Wine World: The Enigmatic Apostrophe

Elena Brooks, one of the wine-makers at Vintage Wine Partners

Perhaps, like me you are still wondering two years on, why there is an apostrophe “s” in the re-vamped Lotus logo. It really doesn’t make a great deal of sense although some British companies, like Dixon’s for example, have been using that style for years. In 2021, the Charoen Pokphand Group announced it was dropping the Tesco-Lotus brand name thus ending a twenty-three-year association with the famous British supermarket chain. It has been claimed that the apostrophe “s” is not an apostrophe at all. The “s” stands for “smart.” Well, who would have guessed? The result of this peculiar thinking is that everything was re-branded to include the apostrophe “s”, not only in Thailand but Malaysia too.

It was said that the Charoen Pokphand Group acquired Tesco’s operations in Thailand and Malaysia for $10.6 billion. The company portfolio includes the two thousand Lotus outlets, twelve thousand 7-Eleven stores, 136 branches of Makro and four hundred CP Fresh Mart stores. I suppose when you’ve got that kind of money another few million baht for thousands of apostrophe signs doesn’t amount to much. But why?

The apostrophe “s” causes the most common mistakes in English grammar and even native speakers often get it wrong, especially when the final letter is also an “s”.  How often in print do you see things like video’s, camera’s and CD’s? If these words are plurals, they’re all wrong. I sometimes wonder what native Thai speakers make of the curious addition to the name Lotus. Perhaps they do the best thing and simply ignore it. (I thought this was supposed to be a wine column? – Ed.)

Oh dear, I got carried away with punctuation, but it is a fascinating subject. If you think so too, get your hands on the splendid book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a non-fiction work by Lynne Truss published in 2003. The title was inspired by the old joke about a panda visiting a bar, and twenty years on the book is still a hilarious read. But let’s get to the wine.

Shack Cabernet Sauvignon (red), Australia. Bt 460 @ Lotus’s.

Last week I was wandering around the local Lotus’s (how it pains me to type that!) when I came across a few bottles of wine bearing the unlovely name “Shack”. It turned out to be an own-brand product and the price caught my attention because I am always on the hunt for cheap and reliable wines. But why call it “Shack” when there are hundreds of more evocative names? It doesn’t even sound Australian. Honestly, this company really seems to have difficulty with names.

The minuscule print on the back label reveals that the wine was made by a company called Vintage Wine Partners, but you’ll need a magnifying glass or bionic eyes to read it. The wine is a dark red and smells like a Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a good start. You’d be surprised how many Cabernets don’t. Oddly enough, the other day someone asked me what a Cabernet Sauvignon smells like. It’s a good question that doesn’t have a short answer because it depends on where the wine comes from. Generally, Cabernets have a primary aroma of black fruit, notably blackberry or black cherry. The secondary aromas, which are the smells that begin to emerge a bit later can include pepper, licorice and herbs. Some have a scent off fresh tobacco or bell pepper.  This example brings sweet aromas of black fruit and dusty herbs.

It’s a medium-bodied wine and completely dry with light fruit. The mouth-feel is rather soft with gentle tannins. There’s a long, dry finish with slightly tart overtones yet to my mind it’s a pretty good entry-level wine. There’s a certain Australian “feel” to it and although it’s a commercially styled wine it’s more refined than many similar Australian wines, partly because the fruit has been controlled and not allowed to dominate.  At 13% ABV, this would make a useful food wine, and would work with the usual partners that spring to mind for medium-bodied reds.

All wines – whether great or small – benefit from a correct serving temperature. For some reason, many restaurants just don’t get it right. Invariably in these parts, wines are served too cold and feel as though they’ve come straight out of the fridge. White wines can usually survive this rough-and-ready treatment but reds need more care. If they’re too cold, they taste hard and unyielding and the tannins tend to dominate. If the temperature is too high, the same wine can taste flabby and lack focus. As a general rule, enjoy your reds between 15–20° C (62–68° F) which is slighter cooler than the ambient temperature, unless of course the air conditioning is going full-blast. White wines nearly always taste best a bit warmer than fridge temperature, between 7–12° C (49-55° F).

When I was a teenager and became fascinated with photo processing, 20° C was the standard temperature for processing film and photo paper. I eventually learned to recognise it – within a degree or two – just by dipping my finger in the liquid. I don’t suggest you do this with your wine in an elegant restaurant and placing a wine thermometer in the glass looks pretentious. It also makes you look like a twat. However, with practice, I do believe that you can develop an oral memory for temperatures. If, that is, you think it’s worth the bother.