Monday, 8 February 2010

What Not To Drink

If you work in the arts or own a restaurant, chances are you'll live in dread of the critics review. They can, or at least many of them think they can, make or break individuals, openings and performances. Of course, the critics themselves will publicly, with lashings of faux modesty, deny that they believe any such thing. Even among journalists they're a strange breed, still, at least they do criticise. Wine writers rarely lay it on the line.

I can see how it happens. Invited along, say to taste fifty wines from a large supermarket chain, or a nice visit to foreign winemakers in situ, the temptation is to recommend something a reader might enjoy. Why waste space listing duffers and endless bland wines? Well, one danger with this approach is that this gives a false idea of wine 'talent'. Highlighting the few, camouflages the many.

I'd been thinking about this after visiting Marks and Spencer the other night. For me it boasts one of the best supermarket wine ranges. But I tend to steer myself towards certain wines. This time I deliberately picked up a couple of cheaper 'randoms' from the shelf. The average price of wine bought in the UK is still incredibly low.
First up, a dry German wine, down £2 to £3.99. These days the domestic market in Germany is dominated by dry wines so there are some good ones.

This isn't one of them. Quite acidic and tasting of pears. It has a deeply unpleasant pithy bitterness in the mid palate, like a badly peeled grapefruit. The finish is astringent too. Not nice.

I've been enjoying a lot of 'oldskool' Chilean cabernets recently. Lighter, less concentrated not so over extracted and not too expensive. So I went for this at £3.99. Oh dear.

Good colour, nice legs... but not much of a bouquet and it tasted 'dirty', like it'll give you the hangover from hell. Not good.
So don't buy either of these wines. They're rubbish. Instead, buy this:

From Oddbins. A combination of Chianti's main grape with Merlot. It works really well. A great wine for £5.99. All cherries and plums with a lovely earthy, gravelly texture. I was steered towards it by a very knowledgeable chap in the Woodlands Road branch... and have drunk quite a lot of it since.

The picture at the top of this post is called 'The Critic' by Kathy Jo Braceland.


  1. Another M&S one to give a very wide berth: Piedmont Barbera, 2007. Utterly UNdrinkable. Would have taken it back if I could have been bothered!

  2. Hello Sonnda,
    Wonder if you had a duff bottle? I've had that wine before, a few months back, and thought it was good.
    It's annoying when wines are randomly bad. I bought 2 Oregan Pinot Noirs the other day. One was a gift, the other for me. I've drunk them before and they're lovely, but this time mine was horrible. Now I'm worried the other is too. Like you, I can rarely be arsed taking wine back. I tried to tonight, only to find Costco shut! That'll teach me.
    That Tequila on your blog looks rather tasty... but I have to watch myself on that stuff...

  3. Hi Jonathan
    Come to think of it, did have a slight Chateau Musar thing going on... But won't be buying another bottle to check - once bitten twice shy. The Tequila IS exceptional, and I usually can't look at the stuff, so that's saying something. Currently retailing at an outrageous £90/bottle in the UK, simultaneously ruling out replacement of my £27 Mexican bring backy and measures exceeding a thimble. No chance of going astray there!
    Thanks for the NutRageous tip. Great introductory photos to piece - loving the tilted perspectives.