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In fear of the tasting lunch

Published:  18 January, 2007

One of the crushing side-effects of giving up an annual wine guide and a weekly wine column - both, if you recall, called Superplonk- is that I no longer have to taste 10,000 supermarket wines a year and face those challenging post-tasting lunches.

Lunches at Spar, Budgens and Littlewoods were sedate in comparison and Tesco's continues to be rudimentary if not spartan. Not everyone, I appreciate, can be Waitrose and Sainsbury's, both of whom keep truffle hounds on call, or indeed dear old Marks & Sparks (who think nothing of pelting the post-tasting taster with cold lobsters).

But for sheer style no-one has gone further than Edwin Booth of Booths Supermarkets. When I made my first trip to Knutsford, Cheshire for a tasting with this gallant gentleman, there were 80 wines for me to taste and he was opening a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee Cont La Tache to which I said, pompously, "Oh, don't open that for me, Edwin. I know what it tastes like and it is most unlikely to make into my column." He laughed and extracting the cork said: "My dear fellow. I'm not opening this bottle for you. This is for my lunch."

I hardly think you need to be told that we did not, after the tasting, sit down for that lunch and eat corn-on-the-cob deep-fried in a pastry shell.

Malcolm Gluck has written 36 books on wine and is wine critic of The Oldie.