Commuter Belters 3: Waitrose Maris Organic Rosé

We’ve sampled gin in a tin. We’ve sampled a heinous vermouth and tonic. What convenience beverage next for our thirsty commuter? This week, the fine folk at Waitrose have provided an enticing can of pink wine…

Now, I don’t usually buy rose in a bottle, let alone a goddamn can. But against the siren song of a yellow Waitrose reduced label — together, of course, with the prospect of masochism for your amusement, dear reader — I’m powerless.

And that’s how I come to be toting this rather fetching can of Maris Organic Rosé. Trying with all my might to disregard the last time I tried commuter-orientated wine.

So let’s crack it open and get this over with.

Jesus hell. Sniff the newly opened can and it smells like lager. Hideous! Give it a few minutes to ‘breathe’ (though I’m not sure it’s capable of respiration, to be honest) and the beery stench gradually dissipates, but I’m afraid you’ll be pining for that lost aroma soon enough. Because now — now — it smells even more horrific. Like a cross between overcooked cabbage and a Venetian canal in high summer.

But I disregard the warning signs and take a swig. For you, reader. For you. The good news, I suppose, is that it tastes better than it smells. This is not, alas, a high bar, insofar as it doesn’t taste of damp flannels and sewage. Instead, it just tastes like the most mean-spirited rose you’ve ever had the misfortune to share an evening with. Spiteful, miserly, acerbic. This is the vinous equivalent of a sour, Brexitty old geriatric whose years of reading the Daily Mail and curtain twitching have sucked away any joy and softness of spirit. Squint your tastebuds and you can just about make out the mournful ghost of some supermarket own-label strawberry jam, which I suppose must be the ‘gorgeous [fruit]’ referred to on the can.

It’s actually worse than I expected (and, believe me, I expected bad). I thought I was in for saccharine, Blush-Zinfandel-esque stuff: wine for people who actually still have the tastebuds of a five-year-old. But, y’know, just as the dumbest, most sugary pop song can in a certain light be impressive, so can a genuinely crowd-pleasing wine. But this, this is just grim. There’s no art to it, not even that of catering to the lowest common denominator.

I think I’d actually choose the can of M&S Vermouth & Tonic over this foul muck. I’d flush the remnants down the nearest South Western Railway loo, were I not genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of the staff who maintain the tracks where it might end up.

Le Froglet Wine in a Glass — Review

In which our intrepid hero subjects himself to the horror (the horror!) of three revolting sold-by-the-plastic-cup specimens from Marks & Spencer: Le Froglet Rose, Chardonnay and Shiraz. A truly gruelling experience.

Three plastic cups of Le Froglet wine, sold by the glass — one red, one white, one rose

So, today we’re looking at wines sold by the glass (plastic): three (only moderately depressing-looking) specimens from Marks & Spencer going under the brand name Le Froglet.

Now, you know me for an honest commentator, I hope. So I must confess upfront that my expectations were very, very low. That said, I don’t want to be snobbish about this. There’s nothing remotely wrong with the idea of buying wine this way.

The question is — never mind the idea — what’s the reality like?

In answer, dear reader, I give you —

Le Froglet Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2009

So. You’ve got over the novelty of opening a wine as though it were a yoghurt. What now? Stick your big old snout in there, that’s what.

Except that, being full to the thick plastic brim, there’s no room for your big old snout.

So pour it into a proper glass, why don’t you, and try again?

Your labours will be rewarded with a truly awful gutwipe of a smell. Like the breath of a depressed office worker who ate a stale bacon & egg sandwich for his lunch.

It is truly, offensively grim.

At this point, you’re understandably wary. But you chuck it down the hatch in any case, reasoning ‘Since when has my sense of smell ever been a reliable indication of putrescence?’

…and — first gob-impression? IT ACTUALLY TASTES OF NOTHING.

Unfortunately, you will be looking back on that first impression of nothingness as a kind of golden age of Le Froglet Chardonnay. It was at its peak then. ‘The tragedy of Le Froglet,’ you will muse, ‘is that it never recaptured that tantalising early promise of nondescript mediocrity.’

Because, after a second or so of wondering whether you accidentally just bought a plastic glassful of foul-smelling water — the stale sandwich you smelt earlier hits you smack in the gob. And fucking horrendous it is, too. Cardboardy flaps of egg-marinated bacon in that suddenly-not-so-tasty-tasty malted bread.

Now (you might note) the smell’s mellowed a bit. Now it’s like the remnants of a KFC bucket left out overnight in the corridor of a student hall of residence.

If you can manage to get this wine into your mouth without inhaling, it’s just about bearable while you hold it there. But sometime — sometime, my friend — you’re going to have to swallow. Then there’s the aftertaste. The preserved egg sarnie.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is truly horrific stuff. There will be a patch of dead grass in my garden tomorrow morning where I chucked the rest of this devilpiss.

Onward, then, to —

Le Froglet Rose, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2009

Imagine a nightmare scenario in which you are given a plastic teaspoon and ordered to eat an entire washing-up basin full of Tesco Value strawberry jam.

The smell of Le Froglet’s Rose is strikingly, strikingly similar to the smell of the strawberry-scented vomit that you will copiously spew in the aftermath of the above scenario.

Sickly sweet, but with a rancid acidic tang.

At least with the white (incredulous, I find myself harking back) there was some lingering presence of the chardonnay grape, even if in brutally abused form. Here, there is nothing but sickly, rotten, jammy fruit.

Once it’s actually in your mouth? Well, it’s not actually as full-on sweet as I’d expected. But horrible nevertheless. A bit bitter (not in an appetising way, but in the same way as accidentally sucking your finger after touching some chemicals), with overtones of loo cleaner. Not nice loo cleaner, either. The kind of stuff they use in prisons.

When the sweetness comes (which it does, like a warm, candyfloss blanket, once you’ve swallowed) it is almost a blessing.

I’m not entirely sure whether this is worse or better than the white. It’s less in-your-face-evil, but more slyly insidious. The white was like Krang in Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles; the rose is more like Nick Griffin.

I’ll leave you to judge which you’d rather spend an evening with.

… and skip on, meanwhile, to —

Le Froglet Shiraz, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2009

… Which is dark. Dark as the soul of Le Froglet.

Snout-wise, it’s the least offensive of the three by some margin. That’s not to say it smells promising. No indeed not. But it’s not actively repellent. There’s sweet red fruit (worryingly sweet) and, yeah, vanilla. And cheap wood. It’s like walking into a discount furniture warehouse.

And in the gob, it’s also by far the least horrible. There’s still that ol’ bacon & egg sandwich whiff to the whole affair (which is clearly something to do with either the glue they use to stick on the lid or else some kind of preservative), but at least there’s a modicum of normality to the thing. I mean, it tastes like cheap plonk, sure. But at least it tastes like recognisable cheap plonk, not some outlandish liquid beamed to Earth by aliens as part of a sick reality TV escapade to amuse the folks back home at Alpha Centuri.

It’s very very sweet, yet also laced with a last-minute tannic mouth-shrinker. In no way does this qualify as a recommendation, but it has the dubious honour of being crowned ‘winner’ of this evening’s taste-off. A contest, I might add, that set me back a total of £7.95 (£2.65 each) — a sum I parted with heavily against my better judgement, and largely in order to provide entertainment to you. Yes, you.

So the least you can do is leave me a comment or something.

Now. Christ alive. Get me some malt whisky.

Rating ☆ (0 stars) for all of them. The ‘winner’ included.
ABV 12% (rose), 12.5% (red), 13% (white)
Price £2.65 a pop from Marks & Spencer

Castillo de Tafalla Angel’s Selection Rose review

… is like a character in a trashy romance novel — for drinking now, asking questions later

A macro shot of the label of a bottle of Castillo de Tafalla rose from Spain

Before we start, I’d just like to tell y’all: this is a review of a free sample I received from Naked Wines. Obviously it receives no special treatment as such, but, yeah, just so you know, right?

Okay. Here’s a wine that’s simple, fruity, easy and goes down very readily. In all respects, then, it’s rather like a character in a trashy romance novel.

In contrast to roses such as the Paxton Shiraz Rose I wrote about a while ago, this one’s far lighter, without that reddy tannin, that grip on your gob.

And it’s a real fruit bomb. A fruit bonbon bomb. The raspberry bonbon, obviously. It’s even the same colour. And it’s a bit sugary, too, bit sweet. Yup, this wine is pink as you like. It’s smooth going down, leaving you very little to think about.

Which is maybe how you like it, I guess.

Me, I prefer a bit of intellectual discourse, y’know? Maybe a few minutes’ talk about the likelihood of stable democracy in Egypt, or the merits of the Oxford comma. Before the going down, I mean.

Verdict

This is a wine that fulfils a particular purpose. It’s not really a wine to criticise or review in depth (SPOT THE INHERENT CONTRADICTION IN THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE FOR A MYSTERY PRIZE). It’s a drink-now-ask-questions-later kind of wine. Where ‘later’ may be defined as ‘when you suddenly realise you’ve got reeling drunk without noticing’.

Perfectly decent, simple fare, in other words, if pretty much bereft of complexity. And very easy.

Buy it to take along a barbecue or something. Yeah, you’re always going to bloody barbecues, aren’t you? You strike me as the chilled out kind of individual who’d be coming down with barbecue invitations.

And with a bottle of Castillo de Tafalla rose in hand and an enigmatic smile, who knows what romantic plotlines you might kick off. You old dog.

Rating ** (2 stars)
ABV 12.5%
Price £7.99 from Naked Wines (£5.33 to members)

Paxton Shiraz Rosé 2009 review

… is a spirited and jolly bid to make pink and green go together. And is sort of successful.

Closeup of the label of Paxton's Shiraz Rose

Yep, it’s a pinkie.

And this one really is pink. It’s deep and dark and vibrant. No pallid blush here; this is a full-on crimson. The difference, I guess, between the colour your face might turn if someone paid you a flirtatious compliment, and the colour your face might turn if you accidentally exclaimed the name of the female genitalia in a class of 13-year-olds.

So. It’s very pink. It’s also green — on the face of it at least — judging by Paxton’s membership of something called 1% For the Planet, and the fact that the wine is made biodynamically.

Which sounds good, even if you’re not really sure what it means.

Meanwhile, fittingly given its colour, it leans more toward the red side of things than the white. You’d not want to chill this’n more than a tad, or you’ll kill off its plump, rosy jollitude.

Because, yeah, it’s pink; it’s jolly. Just like every stereotypical rosy-cheeked wench of tiresomely unimaginative fantasy fiction. Nose-wise, it’s all raspberry and strawberry — almost disconcertingly so, if you’re wary of Kia Ora wine syndrome, like me. And in your mouth, it’s very bright and full.

What surprises is the amount of body (which is what makes it more reddish than many rosés). There’s a good welter of matt tannic action. It’s potentially a mite confusing, even, given the sweetness of the initial mouthburst.

Verdict

I’d very happily drink this wine without thinking too much about it. That sounds a bit of a back-handed compliment. I guess it is. But sometimes you don’t want to be challenged, right? Just ask President Mubarak.

I can imagine drinking it outside in the sun and having a fine old time of it.

But given its rosy-cheeked barwench simplicity, I’m not sure it’s wholly worth £11.99, though — unless you really, really like pink and green together.

Rating ??
ABV 11.5%
Price £11.99 from Oddbins