Had an e-mail from my mate, old boss and fellow Taste-In colleague Robert Joseph recently in response to this post. This is the man from whom I learned inordinate amounts, not least the art of missing publishers' deadlines with the maximum of grace, but since neither of us had much in the way of business acumen - great ideas, yes; business acumen, no - then our partnership was doomed to failure. Anyway, the response from Bobby Jo (as some will insist on calling him) was that while he agreed with me both on the packaging and on Oddbins shaky future, he thought that the Cachet wines did stack up as part of the riposte from France to outside competition.
And yes, I realise that France needs to re-establish itself in the eyes of many wine drinkers, especially those who have cut their wine teeth not on the Old World but on the New World. But... And here's where my Latin O Level for once proves useful. I usually approach unknown Australian Shirazes with a suspicion born of too many examples of over-manipulated wines, but The Red Sedan 2005 McLaren Vale Shiraz is going down a storm tonight, perhaps because of the absence of oak, which gives the iron-rich fruit flavours a chance to shine (and it's getting better as I type - I fear for the rest of the bottle).
Anyway, back on the subject, Latin. Correct me if I'm wrong but 'McLaren Vale' means 'farewell McLaren' - quite appropriate for this week. Just as England proved against Croatia on Wednesday that despite the quality of the players on the field, the up-tempo, end-to-end, hoof-it-up-the-field game has had its day, so it might be time for some of the movers and shakers of the south of France to move on from the desire to please the beginner's palate. In other words, they should be looking for life beyond ripeness, fresh fruit and, err, that's it, which is nice in the short term, but a long term yawn.
So sorry Robert, but Cachet is a long term yawn. If all it provides is simple fruit with the right varietal names on the label, then other countries do it cheaper and - vital - more reliably. While I hate the idea of French wine sales remaining in the doldrums, I'd rather they were revitalised by better wines than Cachet.