‘And remember, we’ve got people round this evening….’ The sign-off from her indoors and she set off out off doors hung over the kitchen like the aftermath of an evening on Old Peculier and kebabs. Tidy up all those wines, in other words. So down the sink went the remains of some of those bottles of claret that I’d had open for a few days just to see if they were really as ordinary as the first, second and third taste had led me to believe. And into the bottle bank went those empties that I’d kept because there was a minute chance that I’d write about them and need to photograph the bottles. But that still left a few dozen unopened sample bottles in need of a home, or at least a temporary hiding place. The easiest cause of action would have been to stack them in the cellar on top of some bottles which in turn are stacked up on top of other bottles and so on. But being a seasoned pro, I knew it was time to attack the backlog.
Now for those of you kind enough to send me samples, be assured that everything does get tasted – it’s a rare bottle that survives for more than a couple of months here. But I tend to attack first the things that interest me most. Some things just get pushed further and further down the pecking order. Such as a set of wines from Asda that arrived probably in early March. They’ve not been left entirely untouched. There was a very tasty Malbec from Argentina that ended up here, and which did its job rather better than many of the more ambitious offerings I came across on my recent jaunt to mundo del carne. But there were six wines sitting in a box wearing a Lewis-Carroll-like ‘Drink Me’ or at least ‘Taste Me’ visage. So I did.
First of all can I say that I have nothing against Asda. Indeed, since Mistress of Wine Philippa Carr arrived in the wine department a few years ago, the quality on offer has soared, and there have been some spectacular bargains – name me a supermarket with better own-label Riojas. The reason why the samples had remained unsampled lies not with PC MW, but with the person who designs Asda’s wine labels – guys, whoever you are, you need to get out a little more. But as for the contents of the bottles…
These were proper wines that at least did what they were supposed to do, and often went that little bit further. An Extra Special Chardonnay Vin de Pays d’Oc that was pleasant and peachy, and not too much of a bimbo. A 2008 Paarl Chenin Blanc that was lush and fleshy, with some apple-y crispness to rein it all in. A Torrontes that stayed fragrant without descending into cheap perfume territory. I wasn’t a huge fan of the 2006 Ponotage – too bonfire-like – or the vin de pays Syrah. But the Syrah’s companion, a Vin de Pays Marsanne from the efficient Foncalieu enterprise, was a peach, with bruised apple intesity and a gentle creamy, nutty finish reminiscent of good (and much pricier) Verdicchio. Price? £3.28. And not £5.49, promoted to £3.28 – just £3.28. Go out and buy it in large quantities, and if the price rises to £3.99, or even £4.99, still go out and buy it. Wouldn’t the wine world be much better for more honest tasty wines like this sold at their proper price rather than at some Noddy price invented by the marketing pirates.