Friday, 1 April 2011

Unknown Pleasures

Unwrapping an unexpected wine arrival is one of the great joys of a wine enthusiast's life. Consuming the contents not necessarily so. Hence a degree of trepidation accompanied my approach to the Laithwaites Lucky Dip. 

It's a simple enough offer for most wine drinkers to accept - you hand over a fiver and receive in return a mystery bottle of wine guaranteed to be worth more than £5. 

Connoisseurs hope against hope that they are the luckiest of the lucky dippers and are rewarded with one of the showcase prizes: Château Lafite-Rothschild 1er Cru Classé Pauillac 1983 is worth some £900, Chateau Margaux 2006 costs £360 and Chateau d'Yquem 2006 is £195 a bottle. 

But the odds are against you as that's only three in 500 bottles.

More likely you'll receive a wine you've never heard of, from a producer unknown to you, from a country more famous for giving the world Rubik's Cube.

Such was my lot when I opened my first Lucky Dip. It began promisingly enough with sight of the gold foil of a sparkling wine closure giving momentary pause as I wondered which rarefied Champagne house was about to yield up one of its finest vintages. 

The moment passed quickly as my eyes met the unfamiliar label: Campanula Sparkling Pinot Grigio NV. 

Non-Vintage fizz. Hmmmm. From Hungary.

But that's actually the real joy of it. That's the best reason - the only reason - to buy mystery bottles or indulge in lucky dips or surprise raffles. Because without that random element who would have pulled such a bottle from the shelves, picked it out from a list or even splashed out on such a bargain bin-end?

Without a Lucky Dip I may never have tasted Sparkling Pinot Grigio (currently my least favourite grape) of any kind, let alone Hungarian, and might never have had the chance to share my enthusiasm for it with anybody else.

And I am enthusiastic. Because it's such a great ice-breaker. It's golden with big brassy bubbles, frothy zesty lemon and floral notes on the nose, plus unripe honeydew melon and sharp clean citrus on the palate. Effortlessly gluggable. Affordable at £47.94 for a case of six from Laithwaites.

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© 2011 John Alexander