Round Robin by Joe Fattorini

Ah yes. The Christmas "Round Robin". A British tradition under threat. Or so I'm told. You know the sort of thing. A photocopied letter from a half-remembered relation. Folded into the Christmas card. Packed with "news" ("boasting") about distant cousins you vaguely remember but only because they turned up unexpectedly to your 7th birthday party, sobbed through the Punch & Judy and then soiled themselves when someone burst their balloon Dachshund. Few mourn its decline. But I am among them.

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So, in support of this festive tradition… what a whirlwind year it's been. For the first time in a twenty-five-year career in wine writing and broadcasting, I was humbled to receive an award. Well, as it happens, two. In my acceptance speech for the IWC's Personality of the Year Award I suggested it had "been in the post".

Bubbling resentment isn't attractive. But it's honest. Someone else asked if the IWSC Wine Communicator Award was "for journalists who spend all day drinking in restaurants." I pointed out this description fails to distinguish it from any other journalism award. But yes, it is.

This year wine journalists have stepped out of the restaurant and weighed in on some of the bigger issues of the day. Not only Brexit, climate change and financial turmoil. But important stuff. Like Donald Trump's wines. This summer the Trump Winery came in last place at a tasting competition in London. It was the biggest electoral upset since… well, the last time Trump lost the popular vote. Which was the last time people voted. But all was not lost. Wine tasting is a complex thing. And British competition organisers guard against bias. We use a special process. It's too complex to explain here. And American readers would find it baffling. But after all the votes had gone through the competition's "Electoral College" it turns out that Donald Trump is the greatest winemaker of all time. Believe me. Winning Again! GREAT!

Not that he'd ever enjoy his own wines. Temperance organisations suffered a terrible blow in 2017 as Donald Trump explained how he’d become the man he is today by not drinking alcohol. Fortunately, others in the public eye shared their love of wine. This year we learned that Sir Alex Ferguson and Meghan Markle have the same favourite wine. It’s Tignanello, an expensive Super-Tuscan red noted for its refinement and complexity. There was some depressing coverage of the news. Notably, a subtle racism about people drinking fine wine from some ethnic backgrounds. Meghan Markle was appalled. She said it was disgraceful to suggest you can't enjoy fine wines just because you come from Glasgow.

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We also heard rumours David Beckham was looking at buying a vineyard. There was a lot of interest in the sort of wine he enjoyed. Journalists asked if he went for something fruity and voluptuous. Or perhaps a more challenging style of wine. Something lean, with sour and wooden characteristics. Well, obviously yes, said David, that was what he normally had at home. But he loves something voluptuous when Victoria is staying at her mum's.

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As you might be able to tell, I've been trying something new this year too. For most of the past twelve months we've been travelling across the world making series two of The Wine Show. It's on Hulu in the US and will come to the UK and other countries around the world in the New Year. I don't want to give too much away (although there’s a sneak preview here). But in one memorable episode I'm challenged to come up with a series of jokes and perform them on stage. It's hard to judge your own performance. But the compere on the night was there to give me a quick review. And "as a gift to stand-up comedy" he said I "make an excellent wine taster".

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Which brings me onto some Christmas wine recommendations. Rather than print them out here you just need to click through to the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s web site. I wrote them there on account of being named their Wine Communicator of the Year. I may not have mentioned that. Honestly, it was the biggest shock I’ve had since that time I came to your Punch & Judy party and your sister burst my balloon Dachshund…

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gin and juice by Joe Fattorini

It's hard to know what was the more surprising discovery this week. That testicles have taste receptors? Or that Aldi’s £9.95 Gin was judged one of the best in the world at the IWSC Awards. These facts are unrelated by the way. I tried. Apparently that's why they call it a hi-ball.

For some the gin news caused consternation. Mainly because you couldn't get hold of it. Aldi stores were filled with twenty first century Margo and Jerry’s looking bereft at empty shelves, heading home only with some charcuterie that looked nice and 54 bog rolls. Incidentally, the charcuterie really is very good. And the wine collection too. And the loo paper*.

(*As it happens, this is exactly what Aldi are hoping people will do, especially with wine, award-winning spirits and special offers. "Some people shop with us first to try the wine and then come back to do a weekly shop" said Aldi MD Matthew Barnes in The Telegraph last year, "so it's very important to us"

But there was also a slight sniffiness about the price. By some estimates the final cost of gin in the bottle after fixed costs and tax is about 77p. This is hardly Aldi’s fault. Most of the cost of a bottle of gin goes to the tax man. What you're actually buying from Aldi here is something that costs about as much to make as a Snickers Bar*. (*As a male writer in his forties, I am legally obliged by the Guild of Reminiscing Comedy to recall how this was formerly called a Marathon). Bottle of award-winning spirits vs cheap chocolate. I know which gives me more pleasure.

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Some people knocking the low cost of Aldi’s gin could also be accused of a little hypocrisy. On the one hand they bemoan the minimal cost of ingredients in gin, on the other they're full of praise for the timeless joy of a plain jambon beurre or the simple flavours of a ripe apricot. Things don't need to cost a lot to be good. Gin is a bright, citrusy, juniper-scented spirit that needs to hold its own though some tonic, a measure of Campari or grapefruit juice if you're a rapper. There's no law that says it’s always better if it's distilled by a man with a ginger beard in his garage using hand-rubbed lemon verbena and juniper berries that have been through the alimentary canal of a civet cat.

Maybe, just maybe, Aldi’s gin is the small boy in the crowd pointing at the procession of imperially-priced “craft" gins and suggesting they are actually wearing no clothes. A metaphor almost as twisted as my clackers when I tried to see if they could taste an Aldi Gin Tom Collins.

Incidentally, at this point you maybe wondering why I am so determined to litter a perfectly decent discussion of a gin with references of testicles. I genuinely did discover that they have taste receptors this week. It's been on my mind. But also on my mind have been the curse of paid-for-social-media-posts in drinks writing and the murky world of advertorial. People might think that a warmly positive review of their gin was sort of quid pro quo. But by repeatedly referencing my knackers this guarantees nobody in the press office will ever direct anyone here. It makes sure our relationship remains not only arm’s length, but distant to the point they’d probably cross the street if they saw me coming. It's a weird logic, but I'm proud of it. #notanad... as they don't say on Instagram.

More stocks of Oliver Cromwell Gin are arriving in Aldi stores soon. Do go and try it. You’ll like it more than a Snickers* (*Marathon) bar. And most gins at twice, thrice, fource… fourthce… four times the price. While you're there buy some charcuterie, loo rolls and wine too. I heartily commend Aldi Cotes du Provence Rose (£5.99) whilst the sun is out for a soft apricot and wild strawberry scented, light style of rose. This was also an award winner, this time at the IWC Awards. The Animus, Douro 2014 (£4.99) from Portugal is potentially the greatest barbecue red of the summer. All that sun-packed, warm and spiced fruit but for under a fiver. Freeman's Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is another crowd pleaser this time for just over a fiver at £5.99. Don't expect something innovative or mindblowing - but that's the point. It's better than almost every other New Zealand Sauvignon at this price. There are more expensive wines (the Exquisite Collection is a particularly reliable own-label range) but we're keeping in the spirits (boom boom) of things here and that rose, red and white should sort out good-value summer drinking for a bit. And now for a cup of tea...

personality by Joe Fattorini

There’s a special place in purgatory for people who back out of industry dinners. “Something came up”. Yes, of course it did. No doubt the realisation "I have to spend an evening with my colleagues”. You have a fictional “migraine” whilst the rest of us see a cheeful banqueting 10 regenerate into a sparse 7, because apparently Brian is also “stuck on a train” and Jenny is “looking after my sister… she’s just been dumped and I don’t want to leave her alone”. Stopping the sentence just before “with her Netflix subscription and the new series of House of Cards”.

Last week that hateful person was me. And uniquely in recorded history I REALLY did have a last-minute reason. An operation. The doctor rang the day before with a spare slot. I took it. At 7.30am on the day of the International Wine Challenge Awards he set about me with a general anaesthetic, a knife and no mercy. You don’t want to know the details – seriously, you don’t – but I wasn’t going to sit comfortably for a week. With a heavy heart and numb portion I let a couple of people know I couldn’t make it that night.

There was a moment’s silence. “No, seriously… you HAVE to come” they said. I thought maybe they’d not heard. A general anaesthetic. A significant slice. Bed rest for two days says the doctor. House arrest for a week.

“Yeah, yeah… we get that. But still, you HAVE to come”.

“Why”

“Well… er…” There was a pause here. Then “Ed’s dropped out. He’s stuck on a train. We’d have two empty seats. It would look embarrassing at the table.”

And so it came to pass that I sat there, wishing I’d bought a ring-cushion and more co-cocodamol, for the three-hour awards ceremony. If you’ve not been, it’s a fun evening. If a long one. There are awards before dinner. And more awards after. Cheery wine merchants ascend the stage for Best List and whatnot. Happy wine and sake producers step up for a range of assorted trophies. You want to know how happy? See this guy

That's Kuji Kosuke, showing how it feels to be winner of Champion Sake with his Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai 2017. I love him.

Between courses we chatted and I shifted position delicately. We’ve just finished filming series two of The Wine Show, and the inter-course gossip was high quality. There was an anecdote about a Hollywood actor that still makes me wince, along with recollections of six months travelling around the world drinking wine in glamorous places with funny people. As the evening drew to a close, I was in the middle of a particularly involving tale when I vaguely heard the hosts talking about someone “discovered by the producers of The Wine Show in a film of him sitting in a bath of wine.” I wondered if it was something a bit like this.

I can’t imagine there are many more videos like this out there. Turns out there aren’t.

With that I went from over forty years of being “a bit of a personality” to “IWC Personality of the Year”. For many years at school, end of term reports were variations on “Joe is quite a personality. But perhaps talks too much and lacks application when it comes his studies”. This remains true. But now I’ve managed to win an award for it. I think my former teachers and I can call this one “a draw”.

Cleverly, the organisers of the IWC ask the winner to give a short acceptance speech. In the US this would be banned as a form of Cruel and Unusual Punishment. For both the winner and the audience. The winner has ten seconds to think of something that will be recorded, broadcast and forever appended to the moment they won a prize as one of the foremost communicators in the world of wine. The audience has around a minute of listening to someone talk to them without the aid of a script, edits, re-records, preparation or sobriety. And indeed high on adrenaline, panic and the parting, whispered words at the table “you’d better thank us or you’re fired…”. To know what that looks like – it’s here.

Actually, if I’d had a month to prepare, I don’t think I’d say any different. A career in wine, newspapers, radio and now television, has found an unlikely home for a very particular set of skills. Skills singularly useless elsewhere.

Most importantly, what did we drink? At the awards there are lots of the award-winning wines floating around. But we chose a few from our friends at Berry Bros & Rudd. All come with hearty recommendations, although a quick look at the web site suggests we may have bought the last of a couple of them. They really were very good and I found they made a particularly dreamy match with the co-cocodamol.

2014 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Kabinett, Selbach-Oster, Mosel (£16.95) is pure and clear as petrichor, only sweeter and fruitier. There’s a vibrant, wide-eyed feel to this; magical with spiced flavours and summer salads. 2016 Miraval Rosé, Famille Perrin, Côtes de Provence (£19.95) should becelebrated for its delicate, wild strawberry fruit, the herbal aromas that persist on the palate and savoury spice on the finish that makes it so good with food. It will forever be known – however – as the estate Bradgelina bought. Although if that introduces more people to the charms of Provence Rose, then that’s no bad thing. 2014 GRUS de Alcohuaz is from the highest vineyard in Chile, 2,200m up in the desert Elqui Valley. There were just 8000 bottles of this intense, wild, deeply fruity blend of Syrah, Malbec, Petit Syrah and Grenache. It blends the rich cake-like fruit of a sun-baked vineyard with the precision and focus of a vineyard on the limits of viable production. Probably because it comes from a vineyard that’s both. There doesn't seem to be any of the inaugural 2014 vintage left, but look out for future releases. Finally we had 2010 Sagrantino di Montefalco, Passito, Fattoria di Antano, Umbria. This was concentrated and heady, gently sweet but like a wild fruit, not a sticky. Magical with chocolate, even better with cheese. We drank the last of it I think, unless there's some in the new Berry Bros and Rudd Pall Mall shop.

milk and alcohol by Joe Fattorini

And as Dr Feelgood fades away, we ask what is the best drink to have with our supper. "Easy" you say. "Wine, occasionally beer and a light Fino sherry on Friday when we have fish and chips. Non?"

Well, the answer could be - as you say in the one bit of French remembered from school - "non".

That's according Bas de Groot, the world's first Milk Sommelier. Bas claims that milk is "a liquid of serious complexity akin to a fine wine". "The main thing I do is tell the story of the rich diversity of milk..." he says, immediately making it impossible for me to poke fun at him. I've spent the last thirty years telling stories about the rich diversity of wine, claiming it's a perfectly sensible way to make your living. The fact that I tell stories about wine and he about milk is a quibble. Neither of us are curing cancer or likely to win a Nobel Prize.

Yet the reaction of wine fans has been to poke fun at Bas. Including - I'm ashamed to say - me. It's been done in a range of rather po-faced ways; wine people specialise in the online equivalent of looking over pince-nez spectacles with mild disdain. Typically my own particular contribution to the mockery was gif-based...

But beyond the name calling and sniggers, are wine and milk "akin" Or is there a case to be made that wine is in some way special? A different class of drink? Something where expertise makes you a better class of person? Because to be honest that's why I got into wine in the first place. If I'd have been able to achieve a similar social status just considering the differences between gold and silver top, it feels like a bit of a waste of time.

Well, wine does have one thing up its sleeve...

It gets you giggly. Whereas milk rarely does once you move onto Farley's Rusks. But there is another reason why wine remains the king of drinks. And for this we need to look to the example of the greatest Milk Taster of all.

I can concede it IS possible to discover a remarkable amount from tasting milk. The breed of cow (sometimes), what they ate (occasionally), how it was processed (usually), where it came from (if it's very special). But the point is, it takes a very particular palate to do that. For the rest of us we value milk because it all tastes pretty much the same. That is, "milky". Whilst milk may be in general a "liquid of serious complexity" compared with Tizer, it's a pretty uniform sort of complexity. It all tastes roughly the like "milk", and we like it that way.

Wine, au contraire, is compound-for-compound the most complex drink on the planet. And its possible - with the right practice - to tell the "breed" of grape, what soil they were grown on, how the wine was made and where the wine came from. And to do it consistently. That is a reason why we like it. As an enology professor explains to Bianca Bosker in her book Cork Dork, "after blood, wine is the most complex matrix there is". That complexity means wine has the capacity to create taste sensations beyond words. A mental gestalt that only the best can accurately describe, sparking neurons across the brain, reviving memories like a latter-day Proust. For the rest of us, once again, there are gifs:

So if we're not going to be drinking half a litre of Cravendale, what do we drink? Well how about Les Hauts de Saint Martin, St Chinian 2014 (£6.99 Co-op)? A darkly-fruity wine with a hint of the herbal hillside. Its mouth-coating texture makes it a perfect wine for sausages... mmmm, sausages. (I told you. I'm no Proust).

When you've had your ripe, red Saint Chinian go and grab a bottle of Tblvino Qvevris 2015, a Georgian, "Amber" wine (£10.00 M&S). And a bottle of Aldi, The Exquisite Collection Cotes de Provence Rosé 2016 (£5.99). And a bottle of Navajas Blanco Crianza, Rioja 2014 (£7.95 The Wine Society). Each one completely different. The textures go from grippy, to feather-light to rounded. The flavours go from orange peel to wild strawberries to nuttily-fresh. The foods they match go from "everything" to light seafood grills to paella.

Milk has textures and flavours that range from "a bit watery" to "sort of normal" to "that's really very creamy isn't it". And it goes with... Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, tea and insomnia.

And spending a little more on milk means you're in Waitrose. Spending a little more on wine means you enjoy a lot more wine. If you liked the red St Chinian, you'll adore Domaine Gauby, Les Calcinaires Rouges 2015 Cotes du Roussillon Villages (£14.95 Berry Bros & Rudd). This is a long-haired wine of the best kind, a whiff of wild-yeast and sun-tanned fruit giving it a very particular sense of place. The wine-equivalent of Bodhi in Point Break

If you like the Amber wine, the Rose and White Rioja then you can spend a little more too. Pheasants Tears Saperavi 2015 (£22.00 Highbury Vintners) is a dense, brooding wine made in buried kvevris, an 8000 year-old wine making technique that quite literally lets the wine interact with the earth. It has a crackling freshness and chewy palate for people who want to do some thinking with their drinking. Château Léoube Secret Rosé 2016 (£20.00 Daylesford Organic) is a perfect food matching rose, (and Gold Medal Winner at the World Rose Awards) suffused with herbs, pear-textured fruit and wild strawberries. Bodegas Beronia Rioja Viura 2015 (£10.00 Ocado) shows you the diversity in a single style of wine - with White Rioja going from soft, nutty and gentle when it's aged in oak, to tingling with grapefruit and lemon in this ripsnortingly good-value wine. Possibly one of the best value whites in the UK today.

As you drink each one, the aromas, textures and flavours will take your mind to vineyards, chateaux and lazy days in the sun. It's part of the experience of enjoying wine. And that's why we love wine so much.

And what about milk's ability to evoke? To take your mind somewhere magical? Most weeks I receive a text from my mother. She likes to keep me abreast of news in the local paper. We live in a farming community, proud of its local produce. And every week on the back page there's an article with an image that captures the alchemy that is a glass of that local produce. It comes to mind every time I have a glass. As Dorothy might have said: "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Provence any more..."

Got milk? Get wine.

back to the floor by Joe Fattorini

What's it like being a sommelier? 

I knew once. I was one. Then, like childbirth, you forget the pain, the odd-looking equipment and red stuff splashed all over the floor.

This week, twenty five years on, I returned to service. And the memories of swollen ankles, angry recriminations and peculiar tongs came flooding back. Oh yes, and being dismissed high-handedly by people who hold their knife like a pen.

And with that you see how swiftly we descend. Diner vs sommelier. The very word sommelier brings out the worst in us. People view sommeliers as insufferable wine-popinjays, too grand to carry dirty plates. The sommelier senses this. And responds by critiquing your cutlery skills and your husband's "natty" dress sense in the wash-pantry. OK, so that's me doing that. I'm not proud of it.

Which is why we start this week's recommendations with a book: Bianca Bosker's Cork Dork.

It's a first-hand journey into the world of sommeliers and their weird obsessions. A brilliantly written one too. By turns funny, eye-opening, slightly disconcerting and then funny again. Read this book and I defy you to look at (and talk to) sommeliers the same way again.

Because what you'll find is that (for the most part) sommeliers - dare I say, we - are here to help you find the right wine, for the right occasion, at the right price. 

So picture your sommelier.

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Maybe that's a bit ambitious. Something more... realistic?

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Okay, split the difference.

Your pictured sommelier is ready to use their expertise to turn the two plus two of your food and drink purchase into the five of a memorable experience. In doing so, you must trust us. Surrender a little control for your greater good.

Trust us when we try to gently suggest "the Pinot Grigio you ordered Mrs Holds-Knife-Like-Pen, will disappear under the food you ordered. What you need is something like The Wine Foundry Godello 2016 (Aldi, £6.49). More zest for food. But the same scented softness that you like." She didn't, and wasn't happy. But that's her loss. And Mr Natty-Little-Suit's loss too. I know I said "good choice, madam". But that's my job. Fibbed for your pleasure.

Our job isn't to just pour your favourite wines, nor to make you drink our favourite wines either. It's to find your new favourite wines. But we know you don't know what it is yet.

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This means trying wines you've not had before. Like the somms' favourite, Grüner Veltliner. The problem with Gruner Veltliner is it looks like a German, sounds like a German and we don't think we like wines that are German. As it happens, anyone who tries Markus Huber's Morrisons Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterreich, Austria 2016 (£8, Morrisons) will find this is dry, elegant and stone-fruity. Like all the best Grüners it has a twist of pepper on the back palate that makes it perfect with summer food. (Anyone who searches for it online will find the autocorrect for this wine is Grindr Veltliner, which brings up an altogether different set of search results.)

Another variety you may be gently motioned toward is Furmint. Royal Tokaji Dry Furmint 2015 (£9.99, or £8.99 on the mix-six deal at Majestic) is the place to begin. It's one for anyone who likes Sauvignon Blanc but would like more grown up flavours of quince and linden and/or doesn't want to douse their food in aromas of gooseberry and asparagus wee.

(Incidentally, this week Lidl announced a new range of Hungarian Furmints coming into their already impressive wine department. Although not everyone is happy. Fans of Twitter-handbags-at-dawn-stroppiness like me will enjoy this thread immensely).

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Good sommeliers don't encourage you to drink odd or unusual for the sake of it. We've done the hard tasting, so you don't have to. Not all grapes thrive in new locations. But we've discovered Albariño DOES thrive in the hills of Uruguay, as Bodega Garzón Colinas de Uruguay Albariño, Maldonado, Uruguay 2016 (£8, Sainsbury's) amply shows, with a friendly stone-fruit and salad complexity. It also gives you the opportunity (with apologies to Homer Simpson) to look at the bottle and declare "hey there's a wine here from You-Are-Gay". It's an old one and not a good one, but what were you expecting? Mark Twain?

Sommeliers are obsessives. Trainspotterish in the pursuit of the weird and wonderful in wine. So do indulge us occasionally. It's worth putting up with 30 seconds of a lecturette on the complexities of cement-egg fermenters if you get to enjoy Zorzal Eggo Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina 2015 (£16, Marks & Spencer). I can hear you already, sucking air between your teeth and wincing at £16. But this has a silkiness to luxuriate in, a vibrancy to the fruit and an energy that makes you smile. It's our job to know that involves vast cement eggs and the rotation of the earth keeping solids in suspension and... I'll stop speaking now. Enjoy your wine sir.

Perhaps it's the ritual that doesn't help.

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The presenting. The ceremony. The wondering what you're looking for when you sniff at it. (If you're wondering it's the wet rag/cardboard smell of a corked wine. If you think you can smell it, send the wine back). All this implies that you have to choose something expensive. But don't be afraid to enjoy the ceremony without the flash. Good wines are good wines no matter the cost. And good sommeliers love it when someone recognises - or encourages them to recommend - one of their better value choices. I've just written a list with something very similar to Wine Atlas Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain 2015 (£4.98, Asda) on it. It's a treat, all juicy, fun and fleshy. And great value too.

And that's all we have time for. I'm back on the floor in ten minutes. Gently advising. Encouraging. Supporting. We're here to help you. Don't sneer. Oh, and let us pour... 

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hot tub wine machine by Joe Fattorini

What happens in the hot tub, stays in the hot tub.

Unless of course it's something that would cause colleagues and friends to be amused/horrified/require tests at a GUM clinic. Or means the hot tub needs draining, disinfecting, filtering, refilling, draining again, exorcising, refilling and you have to have a bit of a mental block every time you use it in future. In those circumstances it's fair game. Spill. Go on. What did they do? The dirty buggers.

Onto today's big question. What's the best wine for the hot tub? Is there anything that can beat the mighty Listel Rose available for £7.99 at Ocado (or €2.70 if you know where Cliff goes in France?)

Possibly "Jacuzzi Family Vineyards" in California? Set up by Valeriano Jazuzzi, one of the brothers whose pumps and baths business made the original Jacuzzi. But they make reds and whites and we're looking for something pink.

The main requirements are:

  1. Cheap
  2. Cold
  3. "Easy drinking"
  4. Able to overcome the heady aroma of chlorine
  5. Did I say cheap?

Well, we'll come onto cheap in a minute. Let's start by asking a question that's always useful when facing a new or distinctive challenge: what would Ian Beale do?

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The Sage of Walford says we should have a glass of fizz. Like Graham Beck The Rhona Rose £15.00 from Marks & Spencer. Yes, yes, I know it's more than you thought you were going to spend. But you're enjoying a moment of luxury. Decadence. Indulgence. Those are Ian's toes gently tickling your calf. Don't ruin it with a bottle of "Euine - (wine-flavoured pink beverage. May not contain real wine)" that you bought on offer at Texaco. No. This calls for frothy bubbles, soft red fruit and a ripe juicy finish.

Of course things can get pretty wild in the "HT". So what do you want when everyone is all...

Well, we need to dial it up with the flavour. Also, it is a law universally acknowledged that wine in hot tubs containing more than two people mostly ends up spilling in the water. So we want this to be cheap and fruity. And none come more perfectly qualified than the Pink Mad Bull itself that is the minor legend Toro Loco rose £3.79 from Aldi. Consistently the best value, funster rose in the UK for about 4 years. If you find subtlety and grace here you're doing it wrong. This is a raspberry delight for parties. You see, you didn't have to wait long for "cheap".

It is of course a misconception that all hot tub parties are wild affairs.

Berry Bros. & Rudd Provence Rosé by Château la Mascaronne £12.95 is an altogether more grown up wine. Floral, complex and gently spiced. Serious. But still engaging and fresh just this time with wild fruit and wild herbs from the garrigue. When owner Tom Bove sold his vineyards to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, he kept this small, immaculate parcel for himself. Hard to work, but reckoned among the greatest sites in Provence, this is a treat for the senses. And if that wasn't enough dinner-party/hot tub anecdotery, this is also where Pink Floyd recorded part of The Wall.

Because far from being the 'nasty sex pond' of the public imagination, hot tubs can be dignified, adult spaces where people of like minds can get over the stresses of the day while gently soaking in pure water, evoking the spirit of Shinto spirituality...

So here are a few recommendations to help mask the reality that someone's forgotten the bubble cycle has finished. Santa Julia, Plus Malbec Rosé, Mendoza 2016 £8.50 from Sainsbury's is big and juicy and packed with soft spices. Whilst those who want to keep it French and classy need to grab a bottle of Tesco, Finest Sancerre Rosé, Loire 2015 £11.00 with a fresher, lighter, zestier take on the strawberries and cream perfume of good rose. And let's not forget the 'special occasion' classics like Whispering Angel Rose, 2016. You can pay anywhere between £16.00 (Waitrose) and £24.00 (Majestic) so make sure you buy clever for a bottle of this juicy, rich and heady rose. If you are going to spend more than £20.00 with the Chateau d'Esclans estate, buy their classier, more Burgundian, food-friendly Rock Angel Rose £21.00 at FromVineyardsDirect.

Finally, is there something that is good value ("cheap"), fizzy, fun, fruity and captures the true spirit of the hot tub as much as...

I reckon you can't go wrong with M&S Rose d'Anjou 2016 on offer right now at £6.00 (normally £9.00). Fresh and bright with lots of juicy, sweet strawberry flavours and cleaner than the water once you get out.

And that is it. It's time to turn the heat up to "lobster boil", put Kenny G on the water-resistant UE Boom and watch the moon rise.

Oh, and please remember to Hot Tub responsibly.