Last week it was Husband's birthday. Not a birthday with a zero on the end, so sadly no special River Cottage cookery course or the like for him.
It has been noted before that he is not impartial to a glass of red.
Strictly frugally speaking we should be making our own or avoiding the expense altogether but after Husband's disastrous cider-making attempts there has been no rush for him to get in touch with his inner vintner. Maybe there's a River Cottage course on such things for his 50th...
As for unnecessary expenditure on alcohol, Husband is fond of reminding me that he spends no money on anything else for himself (except the odd bike tool) and it's true, he is the unsung eco/frugal hero here. Whilst I lounge around writing about frugal stuff, he's out there cycling 12 miles to work, or in his garage building and making. Practically, there's not much that he won't have a go at himself, be it welding, chimney sweeping or garage building. He's also happy to remind me that as he's never ever flown anywhere, his carbon footprint is the size of a gnat's.
I think we can allow the guy his few glasses of wine at a weekend. And especially on his birthday.
We have no absolutely expertise on the subject of wine buying so we have made up our own idiosyncratic rules over the years. If you are a bottle of wine these are the sort of characteristics you need to possess in order to make it off the shelf and into our shopping basket:
- You have to be on sale for under a fiver.
- Usually you must have been produced close to home so that the food miles are less. French is good. Spanish and Italian are OK too.
- You are exempt from the above rule if you are Fairtrade.
- You are available from our local supermarket.
- You are not called Liebfraumilch.
- Your alcohol content is not under 8%.
When buying for a special occasion, I apply that all-important extra selection criteria: look at the image on the label. For Husband there has been considerable mileage in labels picturing bicycles over the last few years. (Our good friends over at Spindles and Sprockets even featured a blog post on this a while back!) This birthday there was a dearth of anything velopedic in the wine section at the Co-op, so I went for the next best thing; chickens.
Our very last wine choosing strategy is that Aldi and Lidl are always fantastic for good quality, cheap wines. For a long time this was based on our own instincts but then last year my Dad (who takes wine buying more seriously than we do) bought a copy of The Best Wine in the Supermarkets 2013 which confirmed what we had already guessed. Aldi's low prices do not reflect low quality. They are quoted as having good relationships with their suppliers and a "highly efficient" business model, so that the majority of a customer's spend is "going into the liquid itself".
I don't know how 2014 is shaping up for Aldi, but this time last year their Toro Loco Tempranillo was one of The Independent's 10 best Seasonal Reds: "Toro Loco excelled in blind tastings alongside reds costing nearly 10 times as much". And of their Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (one of my all time favourites), Ned Halley in The Best Wine book writes, "I cannot understand how they do it at the price".
I had a quick flit around the internet before writing this blog post and also discovered that Aldi's one wine buyer (as opposed to Tesco's 15) Mike James (@drmikerjames) is a keen cyclist and naturalist, with a PhD in the world's smallest butterfly. Cycling, butterflies and wine? We approve!