La Capitana Carmen̬re 2005 РBig Yellow Taxi

When I was a kid growing up in Cheadle Hulme, a post war suburb of Manchester, there were shops everywhere.  Within just 10 minutes walk of a fair sized shopping centre in the village, was another conurbation of shops based around the Kenilworth pub.  On one t-junction there was a chemist, a newsagent (RS McColl), a greengrocer, a post office, two bakers, two butchers (Breens’ and Pimlott’s), a toy shop (Playland), a Chinese takeaway, a Shell garage (gas station), a hardware shop, a small grocer and, rather bizarrely, a garden centre (Spreadboroughs – donkey’s years ahead of its time).

Thinking back, it’s amazing that we allowed Tesco and the other major supermarkets to put virtually all these businesses out of business.

I was frequently dragged around the shops and one of the vivid memories I retain is the smell of a butchers shop (we favoured Pimlott’s).  That mixed scent of raw meat and sawdust had a strange attraction and probably inspired my carnivorous adulthood.  La Capitana Carmenère 2005 Viña  La Rosa from Cachapoal Valley which, ironically, came from Tesco has a similar smell.  At £9.47 it is also more than the price of a whole pig in the early 1970s.  Of course, we could afford spare ribs in those days (before they became a delicacy) but rarely, if ever, did steak make the budget red line.

Carmenère often smells woody to me, sometimes of log fires.  This one evoked another childhood memory of a freshly sawn branch in the back garden.  With a dark ruby colour, it tastes rich tannic and full bodied, yet with dark fruits and acidic enough.  Finishing with a little basil and a touch of smoke, it was nice, but I think that there is better value to be found at Tesco.  Maybe it will be on offer soon?

Our little grocer turned into an off licence (Peter Dominic), the butchers probably became charity shops, Playland became an Indian resto.  Numerous video rental shops no doubt spooled with the rise of VHS and then waned with the rise of digital media.  I’m not sure what happened to the other shops, I should go back and look one day.  Progress eh?  We are all better off financially because the supermarkets have such buying power but what about the farmers?  What about the sense of community?  What about the shopkeepers Napoleon so ridiculed?

Before you accuse me of drug fuelled nostalgia tripping, we are all responsible for this change and it is not all for the worse.  But in the ‘burbs you used to be able to buy 98% of what you need within walking distance of your house.  Nowadays you have to drive 14 miles for the privilege of accessing 80%.

Might as well have levelled that corner of Cheadle Hulme and built a large Tesco in its place.  Paved paradise and put up a parking lot.  As Joni Mitchell said, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Disclaimer – I am as guilty as anyone and regularly shop at Tesco – even for wine.  I am also a Tesco shareholder – all hate mail to please.

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