Instant Regret

The product of a certain confectioner wouldn’t fly in the wine world.
Morris Gleitzman

This is a confession. I wish I could spritz it up like a cheap bottle of fun plonk with added bubbles and sugar, but I can’t because its terroir is shame and its residual effect on my middle palate will always be a pucker of regret.

I’ve just participated, willingly and knowingly, in one of the most grotesque acts of retail deception since the makers of wine gums finally admitted that their product is not made from either wine or gums.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m all for innovation in marketing. I’m expecting a very positive and lucrative response from the publishers of Who’s Who to my suggestion that they increase their sales massively by publishing a companion volume, Who’s Not Who.

But what were you thinking, very famous chocolate producer (whose name, I’ve just been informed by lawyers on a diet, must be obscured despite their multi-million dollar global marketing)? I’ve trusted you all my life. To me you’ve always belonged in the first volume above, not the second. If you or your parent company had diversified into wine and released a cool-climate shiraz, I’d have bought it unhesitatingly, even if it did contain 65% cocoa butter.

No more. Not since I said, “Hot chocolate, please,” to a flight attendant on a recent flight in Europe. Even as she handed it to me, I sensed something was wrong, despite the reassuring presence of the words ‘hot chocolate’ on the front of the cardboard cup. Maybe it was the pitying look she gave me, or maybe it was just glimpsing the words ‘instant chocolate flavoured drink with sugar and sweeteners’ on the back of the cup.

I could have pulled out at this point and preserved my consumer integrity and self-respect, but a lifetime of chocolate lust had me in its grip and so I didn’t – not even when I went on to read that the beverage contained less than 20% cocoa.

I’m going to draw a compassionate veil over the appearance, aroma and taste of the liquid in question. I’ll just say that those words on the front of the cup were, how can I put it in a way that won’t upset the lawyers, contentious.

How did they think they’d get away with it? If Penfolds, Felton Road, Château Lafite or Screaming Eagle put out a wine labelled ‘wine flavoured drink with tannin syrup and skimmed phenolics’, and mentioned along the way that it contained only 16% grape juice, the tasting panel of this magazine would tear them a new bung hole.

True, the history of wine contains the odd blemish, and sleeping in a few cellars are bottles with noble labels too shy to mention the automotive chemicals lurking in their past. But compared to this outrage by one of the world’s best-known (despite their sudden invisibility) chocolate producers, most winemakers are paragons.

Don’t get any ideas, though, cellar rats. The lawyers will be off that diet soon, and may well remember why they were called to the bar (375g) in the first place.