Saturday, 9 July 2011

A thoroughly miserable few days - plus French supermarket bargains - Episode 1

It has been a thoroughly miserable week for me. Ever since I returned from holiday a couple of weeks ago, I've prayed that whatever illness had been ailing my youngest son Daniel wasn't going to get me too. But by Tuesday afternoon, I knew I'd succumbed. Flu. Not "man flu", but the real thing. Burning-up, delerious, aching joints, sensitive skin, headache, nausea, you name it, I've had it. I wish I could say it is all now a hazy memory, but I can't - almost every hour of the past 5 days has been a waking (or at best semi-conscious) hour. Brief moments of meaningless, dream-filled sleep grabbed wherever and whenever possible, interspersed by hour after hour of tossing and turning, coughing and spluttering. Hot lemon, paracetamol and ibuprofen have all featured heavily on the menu, whilst any food I've managed to force down has been out of necessity, rather than enjoyment. I hesitate to say it, but I think I might just be over the worst of it now, although the constant bouts of coughing and sneezing are beginning to drive me to distraction - another sleepless night beckons, I fear.

Needless to say, wine has hardly been high on my list of priorities during this time, although I did manage a glass or two on Thursday evening - but mainly for some perceived "medicinal" purpose, and because TLD had opened a couple of bottles during the week. I can't say that the wine helped make me feel any better (indeed, it probably put paid completely to any chance I had of achieving quality sleep) but it made me feel a bit more normal for a while. It wasn't the good stuff, of course - but it was pretty decent for what it was................

Every other Wednesday, just as I'm off to the Wine Circle, TLD always asks me the same question - "Have you got a bottle of wine I can open?" That is because every other Wednesday, her parents visit for dinner. And it always pains me to think that - because I only tend to keep "good" wine in the house - one of those good bottles is being opened, when an "everyday" one would do. I know it may sound awfully snobby, but to some people, wine is simply another beverage, and my In-Laws neither appreciate (nor care) whether a wine they are drinking cost £50 or £3.
So whilst were were in France recently, I scoured the shelves of a couple of branches of Intermarche (one in Pézenas and one somewhere near Rouen) for some "bargain basement" wines, to be used for just such occasions. That's not to say I was interested in any old crap - I see little point in shelling out 2 or 3 Euros per bottle on wine that I know will give no pleasure at all. At least, that was the theory. Let's just say that I expect less from the wines at the 2 Euro level than I do of the 3-4 Euro level. We bought a couple of dozen bottles - mostly reds, but with a few whites and a couple of rosés thrown-in for good measure. And for purely research purposes, I intend to at least grab a half-glass of a some of those wines and report back over the coming months. Who knows, if any of you are planning a holiday in France this year, it may give you a few pointers for "emergency" wines, for when you can't get to visit a grower or two. So here are a couple to be going on with;

Saint-Chinian (1.95 Euros!)
A mass-produced negociant wine (I can't be bothered to do the detective work from the minimal information on the label) which does not even show a vintage - possibly a blend of 2009 and 2010? At under 2 Euros a bottle, one has no right to expect any regional or varietal character, but if somebody gave me a glass of this and told me it was Saint-Chinian, I would not disbelieve them. OK, so it has a certain "generic" Languedoc quality about it (carbonic maceration has the effect of masking any perception of terroir) but it has enough fruit, spice and herb quality about it to make it a rather drinkable everyday wine, with enough guts to stand-up to a pizza or some toulouse sausages and pasta with a tomato sauce. A bit of a drink-me-now bargain.

Expert Club "Les Petites Baies" 2009 Minervois
Again, this could certainly pass as Minervois, and indeed does show a little more "terroir", insofar as it has an earthiness, married to some quite rich, brambly fruit, a touch of the garrigue, a bit of concentration and a touch of warming eau de vie. Yes, it is a bit rustic, but in a Minervois sort of way, and really rather enjoyable. It is another wine to drink young, but another relative bargain at (if my memory serves) a shade under 3 Euros.

Right, now for another attempt at sleep................

No comments: