An old friend turned up on my doorstep this weekend. A friend I had not seen or been associated with since my student days and, given that back then we were virtually inseparable, I admit to feeling a little ashamed at our reunion. Ashamed that in the ensuing years I barely mentioned her name except as the butt of jokes or derision, unlike my new pals who came from exotic places and new worlds.
So there I sat staring at my former pal: a bottle of Blue Nun. Rumour had it that the totem of Seventies naff was back, and hence the visit today. Then, Blue Nun was certainly not considered vulgar: apart from being clutched by my mitts, it was photographed on tour with Rod Stewart, mentioned in song by Elvis Presley and was, for most of us, the introduction to the world of wine.
Apart from the familiarity of the fluted, blue glass bottle, it seems time has been kind to the blue one. Having undergone a youthful makeover, it looks quite spritely, and the eponymous lady of the cloth is now a tiny discreet emblem on the label.
But there’s no escaping the Teutonic contents. German wines, once the darlings of the wine world, used to sit comfortably alongside a claret or a fine burgundy. But then came Liebfraumilch. The popularity of this young upstart of variable quality, and its subsequent fall from grace, tarnished all but the odd German Riesling along with it.
And the taste? If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t remember being as concerned about serving temperatures as I now am and will – shamefully – admit that I think I drank the Blue Nun warm. So to give it my full attention, I cooled this one down to the recommended ‘lightly chilled’, and chose a roomy glass to enable a full-on swirl, sniff and glug.
The original, non-varietal designated wine has gone, replaced by a blend of the Rivaner and Riesling grape varieties. The aroma is definitely off-dry, and there’s a hint of nail polish remover and an old-fashioned boiled sweet that I can’t quite put a name to. The taste is not unpleasant either, but to a lover of bone-dry wine it still leans a little too much towards sweet. I think, however, it may be a great partner for eclectic, lightly spiced foods, particularly Thai and sushi.
But what of the Nun’s Seventies contemporaries? I used to have a penchant for Paul Masson wine, which went with me to posh dinner parties, and I’m sure I still have a few carafe-bottles lurking somewhere in the attic. It seems the Californian, too, has survived and even has a Facebook page. As for Mateus, the iconic rosé – which suffered a similar fall from grace in the UK but continued as a brand leader in other countries – was the first of the kitsch wines to be rebranded and made-over, and I am not in the least uncomfortable being seen with a bottle these days.
I’m not quite ready to take on the Blue Nun cause yet, at least not before testing it out on a few friends first. And as the problem to overcome is perception not taste, I won’t tell them what it is. I’m confident that, had I been served the wine blind with a Tom Yum soup, I would have greeted my old friend with affection.