At the End of the Day

The Slog goes in search of sensible wines and sane tecchies

Ever since the world decided that the point of having a drink is to get pissed witless, the strength of wines (especially New World red wines) has been creeping up. If all you want is laughing liquid, then that’s fine: but after several years of it, I’ve decided it’s not for me.

The answer at one time was to stick to French, German and Spanish wines. But even that isn’t a safety zone any more: the silly idea of a 14% claret has started to creep onto the supermarket shelves here in South West France too. Again, if you want to drink chocolate-flavoured tannin, fine: I don’t.

So it’s been something of a revelation to get back to Loire wines of late. Yesterday I served some Muscadet to friends for lunch with a cold fish spread, and it went down without any trouble at all. I still stick to De Sevre et Maine as the appellation when buying this Loire white, but as a whole the Muscadet output’s sad decline is now almost a distant memory. This particular bottle (well, two actually) was the 2009 La Gouryniere. It’s around seven quid in England, but here it sells for euro 5.49. If you’re unlucky enough to be in Blighty at the minute – and looking for something to take your mind off dispossessed citizens expressing their concerns about police brutality by torching your house – then it’s available from wine merchants Alexander Hadleigh at £6.98 a bottle.

An even better find, however, is St Nicholas de Bourgueil. Although this sounds either like a domaine or a small village, it is in fact an appellation in the central Loire valley. The grape used is mainly Cabernet Franc, and the strength of the bottle I got at Casino  is 12.5%. It is a 2008 Domaine Mabileau, and as smooth as a baby’s bum: in fact, as Derek & Clive might’ve said, it’s “Mabileau dee bum-bum”.

Laurent Mabileau set up as a grower in 1985. He has 25 hectares to go at, and if all his output is as good as this one, he is going to wind up a legend in my lunchtime. (You can easily get his address wrong by the way, as there’s also a Frederic Mabileau).

Anyway, I don’t think our Laurent has been discovered in the UK yet: you can buy his stuff online in the States at $13.99, but I couldn’t find a British stockist anywhere on Google.

And talking of Google, we really aren’t paying enough attention to just how much these buggers know about us. I go to an American wine site, and the ads are all in French. I write something about watches, and my Gmail is bombarded with ads for watch brands.

This would be a lot more disturbing if any of these loons knew what they were doing. But if I go to the FT site, it asks me to sign in, I do so, and it tells me it has no record of me. Another panel with my username and dotted password then pops up, I click it, and it lets me in. Once a fortnight, I have precisely the same performance here with WordPress. Reuters accepts my existence on this pc, but not on my Netbook. LinkedIn says it doesn’t know me, but I hit the panel and it lets me in anyway. Huffington Post (I’m on my fourth alias there) keeps removing my profile, and then  asking me why I won’t update my profile. Zero Hedge says I’m not allowed to see the pages it shows me. Every time it says this, and every time it shows me them. The Wall Street Journal asks me to sign up for paywall content, but when I say no, it shows me anything I ask for. I open Ping-o-matic after each post, and every time a notice comes up saying I pinged only five minutes ago, so please come back later. Microsoft office waits until I remove hardware – and then tells me it’s safe to remove hardware. The ONS national statistics site tells me it’s moved, but still seems to work where it used to be anyway. On and on its goes, wherever I post or thread or look for background information: the so-called security is a complex, confusing and useless crock.

All of which convinces me that when the Total Politics Blog Awards wanted to scope out a voting system for blog readers, they asked the tecchie loons to sort it out. And boy, does it show. I have never received such a unanimity of comment threaders saying what an incomprehensible, tedious and utterly discouraging methodology it is. They’re obviously down in the silo with their headphones on: it was just as bad last year, but nothing has changed.

14 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. I voted for you JW; successfully, I think.
    But then I am used to looking up train times and buying train tickets on line. Never a straightforward exercise.

    • Derek,
      I managed to vote – but buying railway tickets online in the UK? I simply didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know which railway ran where, and that did not help matters because it meant that I did not know which website to go for, let alone actually buy a ticket.

      BTW do all of JW’s votes count as a whole, or do they only count in the category of choice?

      • Gemma,
        I can only recommend the “Man in Seat Sixty One”. Not an Orson Wells or Hitchcock epic, but a very useful ‘insider’ who travels the world’s railways.
        His excellent website is http://www.seat61.com
        Bon voyage!

      • Try trainline.co.uk – it covers all lines/operators and works out the best deal for your journey – assuming you know where you want to start from and where you want to end up.

  2. I am truly glad that I was not the only one to suffer the indignities of that voting process! What these teccies need is to get hold of my neighbour, Carrie. She is bright, sensible and being a mother of four kids, no nonsense. If you take said teccie and put him in her presence, and get the dork to try and explain the interface he has devised to her then we may begin to get somewhere.

  3. John, I can recommend many of the Bergeracoise wines especially some of the Le Pechamant androit, maybe I am biased because I used to live there and my wifes nephew is a viticulter and owner of Chateaux Hugon but the wines of Au Pechamant are very highly regarded all over France and they tend to be at 12.5%. I now live south of the Dordogne and therefore Montbassiac is the closest well known wine growing coin and although they are famous for their sweet whites, they dont do a bad drop of rouge, both areas are worth checking out and both produce good reasonably priced wines as well as du grand vin.

    • Boutan, from Saint Puy in Gers produces a very good value white (12%) that is typical of the area, light, refreshing and zingy. I have only ever bought it at the vineyard. They also produce a red that is not quite as good (it is Gers after all!) but quite quaffable.
      They also have an armagnac but I cannot afford to drink that all the time (health as much as dosh).

  4. My friend used be marketing director for Seagrams, so all I had to do was pull a bottle out of the case,(all fine wines and all from france of course and drink).cest la vie.

  5. An unstable Euro is very bad news for us George Osborn told BBC radio today. He also said he agreed with more fiscal union. Drink up lads, the punt is sinking!!

  6. Re wine strength – I utterly agree, John. 11/12% is totally sufficient.
    They were making excuses about wines being stronger because of global warming. Grapes with more sugar = stronger wines. Yes…but.

    I also have objected for years about beer in the UK (and Germany).
    Nowadays you can only buy 5%+ beers or 0%. Only occasionally can you find a beer (or piss poor Ozzy/pseudo Czech lager) at 4.5% or less.

    Here in Sweden we have three classes of beer.
    Class 1. Near beer at 2.5% – great for lunch or before driving the trouble and strife back from a boozy party.

    Class 2. At 3.5% – the maximum strength allowed in a supermarket – which is why you find Guinness and all the “Tenants Superstrength” British beers sold in 3.5% cans in Swedish supermarkets.

    Class 3. Any strength you like but ONLY on sale at the state monopoly liquor store, the Systembolaget.

    As I rarely drink beer to get pissed – really not since I was 18-23 years old – I like being able to have a thirst quenching ale at lunch without it being assumed I want 5 pints of knockout “get you paralysed arsehole liquor”.
    And a 2.5% beer will do well for that.

    I like being able to have a sensible middle beer so I can have a couple of pints or more while watching a footie match without falling over or falling asleep. That’s my 3.5% beer.

    But in England I am so often faced with no choice but a 5% beer.
    (As a last resort I have chosen on the odd occasion in both Germany and England to mix a bottle of alcohol free beer with a half of 5% to get me something sensible to drink. But it’s never quite right.)

    England – land of the lager lout: land of the Tottenham Terror: land of the “I’m black you owe me a living” ignoramus: land of the “I’m deprived cos you let in the Poles and stole the jobs I was too ignorant and too lazy to do” native Briton: land of the “the bleedin’ government didn’t educate me and it’s cuttin’ me welfare and it’s all their fault so I went and robbed the shops” brigade.
    Also land of the 5% “session lager” or “get as pissed as you can as quick as you can without any respect for beer taste. tradition or any other person on the planet!”.

    • Sainsbury sell a good Biere des Flandres that is only 2.6% and therefore really refreshing chilled on a hot summer day. It comes in the small French style stubby 25cl bottles.

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