Having been exiled to the UK with work for a few months in my completely non-wine-related day job, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what’s out there in terms of wine innovation and perhaps preview what might be the next thing to hit our lovely green shores. Do forgive me if some, if not all of the breakthroughs that I report on have already reached Eire.
I’ve already spotted a few quirks down in London which I will bring to you as I can, and I stumbled upon another gem in Marks and Spencer in Leeds train station today. No I’m not going to talk about the new Percy Pig yoghurt (which is nowhere near as good as it sounds), or my glee at passing Elland Road once more on the train.
I’m talking about the ‘cup-a-wine’ that M&S have recently launched in their UK stores. It is essentially a sealed plastic glass of wine. Not one for the purists; it was universally dismissed on Dragons’ Den when its inventor tried to hawk them the idea in 2009. It comes in a 187ml reusable recyclable plastic glass (made by Wine Innovations) and is covered with a foil seal which the label states must be drunk within 3 months of purchase. This one is a Vin de Pays D’Oc, oddly called “Le Froglet” and comes in Shiraz, Chardonnay and Rosé flavours. It costs £2.25 a glass.
Never one to shirk a wine challenge, I decided to give all three a go, sure the £6.75 would barely dent my fat daily expense allowance, and hey, Leeds wasn’t exactly buzzing on a dull, rainy evening in West Yorkshire.
First up, the Chardonnay. The initial sniff of the wine nearly knocked me out. They really fill wine up to the brim and I couldn’t swirl it around to release more noxious aromas, so I adjourned to a real glass. This wine had hints of typical Chardonnay on the nose; butter, tropical fruits, lemon. But there was something stale or unnatural overpowering it. I closed my hotel window in case the Leeds air was affecting my judgement but alas no difference. It tasted equally revolting – I first got Lilt which then evolved into paint, the type when in playschool you thought was a good idea to drink. For the record, blue paint was my favourite. It left my mouth tasting like I’d spent the night in Leggs. 2/10
Next, the Rosé. It couldn’t get any worse, could it?! Thankfully it didn’t. Learnt my lesson from the last time and gave it a minute before poking my nose near it. It smelt rather pleasantly of sweet, candied strawberry. This had me thinking it was Grenache-dominated but the 12% alcohol might suggest otherwise. On the palate – not much. Faint red fruits, perhaps a touch of oak. Perfectly pleasant, quaffable wine if I’m being honest. The 187ml reusable recyclable plastic glass turns out to be problematic however – the wine takes on a chemical character if you sip directly from it (must be the sticky stuff the glues the foil to the glass). The rim is also quite sharp, much to my chagrin as the glass took a small piece of lip with it on its way back down to the table. 5/10 (1 mark deducted for assault)
Finally the Shiraz. Its unappealing nose of pepperami, combined with the usual spice, liquorice and black fruit of the grape had me nervous. On the palate – rough, uneven tannins, feeble black fruit, and AGAIN a hint of paint (who the hell was meant to be watching me back then?) No length on the finish; in sum a limp, horrid wine. 3/10
For me the jury’s out on this format – while I don’t necessarily hate the idea, I hated two of the three wines I tasted this evening. And if you multiply £2.25 by 4, your bottle’s worth is costing you 9 pounds, or nearly 11 euro which is a crime for that standard of wine. There clearly is a place for this type of format: at concerts and sporting events (where real glass can be a hazard/weapon); on cheap airlines; and trendy parks and commons around South West London. Whatever the place of consumption, M&S are apparently struggling to meet demand, so to that, I must raise my plastic glass!