So, back to lockdown we go, then. The dreariness of 2020 started to grate about six months ago, and at this stage the best thing about it is that it’s nearly over. Outside, a thick smear of grey cloud is casting darkness prematurely over our unfashionable north London neighbourhood, and wind slapping sporadic showers of rain against my window. In short, here isn’t great, and neither is now. Luckily one of the great things about mouths and noses is their ability to transport you to past times and foreign places, to conjure memories and fire imaginations, and thankfully I still have one each of both of those.
But even with food and wine it is possible to get into a bit of a rut. I like to buy interesting wine from a wide variety of producers, but I tend to concentrate on the kind of stuff I’m fairly convinced I will like, and that is an inherently conservative approach. Like most people, I’ll buy in future the kind of wines I’ve bought in the past. Back when I used to go to trade tastings the whole world was available to me, however humdrum my home stocks, but now my occasional urges for something completely other are largely frustrated.
So I bought a mystery case from the Wine Society. Mystery cases are an absolutely awful idea for the consumer, given that they are guaranteed to contain the stuff a retailer hasn’t managed to shift, which is likely to be because it isn’t very good, or offers poor value, or has had its label chewed off by an infestation of rats. But if you’re really bored, perhaps they’ll throw you an interesting curveball.
Hence, a Chilean muscat. I don’t much like muscat. I was convinced that I completely detested it until a few years back I thoroughly enjoyed a Sicilian zibibbo before finding out that zibibbo is just muscat in an Italian costume. Sometimes supermarkets sell punnets of muscat grapes, and I find I don’t like those much either. Generally where muscat is concerned I keep an open mind, but a closed wallet.
This has the characteristic muscat flavour profile, of honesuckle, tinned peach and pot pourri. But it is dryish and lightish and not at all bad for its price (£8.25, though it’s now out of stock). I’m picturing it working quite well when sitting outside on a coolish early evening at the start of spring, waiting for dinner. A curious trend: a few years ago Jancis Robinson featured the 2014 vintage as a wine of the week, when she made particular mention of its low alcohol. The 2014 weighed in at 11.5%; the 2015 was 12.5%; the 2017 £13% and this is 13.5%. It wears it pretty well, but I’m not sure how much more alcoholic it can get.
(This may be a sign of increasing temperatures in the Itata region, and 2014 was a pretty cool year there, but if so you should brace for a shock when the next vintage is released: 2019 was a heatwave year, with average temperatures in midsummer up from 17c in 2014 and 18c in 2018 to 21c)
Most of this bottle went into a pot of lentils, and the rest went into me and Mrs CF. It wasn’t what I’d have chosen, and it was all the better for it.