So Waitrose have bitten the bullet and are heading ruthlessly downmarket in the wine section in order to stop people like me making irksome special trips out to Tesco and Aldi for our filthy grog, and what do you know but the other day they bung a great heap of their new-look ultracheap reds and whites by the main entrance, £4.99 a bottle, and in a moment of dreadful clarity I say, Yes, I shall buy one of every type and take these six bottles home and immerse myself in their cheapness and all shall be well. Better yet, there's a reduction on the half-case, which means that each bottle comes in at £4.74 - something of a steal, even by my standards. I put myself on a ration of one bottle every two days, and start off with the
Waitrose Spanish Dry, which announces itself as A carefully chosen blend of grapes as well as Light, zingy and refreshing as a dip in the sea. This goes down just fine, hints of upmarket deodorant and a flash of vanilla (in my book, anyway) plus a tasting note Is that some cellophane I'm getting? No matter, because the Spanish Dry does the job uncomplainingly, and without being any more charismatic than a free newspaper. Onwards, then to the
Chilean White, which I have slightly higher hopes for, on account of it being Chilean - in other words more flavoursome and implacable than the Spanish - and yes, Nicer I note with due economy, followed by More going on, Some acidity, Coriander? Touch of Humbrol and No nose at all, like the Sphynx. Is this good? I'm going to say yes, because at £4.74 what do I expect, Chassagne-Montrachet? Therefore we move, still brightly, on to day four, or possibly five, and I'm looking at an
Australian Smooth and Spicy Red for which I seem to have two sets of tasting notes, one lot on a torn-off scrap of paper bearing the legends Smooth as velvet and Grown in vineyards across sunny South Australia, and the other in a notebook which complains about Minute tannins, Caramel largely and That's it. I have been looking unduly forward to the red because out of Waitrose's six available wines, four are headache-making whites with only two reds, whereas my preference would be to reverse those numbers, but there it is: I must make the best of it, a red wine for tippling while your mind is on something else, like would a sandwich be good round about now?
Day six? Seven? It's time for the Italian Dry White Crisp and Floral. Whatever else this may be, it is also the fourth bottle in the series and the fatigue is starting to get to me. Four inoffensive wines in a row is like being bludgeoned with candyfloss, and I am finding it hard to concentrate. Most of my notes turn out to be reiterations of the copywriter's giggling spume on the label (Fresh, zesty and aromatic) interspersed with frankly exhausted one-liners such as Vaguely parched feeling in the roof of the mouth and Nice in a mouthwash way. I tell myself to get a grip, be grateful that none of these wines has actually been undrinkable, God knows, or just-borderline-drinkable. But there is a law of diminishing returns in operation here, a cumulative impact - or reduction of impact - which I had not taken into consideration at the start, so that by the time I reach the
Australian Dry White Fruity and Refreshing, it's as much as I can do to hold the pen long enough to remark, as saliently as I can, Bath soap, Airport Departure Lounge, before giving up and staring into space. I am so blanded out I can't be bothered to tot up the number of days I've been on this mission; worse, I can't even be bothered to open the final bottle in the series, the Spanish Red Mellow and Fruity, which just sits and gazes at me like a guest at a funeral. I was looking forward to this one, too, a) because it is a red, and, b) because I reckoned it would bring some closure, put a proper end to the dread amiabilty of all those fresh and zingy and zesty and vibrant whites which have zinged and refreshed me into an absolute stupor. But as it is, I have no idea what it tastes like - although, at a guess, Smooth, easy-going and Honestly, neither here nor there should cover most eventualities.