I have just paid £3.79 for a bottle of wine.
That’s about £3.16 ex VAT.
Or about £1.08 in bond.
This isn’t the point but it’s very much worth mentioning: from my £3.79 Mr Taxman gets £2.71. That is (a) not really cricket and (b) one reason why you shouldn’t be spending £3.79 on a bottle of wine. But I couldn’t resist it. The bottle was there, standing out from its peers, beseeching me to rescue it from the shelf at Lidl. Is my bottle the frog that will turn into a Prince when I kiss it? I’ll find out in about 30 minutes.
Back to that £1.08 in bond. Are Lidl making anything on it? I doubt it. Bottle, cork and closure probably come to 30p or so according to a bit of googling. And someone has got this bottle from Abruzzo to Farnham (diesel and driver and ferry aside, someone has loaded it on to a lorry, someone has taken it off a lorry and, unless Lidl’s supply chain is super-duper slick, this has probably happened at least twice).
Supermarket wine is often talked about as a loss-leader. Get people in to buy the cheap hooch and they’ll spend their money on the high-margin stuff while they’re there. But the point with Lidl is that the food is the loss-leader. People go there to buy the cheap butter, the cheap chicken, the cheap veg (and some of it is actually rather good). I went in to buy some milk and a bottle of lager and came out with this.. My £3.79 bottle of Montepulciano. I’m going to open it.
It’s clearly a red wine. No argument about that. Could be anything – looks a little like blackcurrant squash (the cheap one from Lidl – it’s rather good).
Well, it doesn’t smell flammable, which was my initial concern. And there is a hint of bouquet. OK: bouquet suggests some sort of intricacy; but it does smell of something, it does smell vinous. A touch of instant coffee? And even a hint of dog chocolate, or even a Mars Bar.
Many years back, in a similar sort of experiment, I chose to eat at a Buffalo Grill – a French chain of meat, burger, that sort of thing, restaurants. This one was just opposite Gare du Nord, and we had an hour or so. The beers were cold, though so were the chips, which were served on dirty plates with meat that I’d think twice about mincing for a chilli. The final straw was the wine, which had been watered down to the extent that even a weary, hungry, functioning drunkard in a hurry could take no more. In defence of the Buffalo Grill, they refused to let me pay for the beers, which was all I proposed. And I learned from the experience – this was no frog waiting to turn into a Prince.
Back to my £3.79 Montepulciano. There is a hint of dilution here but it’s not down to any sort of intervention. It’s just a little thin. The initially dry and dusty finish gets better with some air and, actually, it’s pretty inoffensive. It reminds me of holiday cheap restaurant wine. A pichet of something ordered at the wrong restaurant at the wrong time but not so bad that you can’t drink it. And there is some fruit here. And – remember it – taxman aside I paid £1.08 for it.
The other piece that I have on the go is about a bottle of 1983 Clos de la Roche, Dujac. A bottle drunk in 2012 that I still remember today, and one that might set you back a grand if you can find one. Three years’ worth of Lidl Montepulciano if you can do a bottle a night.
And, as my Montepulciano falls apart in the glass after a quarter of an hour of freedom, I still think that there is a connection. Both came out of the ground. Both were crafted by men (or women). Both serve a purpose. Mr Dujac is in seat 1A; Mr Montepulciano is in the hold. But both came from grapes warmed by the same Sun, albeit decades apart.