I just want to be alone

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The truly rich have it easy: they can grab any old pounds 40 Burgundy out of the cellar and pop the cork. The rest of us want one of two things. We seek either (A) to treat ourselves to something particularly nice or (B) to assuage lingering feelings of guilty self-indulgence by drinking anything, whether vile or merely humdrum. Option B lets us think, "well, I'm not drinking anything special". But it's a false economy if it leads you to drink hog sweat.

With these divergent aims in mind, I solicited supermarket samples in two colours and two price ranges: pounds 4 to pounds 6 and pounds 6 to pounds 7. I figured that someone who usually spends a fiver a bottle might like to go a quid in either direction when drinking alone, while someone who spends more might like to assuage the guilt feelings by spending less. Halves didn't take part in the exercise, as they're rare in supermarkets and generally not of top quality.

While slurping the samples, I came up with what I may patent as Ehrlich's Laws of Solitary Drinking. One: the wine should not be so stunningly complex that you yearn to share your impressions with someone else. Two: it should be appealing and approachable in a way that makes you frequently think, "this is delicious, and I deserve it."

All the wines I have selected conform to Ehrlich's Laws. All can be drained to the halfway mark and resealed with a Vacu-Vin, Wine Saver or something similar. And they all go down well with just about anything - even, dare I say it, a ready-meal from the place where you bought the bottle of wine.

Go on then, enjoy that solo bottle. Consider it as a token of your self-esteem.


White: Benguela Current Western Cape Chardonnay 1996, pounds 4.49. Easy drinking from South Africa.

Red: Savannah Pinotage, pounds 4.99. Ditto.


White: Dopff au Moulin Tokay Pinot Gris Reserve 1994, pounds 6.95. Deli-cious, not-quite-dry Alsace, with ripe fruit and good finish. Perfect with Chinese food.

Red: Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvig-non 1995, pounds 6.45. Pour 15 minutes ahead of time - it's closed-up but improves in the glass. Buy a bottle for now and one for in a few years.


White: Ryland's Barrel-Fermen- ted Chenin Blanc 1996, pounds 3.99. Refreshing break from Chardonnay.

Red: Villa Pigna Cabernasco 1994, pounds 5.99. Soft, juicy fruit touched by slight pepperiness. Delicious stuff.


White: Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 1996, pounds 3.99. As refreshing a wine as you could ask for, but with aromatic, lemony zing. Perfect for fish.

Red: Cecchi Barrique Aged Caber-net Sauvignon 1994, pounds 5.99. This Tuscany curiosity is pleasantly gluggable, but don't rush it or you'll miss the subtlety. A wine for pasta with any meat sauce.


White: Madeba Reserve Chardon-nay/Sauvignon Blanc 1995, pounds 4.99.

Light oak, with the combination of grapes giving an intriguing balance of lightness and depth.

Red: Carmen Merlot Reserva 1995, pounds 5.99. Fresh and plummy Chilean, one of the most globally appealing red wines I've tasted in yonks.