10.

Now, I’m not going to make any sweeping judgments about buying from merchants versus buying from supermarkets. But there is one fundamental difference. Clumsy as their promotional tactics may be, wines in merchants are properly priced. These are not short-term offers, with the wine doubling back up in price next week. And you can be equally confident that it’s is not going to be reduced next week either, to £5, or two for a tenner, or buy one get one free. This is wine which is actually worth £9.95.

Plus, I think it’s finished its malo.


Good Ordinary Claret – from Waitrose. Really?

What have we here? Not just ‘good ordinary wine’. Oh no, this is Good Ordinary Claret, with all the layers of Englishness and class which that construction contains. 

And it’s from Waitrose. Ditto.

It wouldn’t work with any other wine. Good Ordinary Champagne? Most of us only drink champagne on occasions we like to think of as out of the ordinary. Good ordinary chardonnay? Sounds like a Bridget Jones session wine. Good ordinary Burgundy? Contradiction in terms.

The word ‘claret’ has been in use in England since 1400, but gradually became applied solely to red Bordeaux. And partly because of the fashion for Bordeaux among the Georgian aristocracy, the term has become associated firmly with the English upper class. (I’ve had cause before to quote the clever couplet from Blur: “Educated the expensive way/He knows his claret from his Beaujolais.”) 

The term Good Ordinary Claret was first marketed by Berry Bros & Rudd, the oldest and most aristocratic of the wine merchants who come bearing ampersands. As their video explains, they took the name Good Ordinary Claret from their records of selling wine centuries ago, when it was sold from the barrel to customers and described, not by chateau names, but simply as the merchant’s “Claret, choicest”, “Claret, finest” and the like. You imagine that their “Claret, ordinary, good” would have been perfectly palatable – as it remains today. 

You have to admire the sheer Englishness of it all. That way in which we play down any sense of quality or advantage. (We are surely the only race who actually mock intelligence; what makes someone “Too clever for his own good”? How can someone be “too clever by half”?)

Only the English could make something appealing by stating that it’s ordinary. By taking something from the Downton Abbey lifestyle (hence calling it claret, and not Bordeaux) and then suggesting that you are taking it for granted. If it’s everyday for the aristocracy, then it’ll be a treat for us peasants.

And so suddenly, latching on to this idea like some Johnny-come-lately arriviste, here comes Waitrose, ignorantly pushing its trolley across the croquet lawn.

Waitrose is the supermarket which likes to wave aspiration in the face of its customers. This is why the Waitrose Essentials range includes such 'essential' items as guacamole,  orchid-scented candles, and camomile ironing water

And here they are, selling a 'Good Ordinary Claret' at £4.99, around half the price of Berry Bros’ offering. 

Understandably, given it is their claret you are buying, Berry Bros feature themselves on their label.  Waitrose choose not to follow suit. (Perhaps because the most widely circulated picture of a Waitrose is this.) 

Instead, their claret bears a hideous pictorial label with perspective problems. It looks less like a chateau and vineyard, and more like a country cottage with a badly trimmed hedge.

On the back, they have helpfully put a little map, in case we’re not sure where Bordeaux is. They don’t have to do this at Berry Bros, because their customers have forebears who actually owned Bordeaux.

But one may say that the label is neither here nor there, since if we are drinking traditional claret in traditional claret manner, we will be decanting it. It is a matter of some concern that a proper claret jug now seems only to make an appearance as the trophy of the British Open. But of course, Berry Bros sell two – bottle size and, rather magnificently I feel, magnum size. Waitrose’s parent, John Lewis, sells an impressive 32 decanters –  but claret jugs – noneSays it all, really.

It is a matter of painful regret that I have drunk as many bottles of £4.99 wines as I have good clarets, so I feel qualified to say that the Waitrose wine falls firmly into the former category. Its initial hit of vinegar mercifully softens in the glass, but leaves behind a less aggressive but also less flavoursome wine, without any of the fragrance or finesse which Bordeaux should achieve. Its blandness makes it more drinkable than other harsher wines at the price. But I’d feel sorry for anyone who thought they were getting even ordinary claret, let alone good. And why might they think they could get that for £4.99? Because Waitrose tells them so.

At £9, Berry Bros’ Good Ordinary Claret is not cheap. But, it’s the real deal. In that now all too commonplace phrase, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Although it doesn’t come in one.

Their Good Ordinary Claret gets customer comments from the likes of Will (of course) from Shropshire (naturally). “Great wine for a boys shooting weekend,” he says.

Thanks for that, Will. We’ll tell the lads in Peckham.


IKEA wine – their little-known accessory

IKEA keep unusually quiet about this particular product. I found IKEA’s wine in one of its restaurant’s chiller cabinets, but it’s not listed on their Beverages page, like their lagers, or shelved in their food department. And it is not to be confused with IKEA Vinglögg, for that is not wine per se; Vinglögg is described on the label as an “aromatized wine based drink”, and so lies beyond the remit of Sediment, which is not an aromatized wine based drink blog.

No, this is a seemingly proper Cotes de Provence white wine, of undeclared vintage, called, rather oddly, Navicert  – and with the IKEA logo on the label.

It comes in, unusually, a 25cl bottle – that’s 1/3rd of a regular bottle. Trust an IKEA product to employ its own unique measurement system. In their restaurant it’s £2.80 plus VAT, which adds up to what would be a little over £10 for a full bottle. Conveniently, its components do come ready assembled. And with a combination of practicality and economy typical of IKEA, it eschews either cork or Stelvin in favour of a juice-bottle cap.

Now, I could go into the taste of it, using IKEA-related terms to describe aspects such as its construction, its legs, its playful florals and its oak finish. In fact it’s perfectly drinkable; its taste will please most people through being relatively minimal, like everything at IKEA apart from its checkout queues.

But it’s the very concept of offering wine to IKEA customers which deserves some thought.

A traditional Navicert, or ship’s cargo certificate, was meant to aid passage during hostilities, which is of obvious benefit in a trip to IKEA. And a stiff dose of something alcoholic might, like an 19th century explorer of Africa, aid one’s journey around its badly-mapped interior. 

Yes, wine might fuel even more marital rows in the furniture areas; but it could also blur one’s sight, so that one does not spot all those unnecessary but irresistibly cheap items in the strangely compelling Marketplace.

But IKEA wine would surely be of the greatest benefit to its customers if it was incorporated into the actual flatpacks. In the spirit of which, consider the following instructions for use:


Cases dismissed – Majestic Wine Warehouse

To celebrate their new pricing policy, I set off to walk to Majestic. It’s a longish way, but this time I can walk. Because I won’t have to walk back again lugging half a dozen bottles. I can buy just one.

Last week, Majestic Wine Warehouse decided to abandon its “minimum six bottles” rule, and allow customers to buy single bottles of wine. But this change in policy unleashed a surprising stream of pent-up anger; there were uniformly negative comments about Majestic when the Daily Telegraph reported the change.

So remind me. Why in the first place would you want to shop for wine in a warehouse?

Surely a warehouse is the sort of place to which you go for building supplies. Planks, gravel, some forbetwos, a couple of soggy chimps and a forty-eight foot bastard.

Yet, anticipating a sophisticated dinner party, you set off for a warehouse. Somewhere semi-industrial, with the striplighting of a penal institution. Where the staff wear not the striped shirts or even artisan aprons of wine merchants, but fleeces, because they’ve supposedly just finished work on the fork-lift outside. A warehouse, where you can wander through stacks of boxes and bottles, piled up to head height on industrial pallets. Ah, the sophistication of wine…

Why did we undertake this grim exercise? Because we believed that, by buying in bulk, from a warehouse, we enjoyed a discount unavailable to those buying only single bottles. It was a similar premise to a cash-and-carry, only with the added cachet of saying that you were buying “a case of wine”, which sounds classier than a multipack.

There was also a feeling that you were somehow beating the system, that you were shopping higher up the supply chain, virtually from the back of a cross-Channel HGV. And that in a basic warehouse rather than a stylish shop, you weren’t paying for needless fripperies, like shelves.

All of this was understood when the minimum purchase was a twelve-bottle case. You took your car, because the warehouse was appropriately stuck out on a grim drag of town alongside storage units and car dealers. Or out on a retail estate, next to Sofa Land and Oak Furniture Land, out in the Land of Lands.

And having gone through this whole unappealing and time-consuming process, you wouldn’t return home without something to justify the trip; so when that “something” had to be twelve bottles, if you went at all you always came back with a case.

In recent years, Majestic dropped their minimum purchase to six bottles. Okay, wine is an industry which seems unable to decide whether a case is six bottles or twelve. And they produced divided carriers, so that you could leave the car at home and lug six bottles back home by hand, presumably whistling and clanking like a milkman.

(For younger readers I should explain that a “milkman” was someone who used to provide sexual favours to housewives, under cover of distributing bottles of milk to their doors.)

But now, Majestic are allowing you to buy just one, single bottle. Which means they are going to be compared to those popular neighbourhood retail concepts, shops. And without the requirement of buying an entire case, suddenly the warehouse concept seems rather absurd.

It emphasises quantity over quality, the canyons of boxes only underlining the gallons of the stuff they are trying to shift. It’s like walking through that Tate installation. 

The bottles on your average merchant’s shelf may be just the visible edge of a cellarful of stock, but at least that visible edge looks limited and desirable. The lighting in a shop is akin to a dining room, and not to a HMRC confiscation unit. And the staff in a wine merchant’s look as if they might actually come for a dinner party, rather than come to tidy the garden.

And then there’s the pricing. Because in a wine shop, there is usually a price on the shelf, and then a discount if you buy a case. At Majestic, the prominent price is, still, the discounted bulk price.

Which inevitably leads you to consider what the wines are actually worth. If somewhere permanently offers 25% off their wine when you buy six bottles, then presumably that is actually the price at which their business operates. That is, in my language, the regular price of the wine. And you’re simply a mug if you buy a single bottle – or, indeed, up to five bottles – and pay a punitive 25% more.

So I walked all the way back again, emptyhanded, unwilling to pay 25% over the regular price of a wine for the privilege of buying a single bottle. (If only the excellent piece on their prices by Geordie Clarke had appeared before I set off…)

Yes, you can now buy a single bottle of wine from Majestic. But in a set-up where everything, from the location to the presentation to the pricing itself, is still geared towards bulk purchase – why would you do that?


Can we pardon Aldi's French?

I once imagined that I might arrive at a station in life and be quietly alerted to attention-worthy wine arrivals. “Just thought you might like to know, old chap, there’s a couple of cases of rather well-priced claret coming in next week which might interest you…” 

Well, thanks to Sediment, people do now tell me about wines. “This is right up your aisle,” tweets @Simonnread. Unfortunately, it turns out he is referring to a new range of wines from Aldi.

But off I trot to my nearest branch, unerringly guided by following the descent of planes on the Heathrow flight path. Perhaps the station in life for which I am destined is indeed Hounslow Central.

Aldi's new Pardon My French range presents four French wines, each “cheekily” labelled with a kind of phonetic interpretation of their appelation. It’s what they call an “accessible” range, either because it only costs £4.99 a bottle, or because it clearly targets idiots. In fact it’s hard to decide who it insults more, the French and their language or the Aldi shopper and their intelligence.

For example, the Minervois is called Men Are From Mars. Why? Have we really sunk to the level at which we make fun of the way words in other languages sound? And even if you say menarefromMars very very quickly, it hardly sounds like Minervois. In fact, it is actually harder to say.

Ironically, as I struggle through the overcrowded aisles, I see that Aldi customers are already a linguistically sophisticated bunch. They must be, to distinguish between Shredded Wheat and, adjacent to it, Wheat Shreds. Between Nutella and the cheaper Nutoka. There is a range of instant stuffing called Quixo, which rings some kind of phonetic bell.

Or is it only the French language with which the customers are supposed to be challenged? Because I see gnocchi, and chorizo Ibérico, and a pizza with schiacciata salami. If they can manage those, surely they can manage Fitou?

But no; in the Pardon My French range, Fitou becomes Fit You. Of course, I think immediately of TS Eliot’s use in The Waste Land of the line from Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, “Why then Ile fit you”. Like many Aldi customers, I’m sure.

Does calling a wine Fit You make it in any way more appealing, more “accessible”, than calling it Fitou? Or does it just sound like a sneeze?

Their Ventoux is renamed Want To, an absurdity of a phrase. If you’re going down that route, why not call it Want Two, which at least makes some kind of sense, and suggests people might like it and desire more? But no; it’s Want To. It doesn’t even begin with a V, a sound widely and easily pronounced in this country, as in the now-common phrase, “Gregg Wallace no longer feels the need to wear a shirt on Masterchef, and instead appears in his vest."

And their Cotes de Gascogne is called Gastronomy. I suppose we should be grateful they didn’t simply rename it after Gazza.

Having driven to Hounslow Aldi to get them, I felt some kind of duty to taste all four of these aberrations. That Cotes de Gascogne has an initial elderflower taste which evaporates immediately, leaving only a faint lemony tang and a claggy feel as it warms up. The Ventoux is acrid, cheek-puckering and bitter. After an initial aggressive blast, the Minervois is flabby and flavourless, like a diluted cordial. And the Fitou is oily, flat and feeble, and labouring under a bouquet of Elastoplast. They are all, as Aldi might say, Mayored.

A spokesman from Aldi told the Mirror: “There’s no doubt that France produces some of the best wines in the world”.Well, if this was all the French wine I had tasted, there would be doubt in my mind  

He went on to say that “we really believe these wines have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi.'" Which he presumably doesn’t expect his customers to understand. Or did he mean to say ‘Juno say choir’?

Pardon My French? Sorry, no.


Berry Bros & Rudd: My Secret Pride

As readers will recall, CJ finally visited the historic premises of wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, at No 3 St James’s Street – and was too daunted to enter.

I understand. There are places I’m daunted by – like fishmongers’. 

But what CJ deemed inaccessible, I had always seen as an aspiration, the epitome of wine merchants with ampersands whose respect I wanted to earn. I always felt significant when I stepped through their doors.

So if anything, their announcement of a new shop, just around the corner at 63 Pall Mall, had filled me with trepidation. Especially when their CEO, a former Tesco executive, was quoted as saying that the new store would be “much more finely attuned to modern retail.” What, like Tesco?

Of course, CJ was completely unaware of this new shop when he visited the old. The original premises carried no indication of the nearby new shop; not even, CJ told me, a suitably historic maniculum to guide the way.

So despite my misgivings, as CJ had visited the old premises, I felt I must visit the new. The first issue was what to wear.

Cue snort of incredulity from CJ. But look, even he wouldn’t go to church in a singlet. I always feel that, like any appointment with a professional, one should show a modicum of respect for knowledge and experience. So I would have worn to the old premises what good restaurants now describe as “smart attire”; I hoped that would be appropriate for the new. Although I might be overdressed for Tesco.

Well, the new shop is certainly smartly attired itself. It has stone floors and beautiful wooden shelving, with each bottle displayed in an individual section. It’s tastefully modern, luxurious but thankfully without any trace of objectionable bling – it’s Heals, not Harrods. 

And it is a browser’s paradise, something which could never have been said of the old premises, where you literally had to ask in order to see a bottle. There are the best and longest descriptions and tasting notes I have seen anywhere, beside every single bottle, no matter what its price. In that sense, it’s the most egalitarian of wine shops, treating all its bottles (and, therefore, its customers) equally. The only betrayals of status are the occasional security tags.

(Tags? In St James’s? Really?? Yes. I understand some bankers are wearing them nowadays, too…)

There are wines you can taste from an Enomatic, and chairs to sit in while you do. There are shelves of accessories, and tools, and wine books. And the (welcoming but not intrusive) staff wear rather fetching aprons, giving them an artisanal air. Having said that, the chap who actually served me was wearing a suit; when I asked why, he said “I don’t always work here, I’m based in No 3.” Which says it all, really; aprons in the new shop, suits in the old.

And of course I succumbed, and bought a bottle of claret, as one does at Berry Bros. It was a “Staff Recommendation”. Which at one time, of course, every bottle was.

The one niggle is… this thing about earnt access. Earnt not through an accident of birth or wealth, but through learning. I feel that over the years I earnt my access, to Parisian restaurants, to Savile Row tailors, to book dealers and shirtmakers and, yes, St James’s wine merchants, by learning to speak their language – what to know, what to wear, what to say, how to behave. And I can’t help feeling sorry that something to which I felt I had earnt access, somewhere I finally felt confident enough to enter but CJ did not dare to tread, has now been thrown open to all and sundry. That’s all.

I walked back along Pall Mall, past the club to which I have the right to belong, the club to which I used to belong, and the club to which my father-in-law would like to propose me to belong. Perhaps as daunting to some as the original Berry Bros premises. But while the doormen of St James's would turn up their noses at CJ’s shorts and sockless sandals, I reckon he could comfortably enter 63 Pall Mall. This new shop is egalitarian not only in the wines it sells, but in the way it has opened doors – of Berry Bros, of St James’s and of wine itself.


Of Harrods and hoodies

It may surprise some of you to discover that I am not a regular customer at Harrod’s. But I hope that may be understandable when you see what the regular customers at Harrod’s are like these days. However, it was time for me to visit, because the Fine Wines and Spirits Rooms at Harrod’s have received “a conceptual and visual makeover”. Although the main concept still seems to be the sale of Fine Wines and Spirits.

I am delighted to see that the idea of a wine department has actually survived, whereas things like a shirt department have vanished. Like most stores, Harrod’s has succumbed to the power of brands, with each brand being given its own specific location. So if you want to buy, say, a tie, you have to trail around every single brand in order to see if they sell a tie – whereas once there was a thing of customer service and colourful beauty called a tie department, which gathered together for comparison all of the ties by all of the brands which the store was selling. May I suggest such a thing to the current owners?

Although to be fair, the store is now selling very few ties. In fact the wine room is sited in a disturbing location, at the back of a basement area offering three-figure baseball caps and four-figure hoodies, in what appears to be designer thugwear. Foolishly I had dressed up in my best bib and tucker, in order to get a bit of respect from the staff, whereas in fact I could have swaggered in looking like a mugger and been completely a la mode. (And if you ask what kind of mugger wears a £730 baseball cap, the answer presumably is a rather successful one.)

One of these gentlemen may have bought their outfit from Harrod's…

But unlike certain daunting upmarket wine merchants, where your entrance is announced with the ting of a metal bell, there are no doors here. You can just meander in to the wine department, as if you happened to have wandered past while looking at sweatpants – Hmm, perhaps the Magic Stick drop crotch sweatpants, which look to me like, well, sweatpants, but supposedly “transcend the classic style of the off-duty staple”, for just £525.

So in I drift, carefully dropping neither my crotch nor my aitches. First impressions are that this wine room is far less bling than its predecessor. Tasteful, limed oak shelving is discreetly lit, there’s a patterned marble floor, and there are “secret cabinets”, labelled with a winemakers name, which open when you touch them to reveal bottles within. (Unfortunately they are so secret that while I was there, an assistant went round touching them and leaving them ajar, because otherwise none of the customers realised they were there.)

The tables host absurd steampunk devices which look like something out of Professor Branestawm. Through these you can sample scents, like coffee. In case you don’t know what coffee smells like, you can stick your nose into a brass trumpet like Nipper the HMV dog and find out. Or visit the coffee bar.

Then there’s the wine. Of course a lot of it is preposterous ostentation. There are ridiculously expensive bottles here; not just the obvious DRCs, the predictable Petrus, Le Pin and pals, but a bottle of 1959 trockenbeerenauslese which is £28,000, or just under £1500 a character.

And the sizes! There are bottles here the size of milk churns, bottles like oxygen tanks, bottles which resemble household Calor gas cylinders.

But they’re not tucked away inside a daunting special glass room, as the finest wines were in the old Wine Department (or still are at Berry Bros). No, they’re on display alongside their affordable alternatives. And there are affordable wines, priced in the teens, for sale here. There are even wines which I consider laughable (Clarendelle? Mouton Cadet?? Really???)

So it’s worth a trip. You can drool at the cars outside. In fact, you can drool at the cars inside  – there’s a new Porsche currently displayed in one of the windows. (Either that, or there’s been a pretty upmarket ramraid.)

Saunter past the designer thugwear – sorry, “modern streetwear/luxe mash-up” – and into the Wine Room, with no door to dissuade you. And you can pass a pleasant half hour browsing, without obligation, imagining how you might spend £28,000 on a bottle of wine. Or you might actually spend a tiny fraction of that, one two-thousandth to be precise, and buy yourself a perfectly decent bottle.

Which will leave you change for some sweatpants.


Fortnum & Mason: a corner shop's wine

Which retailers’ names would you happily see on a Christmas dining table? If you were buying a Christmas pudding, whether for your own table or as a gift, you might well rely on a retailer’s label to convey its quality. And “It's a Fortnum & Mason pudding” is a bit more impressive than “I got this from Spar”. But what about the wine?

At home or as a gift, I’ve always been wary of retailers’ own brand wines. It can look as if you just grabbed a convenient bottle off the shelf along with everything else. And just because a retailer is well-known for one thing doesn’t mean that their reputation extends to wine. However fashionable the bottle, I’m not sure I’d turn to a Harvey Nichols Vin de Pays D’oc. Especially when, if you’re looking for advice, the web page suggests you “speak to a stylist”.

But what about picking up a branded Fortnum & Mason wine along with a pudding?

Fortnum & Mason succumbed last decade to the allure of shiny modern luxury, “refurbishing” its ground floor in the manner of a Duty Free in a Middle Eastern airport. Beneath ferociously surgical lighting lie the materials of the newly moneyed, the marble and limestone, the glass and brass. And in the centre, a shiny spiral staircase lifted from the style guide to a dictator’s palace.

Much of their food is clearly marketed at tourists, a mélange of supposedly Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian foodstuffs, things with pseudo-English names like “savours”   “hamperlings” and “smackerels”, all rolled together in a faux aristocratic world.

But ignore the jostling transit lounge entrance on Piccadilly. Enter instead around the corner, in Duke Street St James’s, where beautiful old doors are still opened by a proper doorman. And take an original dark, creaky, carpeted wooden staircase down, back in time, directly to the wine department. There you can browse amongst a splendid selection of wine, without too many offers of assistance, unless you stare too long into the locked cabinet of massively expensive bottles which you are clearly unable to afford.

Amongst an impressive selection of wines you’ll find their own brand “house selection”. And there are over 100, from all over the world, covering most conceivable varieties. Yes, they do have a “Fortnum & Mason Claret”, but they also have a Pomerol, a Pauillac, a St Emilion etc… and then, unexpectedly, amongst the usual suspects, a Fortnum & Mason Dão Tinto; a Greco di Tufo; a Gavi; a Priorat. It’s a frankly astonishing range, with each stating on the label the specific chateau or producer from which it has come.

And they have resisted the urge to colour the label eau de nil, to decorate it with an illustration of a  Wodehousian clubman, or stamp it F&M. Perhaps they have realised that visitors are unlikely to fly back nowadays with a bottle of wine as a souvenir; and so London consumers are granted a quietly distinguished typographic design.

I went for the most generic Burgundy, a Joseph Drouhin nevertheless, “seasonally reduced” from £15.50 to £13.95 (although why you would “seasonally reduce” Burgundy at Christmas I cannot fathom). And it turned out to be a graceful pinot noir, with a breeze of fruit, a bit of body and a hint of the agricultural around the edges; not a heavyweight, but clean, light and eminently drinkable.

As a place, Fortnum & Mason may not be what it was; but that’s true of most Piccadilly shops now. (Apart from the wonderful Cordings, and of course Hatchards.) But the old corner shop's label ought to be well received by those who don’t know one wine from another – and on this encounter, its wine ought to be well received by those who do.


Get yourself trolleyed – Majestic revisited

Either I’m too sensitive, or else I’m gettin’ soft” – but am I the only one to feel a note of personal criticism behind some of the reports that Majestic is up for sale?

Because there seems to be some suggestion that Majestic customers are now all doddery old fools, who don’t realise that the world has moved on. That people simply aren’t supposed nowadays to drive to nearby places which sell wine, choose from an impressively huge offering, taste a few before deciding, buy half a dozen bottles or more and take them conveniently back home.

No, there are people who want to condemn that rather attractive proposition to the past. Instead, customers ought to be online, “subscribing” £20 a month, like paying a direct debit for gas. This gives you access to wines you have never heard of before, which will be delivered to your door when you’re’re out – or, more likely given your suggested demographic, in the toilet.

Oh, and you will have chatty online exchanges with the makers of your wines, who you are “supporting”. If you can squeeze them in between your supportive relationships with your potato grower, your ketchup provider and your sausage maker.

Given this dire alternative, I thought I should dodder along to my local Majestic, and remind myself why I ever went there in the first place.

That first time I went to a Majestic, I felt that I had, in some way, grown up in my wine-buying. Those were the days when Majestic sold a minimum of 12 bottles. And it was as if I had suddenly joined the real wine aficionados. These weren’t people picking up a single bottle because they were taking a gift to a dinner party, or looking for something to go with that night’s takeaway. No, these were people buying full, proper cases of wine, people who consumed and presumably stored wine on a serious basis. People I wanted to join.

And this week, I felt surprisingly good strolling those aisles again.

For one thing, they have spruced up the interior of my local Majestic. The bottles are no longer standing on teetering piles of cardboard cartons – there’s proper shelving, with the cartons stashed away beneath. The staff weren’t wearing that strangely contradictory combination of fleeces and shorts. And there weren’t any pallets to make you feel you were wandering around a loading bay.  In fact, it didn’t feel like a warehouse; it felt like a large shop.

In some branches, I can see online that this remodelling has gone too far, and the result looks like an over-illuminated Pizza Express. There’s also an obsession with “tasting”, with “creating” and “exploring”, which sounds like an activity session for toddlers. But hey, we can all get carried away. Calm down, guys. Have some wine…

Of which there was an impressive selection. No, a vast selection. There were seven different Chablis, for goodness sake. And not only were there bottles too cheap and threatening for me to consider, but there were others too grand and expensive; celebrated wines like La Reserve de Leoville-Barton, Bella’s Garden Shiraz, Segla Margaux, and my favourite Pouilly Fumé, Ladoucette. And for me, that’s important.

Established names set the benchmarks. They show that a merchant has access to the best as well as the rest, that they understand how good wine can be. They set a pricepoint against which to measure their cheaper wines. And they enable you to compare their descriptions of the wines you’ve never heard of against those of which you have.

From wines too basic for my palate to wines too clever for my purse, with plenty in between; what’s not to like? To be honest, there used to be a lot.  And for a while there, things looked grim. But the warehouse notion, that you’re buying bargain wine just unloaded from the back of a lorry, seems to have been quietly laid to rest; and buying from Majestic feels like it could be an attractive proposition again.

Yes, this may be the old businesss in new clothes – but, surely, better clothed than naked.


Can I help you, sir?

“Hello there! I wanted a bottle of wine, about twelve pounds or so, for a dinner party…” 

“And there’s just so much to take in, on the internet and so on, isn’t there sir? Well, I think we’re ‘up to speed’ with all of it, as they say,… A formal dinner party? As opposed to a kitchen supper?”

“Well, just a few friends…”

“When and where, sir?”

“Does that matter? I mean, I…”

“Oh yes, sir, I mean this weekend, next weekend…? We track the local weather, you see, because atmospheric pressure and humidity can alter flavour perception.”


“Oh yes, sir! Makes a difference!  But if you’re travelling…”

“Oh, it’s local, I’m local, I just don’t usually come in here, only I wanted to get something decent for this dinner.”

“Of course, sir. Serious matter. Serious matter. Before I make so bold as to suggest some wine, do you have the menu with you? Our pairing advice is based on the dishes’ fattiness, acidity and so on, and of course it’s the sauces that matter, not the meat or fish itself…”

“Well, my wife…”

“And what will be playing, sir – classical, rock, jazz…?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your background music, sir. Rhythm, pitch, articulation, it all alters the taste, you know. Oh yes."

“I haven’t…”

“And are you decanting, sir?  Aerating?  Or hyper-decanting?  How far ahead of the meal? Did you bring your timetable with you, sir? And how will you be maintaining the temperature? Are you centrally-heated? What is your room temperature?

“Look, I don’t know that much about wine…”

“Oh, forgive me, sir, then I should have asked, do you actually possess a corkscrew? Because we do have bottles I can offer you with screwcaps. But there’s a wealth of advice on how to remove corks by other methods, using a shoe, or a knife, or a hammer, if you have any of those. Or if you’d rather, we can sell you a corkscrew? Waiter’s Friend? Screwpull? Pronged?”

“I’m not…”

“And glasses, sir?”

“I’m okay for glasses, thank you.”

“No, what shape, sir? Makes a difference!  And what kind? Riedel, Zalto? I can see you’re what Jancis Robinson describes as ‘big-nosed’.”

I beg your pardon??”

Her glasses are designed to accommodate the big-nosed, sir. And they’re ‘gossamer-thin’. ‘Gossamer-thin’, sir. ‘Once you have experienced this delicacy,’ as she says, ‘you really can't go back.’” 

“Well I can, actually. Back to the supermarket. Thank you.”

“Oh dear, sir. Well, perhaps one day…” 

(The door closes.) “’Twelve pounds’???”