Bloody Good Red: a wine for tigers


“In my childhood I was a fervent worshipper of the tiger: not the jaguar, the spotted “tiger” of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of vegetation that float down the Parana, but that striped, Asiatic, royal tiger, that can be faced only by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant. I used to linger endlessly before one of the cages at the zoo; I judged vast encyclopedias by the splendour of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations: I who cannot rightly recall the brow or the smile of a woman.) Childhood passed away, and the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but still they are in my dreams. At that submerged or chaotic level they keep prevailing. And so, as I sleep, some dream beguiles me, and suddenly I know I am dreaming. Then I think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will; and now that I have unlimited power, I am going to cause a tiger.

Oh, incompentence! Never can my dreams engender the wild beast I long for. The tiger indeed appears, but stuffed or flimsy, or with impure variations of shape, or of an implausible size, or all too fleeting, or with a touch of the dog or bird.”

Jorge Luis Borges, Dreamtigers

Bloody Good Red 2005, Santa Cruz, USA 13.5% alcohol £8.99 a bottle (Oddbins)

I am born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger, so I couldn’t go past a label featuring a tiger holding a glass of red wine in its paw and licking his chops. There’s even a knocked over bottle behind it (see there – the similiarities between me and tigers are endless).

Like Borges, as a child I judged National Geographic on the quality of their tiger photography. For this reason, the label alone, passes my test. Turn it over, and the label is either written by the label’s drunk tiger or a drunk copywriter. The idea of either writing a wine label was enough to make me laugh….

But apart from the label, the wine is powerful and the blend is certainly courageous. I haven’t had the opportunity to try much Californian wine; and, when I have it’s been of the ubiquitous Gallo family range, which is so bright I feel like I should put on sunglasses.

They don’t mention the varieties on the label but every part of the palate is tickled, and all at once: Carignan, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Zinfandel (of course), Barbera and Shiraz.

Randall Grahm, the winemaker at Bonny Doon, notes:

‘Though we are working in a Mediterranean climate, there is an aspect of a cooler-climate Loire Cabernet Franc that manifests: floral, spicy with dusty rose, cherry, and cola notes balanced by finely integrated tannin and buoyed by the strong raspeberriosity for which Bonny Doon has long been known and distrusted.’

It’s full-bodied, but not sickly sweet (which, unfortunately, is the stereotypical Californian wine) and has a savoury, almost flat finish. If democracy was a wine, then this is how it would taste; every variety takes an equal and fair part in the overall taste to create a harmonious, even finish.

But that’s not how I imagine a Tiger, mine is closer to William Blake’s “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright in the forest of the night”. But how do you put a real tiger in a bottle? Or a dreamtiger, for that matter.

Blake’s Tyger from “Songs of Experience”
(written in London in 1794, having never seen a real tiger)

At least, I wasn’t mauled by high alcohol and sugar… No, as a “tiger” myself, it was the tiger on the label, drinking a glass of red, that got me in; and, once there, I was happy to stay for a lazy afternoon on the savannah and drink a glass or two of bloody good red.


Comments are closed.