So the stuff I unwisely acquired a couple of weeks ago is still with us. I've worked out that the least worst way to get through a bottle is to open it a day in advance and take the first glassful very cautiously indeed. On this basis I have managed to eliminate a couple from the gaudy heap in the kitchen, only it doesn't seem to matter how many I dispose of, the same number of untouched bottles always seems to remain, lying in wait for me. Either I'm trapped in a tale of the occult, a W. W. Jacobs story, or something by Conan Doyle, or for that matter a variation on The Sorcerer's Apprentice; or it's guerilla warfare, in which the kitchen has become French IndoChina and I am forever swatting back the forces of the Viet Minh only to see them regroup in larger numbers in a slightly different part of the wine rack. It is not a good way to be.
I Google What to do with a lot of really bad wine, which turns up some interesting suggestions. Make casseroles with it is an obvious one, but Turn it into Sangria rings the changes, as does Bathe in it (it's vinotherapy, and keeps your skin supple), Use it as dye (for that artisanal look), Add it to the compost, or Make it into wine jelly. Interesting but somehow not persuasive. And not close enough to just drinking it, which is the circle I want to square. The tragedy (it now appears) is that my filthy CDR is not white. Had it been white, it would at least have allowed me to chuck in some Crème de Cassis or Noix to adulterate the taste and get through it that way.
Sullenly I open a bottle of Minervois, bought from somewhere, a supermarket probably, to take my mind off things. Only to discover that the mainstream Minervois is almost as repulsive as the CDR. Why should this be? But before I have time to query the testimony of my own senses, the ground opens up beneath my feet and Hell gapes as I realise that this is the way the story is unfolding: all my other reds now taste as bad as the CDR and will continue to taste as bad, until I finish off the CDR - which I can never do.
There is only one thing for it: I must give up drinking wine. Given the sort of wine I usually consume, this will, God knows, not be much of a hardship. And to take its place? Whisky, of course. The wife gave up still wines long ago, but loves her Scotch (although not so much her Irish, and not at all her Bourbon) and it has to be said that although we've drunk some fairly shabby whiskies around the world, very few have been too revolting to keep down.
The only one I can recall - in fact, the only whisky which we couldn't stomach in any combination - was some stuff we got in Cairo a few years ago. We kept the bottle as a souvenir. The label - a tantalising knock-off the famous J & B logo - announces the contents as MARCEL A BLWND (sic) OF THE SUPER OLD DRINK EGYPTION, which is not only a Porduct of Egypt but also BRODUSET AND BATTLED BY THE SAMIOS COMPANY. Sadly, Egypt - a miraculous and wonderful country in so many other ways - is not a great whisky-producing nation. Whatever went into the Marcel - grain? grape skins? potatoes? - came out as a kind of marsh gas in thin syrup, undrinkable with still water, fizzy water, or even Coke. Which I suppose is an achievement in its own right.
Marcel aside, I see blue skies and calm seas ahead, in my new whisky-only regime. A nice Speyside for special occasions; a supermarket blend for everyday. Plenty of ice in hot weather, and a mere splash of water in the winter months. Why didn't I think of this before?
Unless, of course, this is just another twist in the plot. Man forswears wine, takes to whisky instead. Whisky slowly begins to taste like Marcel, whatever its provenance. Man moves on to gin, brandy, vodka, beer. They all become undrinkable. Slivovitz, kummel, arrack, rum, mezcal and absinthe all take their turns, every one of them doomed. In desperation, he resorts to tea and coffee, cocoa and even drinking chocolate, sometimes laced with rubbing alcohol, sometimes straight: same result. Soon, tapwater is all that's left, but when he cannot keep that down, he dies of thirst, the last thing he sees being the mocking labels of the oh-so-affordable Côtes du Rhône he acquired at the beginning of the story. Where did he go wrong? Are the gods of wine-drinking punishing him for presuming to get away with a drinkable wine at a bargain price? Was there an essential flaw in his character that led him to his destruction? Could we all learn from this? And was it wise, in the first instance, to get the stuff from an outlet called the Satanic Wine Warehouse?