Picnic pal: Vino2Go sippy cup for wine

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All great inventions are founded in some form of genius. Whether it was the creation of Velcro many years ago or the telephone before that, someone, somewhere, came up with a great idea that no one else had.

Today we are surrounded by phones and just about everything seems to have Velcro on it, likely keeping someone’s shoes on their feet or a jacket closed. While they might have started out as curiosities, their undeniable usefulness eventually turned them into ubiquitous items in our lives, the sort of things we can’t imagine living without.

Some great ideas take an existing invention and make it even better. Some don’t. Take, for example, a Dyson vacuum cleaner. The world had no shortage of devices designed to suck dust out of our carpets, loose change from our couches and all those impossible-to-replace pieces of your eight-year-old’s Lego Millenium Falcon that he neglected to pick up off the floor despite being nagged about it four times.

And then we have Vino2Go, a travel mug cup for wine that arrived on my doorstep recently. I said I would give it a try and post an honest review about it, so that’s what we have here. I gave it the full Dispatches From a Grape Nut treatment for your benefit, which means we all can rest assured I’m unlikely to be sent anything to review ever again.

Anyway, when it comes to the Vino2Go, think travel mug for coffee except clear so you can see the contents – that is what we have here. In fact, very little separates it from its coffee-bearing cousin, except the interior is shaped like a wine glass so that, when you pour your vinous fluid into this vessel, it looks like the top of a wine glass  has been suspended in a container.

So far, so good, right? Just like a coffee cup, it has snug lid with a flap to prevent fluid leaking out – just in case it tips over, either on your picnic blanket or anywhere else you might be drinking (hopefully not your car’s cup holder, however).

I can only imagine this ‘handy’ device came into existence to solve that age-old problem: spillage when using any other type of glass or cup when you’re busy getting sozzled at a sun-drenched picnic. Proper wine glasses? Not only can they tip over easily if you have anything but a flat surface, but they can break, too, which is never any fun if you have a tendency to prance barefoot through the grass.

Plastic or styrofoam cups? Again, they can tip, but they also have a predilection for tasting like plastic. While I don’t expect the average person would sip  a glass of Le Montrachet from a plastic cup, but one person’s unattainable wine is a Russian oligarch’s picnic plonk – so you never know.

Made of BPA-free acrylic, this spill-resistant cup is unlikely to add nasty flavours to your tipple, but don’t take that as a guarantee that your wine will taste splendid, either. I tested this one out with Les Dents de Lion Viognier 2011 from Laithwaite’s and, well, it tasted much better out of my Riedel glasses. Not that this should come as a surprise. If you’re going to drink out of one of these you’re probably better off selecting something more rough and ready from your wine merchant’s lower shelves.

And then there are the detracting points.

First, you’re still drinking out of a plastic cup, one with a wide rim at that, which means it’s unlikely to maximise the flavour profile of whatever you’re sipping. Second, you’re drinking wine from something that looks like a children’s cup, which means those glances you’re getting have nothing to do with people thinking you have something cool and everything to do with them wondering what on earth you’re doing.

Finally, this thing costs £14.99. I know it defeats the purpose to say you can buy a half-decent Riedel glass for that money, but I’m going to say it anyway: you can buy a half-decent Riedel glass for that money. In fact, you can buy more than one if you find a good deal.

But hey, if you have £14.99 to spend and absolutely must drink your wine out of something that will prevent spills at a picnic while also keeping your drink of warming up too much, who am I to tell you what you can and can’t do?

Just remember not to confuse it with your coffee mug when you’re driving to work.

Hard lessons: Tesco Express wine shelf letdown

ID-10044110I should have known better. There I was on Tuesday evening last week, standing in what could have been the world’s most depressing wine aisle, searching for a bottle of red wine match a pizza and a Bradley Cooper film.

What had originally been (loosely) planned as a small celebration of achieving my permanent residence in the UK fell to the wayside when we went to the pub directly after work and then straight to a house in a neighbourhood where the best wine merchant has “Tesco” written above its door.

Having been despatched to find us a ‘good bottle of red’ I walked into the Tesco Express [Note: I previously incorrectly identified it as a Tesco Metro – for shame!] full of ambition and determination. “This is Tesco,” I told myself. “They have an enormous wine range. Not all of it is  that 2-for-1 swill they so often peddle to the masses. What could possibly go wrong?”

Everything. This was a Tesco Express like no other. When I rounded the corner of the drinks aisle, I walked past the red wine shelf without even noticing it. I walked two laps around the shop before realising I had walked past it the first time. Turning back to the drinks aisle for the second time, I spotted the display – about three feet wide at most and tucked in at the end – then asked the shop assistant, who was stocking its shelves, if this was all they had.

“That’s it,” he said nodding in its direction. His demeanour suggested few people ever ask about the wine section in this shop. The sheer volume of beer and alcopops in the chiller suggested wine is an afterthought in these parts.

With my instincts in the right place, I scanned the top shelf for the finest wines. Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet. £9.99.

My heart sank. That was as good as it was going to get.

The selection was a motley crew of the usual suspects in the old 2-for-1 swindle. There was Jacob’s Creek, masquerading at twice its actual price for all £9.99 of my British pounds. Then I spotted the Chilean Isla Negra Merlot Reserva. £9.99 again. But wait, on the shelf below was another Isla Negra, this time the Isla Negra Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon. For £4.99.

Stepping back a few feet, I took in the entire display and discovered that every bottle before me was part of the 2-for-1 marketing scheme, a perpetual pawn in the 50-per-cent-off game, a ploy to get you to buy not just one bottle of wine you didn’t want, but two.

Pile it high, sell it cheap.

I looked back at the shop assistant, who was unloading clinking wine bottles from their cardboard boxes with the care and attention of a longshoreman, and asked, pointing at the Isla Negra cabernet sauvignon, “So are these always on some sort of 50 per cent off deal?”

Unsurprised, he nonchalantly replied, “Always. Last week it was the merlot. This week it’s the cabernet sauvignon. It will probably be the merlot again next week.”

Knowing I couldn’t win here, I grabbed a bottle of the Castillo San Lorenzo Rioja, itself at 50 per cent off at £5.99 and, full of rational thought at that point, decided I should also buy a bottle of Tesco Cava for a fiver.

Because if I’m going to get ripped off, I might as well make it feel like a celebration.