Monday, 29 June 2009

What's in a name?

Prepare to be confused.

Confusion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I remember vividly the first time I watched a David Lynch movie. Trying to unravel that particular puzzle noir was a complicated but ultimately rewarding experience.

But food and drink labelling is a different beast entirely.

Much hoo-hah has been made of the provenance of so-called British pork pies, with the Conservative party dedicating an entire viral campaign around the misleading labelling (pork from the continent assembled into pie form on these fair shores) of this particular snack.

These little culinary wolves in sheep’s clothing seem to be in other places too, hiding out waiting to pounce on the unwitting consumer at less than a moment’s notice. Even in wine bottles.

It was in such a state of blissful ignorance that we bought three bottles of Three Mills – one red, one white, one rose – from the supermarket.

At two quid a bottle it seemed silly not to take the chance. Having spent three years at university imbibing wine of dubious origin and questionable quality, it seemed logical to think that the contents would at least be drinkable. And if not then there was always the option of cooking with it.

What really swung it for us, though, was the proud wording on the label: British Wine. Six pounds to help the fledging wine industry of Great Britain? Well worth the money.

How wrong we were. On all counts.

The wine itself was undrinkable. Cloying. Sweet and with all the depth of a dried up puddle. It sat limply in the glass and at a mere 8% alcohol wasn’t even worth drinking with the sole purpose of getting merry.

To cook with it would be a crime against food. I shuddered at the prospect of ruining a glorious free range chicken or beef short rib by sluicing it with this vile concoction. It went some way to proving the maxim that one shouldn’t cook with wine one isn’t prepared to drink. In fact, it went all the way, proving beyond all reasonable doubt that if you wouldn’t put it in a glass, don’t put it in the pot.

But at least it was British. Right? Wrong. It transpired that we had been the victim of a cruel marketing sleight of hand.

British wine is a very different beast to English wine which is made with grapes actually grown in this country by people who actually know what they are doing and who actually take pride in what they do.

We had been fooled into buying three bottles made with imported grape juice somehow turned into something that resembled wine in the same way Frankenstein’s Monster resembled a fully functioning human being.

It had been made with the sort of contempt that a nefarious character from Grimms’ Fairy Tales might show an innocent stepchild standing in the way of a vast inheritance.

To call Three Mills ‘wine’ is questionable, at best. To call it ‘British’ is downright duplicitous. Even at two pounds a bottle we were left feeling conned, and without wine. Not a combination leading to satisfactory happiness.

For more on this visit And don't forget to follow me on Twitter. But only if you want to.


Ollie said...

Good God, that stuff sounds horrendous. Which supermarket sold it to you?

lisaiscooking said...

Interesting. It's always a little scary to learn how little it takes so that a product can claim to be 'from' a place.

Helen said...

Wow, thanks for the heads up. I have to echo Ollie's question - which supermarket?

The Cooking Photographer said...

That is just sad! I would have been furious.

Caviar and Codfish said...

Ha---love your reaction here; a fun post to read though I don't imagine the event was any fun at all.

I've recently tried a few of the items that I often ate/drank in my penniless college years and I'm almost always shocked by how bad they are. Cheap wine is a thing of the past, I think. (Though I do love a few $4 New Zealand sauv blancs...)