It's 5 am in the morning and I should be in bed. Instead, I'm sitting in the departure lounge at Stansted Airport, waiting for a plane to Bilbao, from where I'm visiting Rioja for the day. I can't begin to express how unappealing the start time this morning was. In order to get to Stansted for the flight, I had very few options. No chance of getting to Liverpool St in order to get the Stansted express, so instead I had to get a minicab to Heathrow (just a few miles from where I live), then the 03:20 National Express coach to Stansted. This meant getting up at 02:40. Alternatives would have been to drive (which would have meant hiring a car because ours is in use), staying the previous night at Stansted or taking a cab all the way there - all of these would have been expensive options.
Forgive me for ranting. National Express coaches are cheap, and tend to run on time, but they're a foul way to travel. Last time I did this trip I was the only person on the coach. This time it was almost full. You don't get any legroom at all. Far less than the worst charter airline. It's physically uncomfortable sitting in the seat. And there was an overweight slob in the seat behind who snored loudly and unpredictably for the whole journey. Loud predictable snoring is bad, but there's something far worse with unpredictable snoring, the sort that comes and goes like waves breaking on the shore, sometimes rising to a noisy crescendo, then lulling into quiet, snotty murmurs, the odd silent spell - rather than being a relief - only serving to build the tension and through a process of anticipation make the next wave even more terrible. Surely the snore is the ugliest sound made by the human body.
I remember as a child the rare occasions when I had to sleep in the same room as my parents. My dear father snores. Loudly. So loudly, infact, that when he goes to bed early you can hear him from downstairs. [I hope he doesn't mind me disclosing this.] So sharing a room with him was utter hell. You absolutely had to fall asleep first, and deeply, and hope that you weren't woken during the night. We used to go camping for our summer holidays, and I recall sleeping in the car with the windows up simply because this was the most effective means of muffling the loud snores coming from my parents' compartment of the tent.
Back to wine. This evening I tried an unusual Chilean wine: Anakena Ona's Pinot Noir Merlot 2005 from Casablanca Valley. Who ever heard of Pinot Noir blended with Merlot? Actually, the proportions are such that it could simply be labelled Pinot Noir in many wine countries: 79% Pinot, 15% Merlot, 3% Syrah and 3% Viognier. The wine itself shows supple, ripe red berry fruits with a bit of blackcurrant and red cherry. It's quite ripe and a little confected, but there's nice freshness to the fruit, together with just a hint of medicinal character. It would be interesting to taste blind. You'd certainly place it in the new world, but beyond this it would be tricky. Quite a nice food wine because of its freshness. £8.99 Oddbins.