[Descartes: I drink therefore I am]
If Iris Murdoch had written a wine book, it would have been a very short, high-brow guide to plonk. Although she creates an old-school wine merchant in her 1961 novel The Severed Head, she admitted she knew very little about fine wine. Indeed, she didn't want to know much about it, as she preferred to stick to cheap stuff, on the grounds that if she ever got a taste for good wine, she'd never be able to go back to plonk. In The Sea, The Sea one character offers to initiate another into the pleasures of good wine, but the latter doesn't accept, saying, ' Why wantonly destroy one's palate for cheap wine?'
With the current emphasis on austerity, I think an Iris Murdoch wine book would sell well. Hers is a sensible, pragmatic philosophy in many ways, but as an argument, it's as water-tight and invertedly snobbish as saying you never want to read Jane Austen or George Eliot for fearing of losing your taste for chick-lit. However, having been to the spring press tastings held by the major supermarkets over the last week, I have to say that Iris Murdoch would be in her drinking element at the moment. There are some amazingly good value wines available, wines that are actually pleasant, well-made, clean, and fruity compared to the cheap and nasty 'good value' wines of yore. And they come in a bottle. These are my top three wines under £4:
Tesco Simply Côtes du Rhône 2011 is smartly packaged, and is a simple, easy-going, very drinkable, light red wine. It's pale and peppery, with decent structure and length, and would be excellent lightly chilled, and very good with food. It costs £3.79 which is brilliant value.
Gran Tresori Garnacha Rosé 2011 is also from Tesco and is a mere £3.49 for a fresh, well-made pink wine with good, fruity, Spanish character. It's also dry, unlike so many sickly, sweetbag-style, cheap rosés.
Another Iris Murdoch/Spanish rosé is the El Guia Rosado 2011 from Waitrose. This is as good as it gets for £3.99: dry, fruity, well-balanced, and very clean. Serve very cold, and enjoy the colour.
[Clearly, philosophers have always done a lot of drinking as well as thinking. For more wine/drinking philosophy, there's always the inimitable Philosophers' Song (useful refs here), and the book on wine by contemporary philosopher, Roger Scruton.]