Rose Prince: Life's little luxuries will lose their cachet

Share

Forget the chardonnay. Champagne is now such a bargain that you can afford to enrich your TV dinner with the fizzing nectar. But will we want to open champagne at christenings, seduce with it, or use it to show off our affluence when it has become quite non-exclusively cheap?

Forget the chardonnay. Champagne is now such a bargain that you can afford to enrich your TV dinner with the fizzing nectar. But will we want to open champagne at christenings, seduce with it, or use it to show off our affluence when it has become quite non-exclusively cheap?

The bargain prices are the fault of makers who thought they could benefit from high millennium demand, miscalculated and were left with a glut. And where there's a glut there's a price war.

Like much French regional produce, champagne holds an appellation contrôlée, no similar drink can be made outside the area and give itself the same name. An appellation contrôlée gives a brand an air of exclusivity.

One imagines a mere handful of pampered, black-legged poulet de Bresse are available to those willing to pay £15 a kilo. Roquefort, maturing in its caves, is made in minute quantities which the price reflects. But when a so-called exclusive label reveals its ability to reproduce on a grand scale, to the point that it finds its image plastered against supermarket windowpanes ­ "baked beans 12p! Duval Leroy £6.99!" ­ it's risking an imminent loss of cachet.

The fashion industry plays Russian roulette with its designer labels. If they are worn by the few the many will hanker after them. But once the many have bought the T-shirt, the influential few will look elsewhere for something to patronise. "Look at Prada," a fashion editor says, "there is so much Prada, it has saturated the market and become too accessible." Then, dismissive sotto voce, "Everyone's wearing it."

Yep, it's everywhere all right, on every shoe, bag and zipper. And with a loss of exclusivity, often comes the suspicion that there may be a loss of quality. The makers will protest, but there are grounds for that unease.

Salmon was a rich man's fish until modern aquaculture made it possible to produce ton upon ton of it in fish farms. The price went down, and the shoppers' perception was that the quality was as high as that of its wild cousin. Now it has been revealed that intensive salmon farming raises serious health and environmental concerns, and farmed salmon has lost any cachet it once had.

It is not only the salmon whose fortune has been reversed. The biddable cod, so easy to catch, has been chronically overfished. Atlantic stocks are low and a 10-week fishing ban has been enforced in the North Sea, due to be lifted next week. The staple of a cheap fish 'n' chip meal is now soaring in price and allure in starred restaurants.

In Perugia, Umbria, home to Italy's favourite fungi, the white truffle, millions have been invested in a scheme to impregnate the roots of oak-tree saplings with the spores of truffles. Success could mean truffles will be sold alongside potatoes and other mass-produced foodstuffs. Meanwhile, Cornwall has applied for its own appellation contrôlée, for the pasty. Will you foot the bill for a limited-edition, native pasty? I guess you will.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - North West London, £35-40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant (ACCA / CIMA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Team

£11 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A 10 year old girl who has profound an...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment: William Keegan’s new book

John Rentoul
EastEnders needs to review its take on Cockney life  

Ending the watershed is crossing the line of our TV culture

Jane Merrick
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore