Cheap at Half the Price
Funny old expression, that. Like many English colloquial phrases, the more you
think about it, the less sense it makes. On the face of it, the saying is
perfectly true, because if you pay half-price for something it’s going to a lot
cheaper than paying the whole lot. But looking at it another way, the sense
disappears. Perhaps the original street-traders’ cry was “cheap at twice the
price” which would seem more reasonable. It’s possible that someone jokingly
inverted the phrase and the expression somehow caught on.
I often hunt around for cheap everyday wines in the hope of
finding a bargain bottle to tell you about. I just hope you appreciate the
trouble I go to. Of course, in this country the duty and tax on wine is such
that there’s usually nothing decent under about Bt 290. Out of casual interest
last week, I bought a bottle of French red for Bt. 260 in a local supermarket,
fairly sure that the wine wouldn’t be much good. Unfortunately, I was right. It
was a horrid, tart and acidic liquid that had the charm of hydrochloric acid. It
was completely undrinkable and even the dogs turned it down. It might have been
quite useful for washing the floor of an abattoir, but not much else.
Chastain Val Foraine (red),
bottled in France. (Best, Bt. 325)
This is a dark garnet-red colour with a very soft and mild
fruity bouquet. There might be a hint of leather in there, too. The wine is very
light-bodied and dry, with rounded soft tannins. It has light blackberry fruit,
slightly spicy, with a pleasing dry peppery finish.
The label says “Vin de la Communaut้ Europ้enne” which
implies that the grapes have come from places other than France. Although some
wine snobs might turn up their noses at this kind of thing, I really rather
enjoyed it. At just 12% alcohol content, the wine is a jolly good little
easy-quaffer, light and cheerful and perfect for a party. Incidentally, if you
type the name into a search engine like Google, the computer screen fills with
names of Chinese websites, so this wine is presumably selling like hot cakes in
the People’s Republic.
It comes in a Bordeaux-shaped bottle with a rather classy
traditional label with gold edging, showing what appears to be a small French
village nestling on the side of a hill. There’s also a little gold logo saying
“Selection Priv้e.” Of course, it doesn’t mean very much, but it helps to make
the bottle look much more expensive than it actually is. Your friends will
probably be impressed with your generosity, provided you remember to remove the
French Red Wine (Tesco-Lotus,
Well, that’s what it says on the label and you can’t get much
more basic than that. At least, the grapes come from France, but the label
doesn’t tell us what they are. “Does it matter?” I hear you ask. Well, perhaps
for a cheap blended guzzler like this, it doesn’t. But I’d guess the grapes are
from the Languedoc-Roussillon area in the South of France.
It’s a deep crimson red, with a sweet and attractive smell of
strawberries and other fruit. With a very soft mouth-feel and very gentle
tannin, this is a light-bodied easy-drinker if ever there was one. It is rather
a lighter, smoother version of the typical French bistro red. The back label
tells us that it will go “with a wide variety of foods” which is about as vague
as you can get. It would make a good party wine too.
By the way, don’t be put off by the Tesco-Lotus “own-brand”
label. Tesco have been building a reputation for good quality supermarket wines.
You might like to know that in the UK, you can buy this wine at Tesco for the
equivalent of Bt.182. Now if you ask me, that’s really unfair. That really is
cheap, at half the price we pay.