An unpacker's lament


My life has changed in so many ways since we moved into our brand-new flat on 5 December 2016. 

The views from our eyrie overlooking King’s Cross are very different from those of the far more verdant NW3; learning to cook on induction hobs rather than my trusty gas- and electricity-fired Cornue range has proved much easier than I could have imagined; and the inability to be able to walk out into the garden is something I am gradually getting used to. 

But the smaller footprint of our flat, and the fact that this is in a communal building rather than a freestanding detached house, has had one particularly significant impact on my life and on my role as ‘Mr Robinson'. Since our move has had a significant effect for all those who want to have their wines tasted, I thought that I should explain the changes in the hope that those at the odd misbehaving winery will mend their ways.

The great advantage of living in a house was that there was simply more space. There was more space for the wine deliveries; more space for the wines to be stored; more space for the wines to be got out of their boxes; and more space in which to stash the rubbish away.

And although our deliveries now go to the concierge of our building some way away (yes, it is more often than not me who collects them, signs for them and then carries them to the lift and up to our floor), and although we are blessed with a more-than-averagely-sized flat, space is still at a premium. Which brings me to my point.

Awaiting us on our return from the Languedoc this week were many packages of unsolicited samples: 36 different bottles from numerous different countries – France, Italy, South Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand. While almost all of the bottles were neatly, thoughtfully and sensibly packaged in the many secure cardboard packing options available now (I can't remember the last time we took delivery of a broken bottle) which can be broken down and sent straight to the recycling bin along the corridor, one parcel could not.

This was not the largest parcel (thank heavens!) but it was unquestionably the messiest, one that took up nearly a whole rubbish bag on its own, and even had me hoovering up the floor of the kitchen and the front of our kitchen cupboards.

The reason for all this annoying rubbish was that this parcel of only three bottles was the only package where the sender had used polystyrene to wrap his precious bottles in rather than thick cardboard outers. Admittedly the three bottles arrived unbroken, but then so did all of them. Polystrene (known as Styrofoam in the US) is relatively inexpensive but I do not believe that in this instance it proved its value.

I will not name names – the winery’s name begins with an N, ends with an F*, and is based in otherwise environmentally conscious New Zealand – but I hereby warn Jancis that this is the last polystyrene package I am prepared to open for her.

We are still finding little white particles…

Jancis adds *By coincidence Rosie Finn of Neudorf contacted me yesterday to warn me she was sending another wine to taste. I asked what material she would be shipping it in and, because of this, she discovered that, although Neudorf are 'proud to be an accredited sustainable vineyard' and use exclusively recyclable cardboard for their packaging, their international freight shipper was repacking everything in polystyrene. This has now been untangled and we hope that said shipper will abandon this unnecessary practice.