$ 5.00 Goon

My local shopping centre bottle shop is a cozy place – albeit floored with plastic wood veneer and ringed with refrigerators and cool rooms. The decor is to-the-point: bottles and cans stacked neatly, offered for sale. There are wine racks and beer fridges and a bargain tub up the front. The staff are polite and friendly and I really want no more in such an establishment. I do not need music or great art or vague descriptions of vinous products.

It also has a wonderful feature – the cask wine racks. These are in the Australian tradition of providing booze at cheap prices. And for the most part, the stuff that is boxed is quite drinkable. It is never sterling, yet rarely drack. If it is to be consumed with a casserole, or BBQ, or evening cheese and olives, one need never feel disappointed. Goon is goon, and as long as you are prepared to recognise it for the cardboard packaging exercise that it is, it can sometimes be vin extraordinaire.

That is the regular $ 20 for 2 litres stuff. Red, white, yellow, or pink, it can all be sloshed down with little shame. But when it comes up against the retail laws and date stamping, it can become a pirate’s treasure. You see, when wine gets to the ” best by ” date it becomes largely unsalable to the upper classes. They would never consider such humble pleasures. And the retailer may well be stuck with it.

Stop laughing. Goon boxes are never going to be considered Chateau Lafitte by anyone ( possibly Chateau La Feet…) but even they have stamps on the side. Hit that month and they either pour it away down the storm drain or…

Mark it at $ 5.00 a box.

Friends, it is not poisonous. It is not noxious. It is not nauseous. It is $ 5.00 goon and you can afford to have a glass whenever you like. It goes perfectly with cheese toasties or leftovers au gratin. You can cook with it. You can clean with it. You can chug it while reading a detective novel. It can be decanted into an expensive bottle and served to your painful sister-in-law.

Trust me on this. If she likes it you have achieved one of life’s pleasures for 65¢. If she screws up her face and looks aggrieved you have achieved one of life’s pleasures for 65¢.

” Pint Of Dog Slobber, Please. “

Do you frequent the bottle shop, as I do? And do you pass down the long rows of wine bottles to what is becoming equally long lines of craft beer shelves and wonder about the names? And about the people who named them?

Lets face it – booze is booze. It contains molecules that make us witty, great dancers, and desirable lovers. It lets us meet people like policemen and magistrates. It keeps us from wasting our money on good clothing or education for the children or a nice place to live. It is one of the most useful fluids there is, apart from cat wee.

But it all looks the same in the container. If the glass of the bottle is darkened you cannot tell whether the contents are red, white, or yellow ( the most popular colours ) and there is no smell to let you know whether the stuff is good or not. You depend upon the label.

Some labels are frank and brutal. ” Beer ” they say, and apart from the mandatory alcohol percentage and address of the conglomerate brewery they tell you nothing. You take it or leave it.

Some labels are very elegant – a simple name in script of a famous vineyard and a year announces all you need to know – but it presumes that you actually know a very great deal more. This sort of marketing also means you will pay a great deal more.

Some are just industrial warehousing codes so that the chain store staff can stack them efficiently. You might find as much information on a bean can label. Most of these fluids are fairly safe to drink but do not expect them to be a revelation of untold paradise.

But the real chancers – the lotteries of the taste buds – are the labels that the craft brewer ( read guys in Industrial Unit 83A ) or small winemaker ( Unit 83B ) nut out when they finally have the corks in and it’s time to fire up the printer. I will give them points for imagination and verve. Also for crass and edgy. But the problem is that “Harry’s Hop Swill ” or ” The Last Evocation Of Evanescence ” sound good when you’re sitting at the computer half-cut on the last of the vat, but they do not tell the customer a thing.

Perhaps that is the idea. Put out an alcoholic punchboard and let people take their chances with whatever the pin hits. As long as it is out of the unit and off the shelf, it is a win. The HAZMAT squad can always be bought off.


Red Or White? And What Calibre?

I am going to have to screw up my courage here and admit something that few adult Australians ever say; I have no idea about wine. None. None whatsoever.

I know people who are experts. Not just family party experts, but earn a fortune and drive wonderful motor car experts…on the subject of wine. People who can tell you the truth about wine. Indeed, they could tell you lies about wine and you would still believe them…they are that good on the subject. But not me.

I have wondered about it – recently I decided that it was the result of my upbringing – a product of the times and places that formed me. This has made my ignorance sweeter to bear, as it has excused me from feeling that I have let the home team down. The truth is that the home team couldn’t care less about wine.

Let me explain. I am the product of a childhood and youth spent in western Canada in the 1950’s and 1960’s. My parents drank alcohol – responsibly – and taught me to do so as well. They depended upon the native produce of the places where we lived, and this was never wine. Western Canada produced moose, petroleum, and grain, but it did not grow vines. The winters saw to that.

Thus, the drinks of Canada were beer, rye whiskey, and whatever the Yugoslav migrants  decided to distill. The first category was taken care of by Molson and Labatt, the second by Seagram, and the third by Josef Bosich and his mates in the back shed. You could still get conveniently blasted on any of these liquids, but none of them had a hint of overripe passionfruit mixed with dark oak and cinnamon. None of them were a grande cru, and none of the Canadians cared.

Oh, you got fussy rye whiskey drinkers who insisted on 12-year-old Crown Regal and  Bloor Street manners, but a couple of highballs into the evening and it all went to shit anyway. I suppose you can get wine drinkers now that Australia and Croatia export the stuff to the dominion…but those of us who learned to sneak nips from the sideboard in the 50’s and 60’s generally ignore it.

If you want to codify wine for Canadians:

a. Drink red wine with things that you shoot with a rifle.

b. Drink white wine with things that you shoot with a shotgun.

There may be a bit of confusion when it comes to 12 gauge deer slugs in a pump action, but you can always fall back on CC and Molsons and really it all works out even in the end. If you are wondering what you should drink with stuff you have shot with a slug in a .410, you would be better off with a white wine spritzer…