What can office hardware teach us about wine?

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We have two printers in our office.  Or rather, we were forced to get a second printer because the first one is so ridiculously stupid and awful. We’ve kept the old one since it has a few additional functions that the new one doesn’t have, like scanning documents and photocopying.

The main reason we needed the second printer is that the first one is very slow and uses a ridiculous amount of ink, the cartridges are very expensive and it seems to glug about one a fortnight in each colour despite not actually being very good at printing. While its scanning and photocopying features are useful to the business, trying to get it to do either of these things can be a half-hour long ordeal, at the end of which mere mortals like myself often just give up or collapse in tears.  It doesn’t like when you question it though; if you just keep pushing its buttons a smug and slightly patronising message will appear on the screen saying “please wait momentarily”.  “Momentarily”, roughly translated, means “When you have worked out why you have upset me and made things right, and after that, I will only scan your document when I am good and ready.”

The new printer, on the other hand, is like a really helpful colleague that just can’t do enough for you. When it has run out of paper, it tells you so, and when you replenish the paper it inexplicably prints off a picture of itself, not because you have prompted it to but because it is a good printer with a genuine love of printing that just wants to show you what it can do. And all those pictures of itself, when coupled with a packet of highlighter pens, come in pretty handy when colleagues bring their children to work, for keeping them entertained with some slightly baffling yet appropriately office-themed colouring in.  The new printer was really good value and even though it alerts you when it is running out of ink, you can still get a week and more of printing out of it while you are waiting for its much cheaper and easier to insert ink cartridge to arrive.  Despite its limited capabilities, it is a pleasure to work with a device that genuinely radiates joy and industriousness. It loves being a printer and loves helping people, and if it could make you a soothing cup of tea it probably would, unlike its sulky and patronising counterpart with its snooty demeanour and “Please wait momentarily” that I often think is secretly plotting to kill me.


By now I expect you are wondering when I’m going to get on to wine, or maybe you have already tuned out because you think I am trying to sell you a printer – well don’t worry, I’m getting there. And as for the HP LaserJet Professional 1566, well, that bad boy sells itself. Anyway, it was just over a week ago when I was at the end of my tether with the old printer, it’s obnoxious display was telling me to “please configure PC”, something that we have to do on a daily basis because although it will communicate with the computer for a little while, once it has done a really minimal bit of scanning it starts to lose interest and just disassociates itself from all of the other hardware. I was getting pretty angry and beginning to throw a hissy fit.  As it was almost lunchtime, I decided enough was enough. The bad printer was upsetting me and I didn’t want the good printer to hear me swearing.  It has really good manners and has always treated me like a lady and I didn’t want to let it down, so I took a little walk over to Sainsbury’s to calm down.


I picked up a bottle while I was there – one of their “reduced to half price” Clarets.  Now I don’t particularly like naming wines that I’m going to slate (nor printers, apparently) – I think that wine writing should be joyous and positive (like the new printer) and I also don’t consider myself to have a good enough palate to be telling other people what not to drink – nor do I want to insult people that regularly buy and enjoy wines that I don’t like.  But I didn’t love the Claret at all. I do like a bargain, and I am not someone that falls for “half price” offers as a rule, I just wanted to try it and genuinely thought it would be ok for the price.  And I suppose it was ok.  It performed some, but not all, of the tasks that a Merlot-based red Bordeaux ought to do, somewhat reluctantly. Nice opulent fruit? Well, there was some fruit.  A backbone of well-integrated oak? Well, there was a backbone of something sort of chewy.  Layers of flavour?  I suppose, if layers of indistinguishable red fruit and slightly unpleasant unripe green pepper notes constitutes layers.  Feeling somewhat disgruntled, I reached into my wine rack for a bottle of inexpensive Grenache I had been saving for emergencies.

Now I LOVE naming wines that I really rate – and this delightful wine, Bodegas Borsao’s Garnacha, has been consistently impressing me ever since I was the sommelier in a restaurant who had it as their house wine. It punches well above its weight, it offers a big bear hug of flavour, just oozing with raspberries and spice.  It has depth and warmth and just seems to do absolutely everything that a good Garnacha ought to do. It just delivers so much, for so little money, that it always makes me smile, and this time was no exception.

I went back to the Claret but it just wasn’t for me. It didn’t improve with time, decanting it didn’t help, it didn’t go better with food, it might as well have had a slightly patronising tasting note on the back that said “please wait momentarily for flavours to emerge”, with “momentarily”, roughly translated, meaning “you might get to taste some green peppers, if you are lucky”.  My husband drank the rest of it, but the best he could muster up in terms of praise was “it’s not all that bad, is it?”

The lesson here is that wine, just like technology, can sometimes underperform. When I buried the empty Claret bottle in the recycling, I thought about the bad printer and how I could go about taking it down a peg or two. The following morning, I took one of the pictures of itself that the good printer had printed off and stuck it within easy viewing distance of the bad printer so it could see what a good printer looks like.  Now I don’t believe for a second that it will change its evil ways but perhaps I can humiliate it sufficiently that it will start to perform the basic functions of a printer for fear of being relegated to the stationery cupboard, and stop sending me snooty messages.

And wine can also overperform – just like the plucky HP LaserJet Professional 1566, the little Garnacha from Borsao, a perpetual award winner that just can’t seem to do enough to please.  And if you think this is a weird article, just wait until I tell you about the smug toaster that I replaced with a £6 one from Family Bargains, and the Tuscan red for the same price that nearly blew my socks off….