In case you hadn't noticed, two things have changed with Stowells of Chelsea. First of all, it's now called just Stowells - maybe Roman Abramovich was threatening a law suit (the thought of a head-to-head between the Russian oligarch and the world's largest wine company - Constellation now owns Stowells - probably has lawyers salivating). Secondly, as my wife put it, 'Isn't that the wine that comes in a box?' Well yes it still does, but now you're just as likely to find it in its various incarnations - 19 wines from 9 countries - in bottles of varying sizes. 'Enjoy our world of wine' proclaims the label. Let's see if I do.
Stowells Italian Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio
I don't mind this at all. Light peachy Chardonnay, a bit of crisp, pebble-like bite (you must have licked a river pebble once?) from the PG, and a fresh, zesty finish. Simple, yes, but not trying to be anything other than a midweek quaffer, a job it does better than some wines with more 'serious' reputations. And dry. All in all, a pleasant surprise.
Stowells Chilean Sauvignon Blanc
There's something here that leads me to believe that this contains Sauvignonasse, a poor imitation of Sauvignon Blanc (look here for a little background). Where decent Chilean Sauvignon is crisp and pithy, often with a minerally streak (again, think of licking pebbles or slate) on top of the zesty citrus flavours, this is slightly flabby, with a vague nutty edge, and not enough get-up-and-go. Tired, but not emotional.
So fan my brow and pass me a sugared almond, tonight I think I'll settle down with a glass of the Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio - but please, please, don't tell anyone...