Thursday 2 July 2020

Last orders

After a decade, we’re bringing Sediment to a close.


It’s exactly ten years since we started the blog, and in that time we have written over 500 posts; produced an e-book, Wining & Dining; and the Sediment hardback book, which won an André Simon award and came out in a subsequent paperback edition. We have drunk some of the best wine, and a lot of the worst; and we have even made our own. It’s been a ton of fun - but you have to take a break some time; and that time is now.


We’d particularly like to thank Toby Buchan, who edited our book; Julian Barnes, who gave us our André Simon Award; and our long-suffering wives, to whom we are still, luckily, married.


And if you have been, thanks for reading.


Charles Jennings & Paul Keers

Tuesday 23 June 2020

I’m Going To Get Lit Up

So the plan is this, when this whole damn thing comes to some sort of end: 

- I shall get my hair cut while having a glass of wine. I’ve actually done this before and it’s pretty good. Unless I’m wearing a mask, of course. Could try and drink through the mask; but then what’s the point of the mask in the first place? Maybe the hairdresser needs to stand back while I lower the mask, take a swig. Surely if I’m steeped in alcohol, that makes me less infectious?

- I shall peer through the windows of recently-reopened shops while holding a glass of wine. Although possibly not drinking from it, depending on local by-laws and restrictions.

- I shall sit down heavily on a pub bench and drink beer and eat crisps, sighing audibly and saying I can’t remember the last time I did this. The fact that I can’t remember the last time I did anything is in no way going to subdue my enjoyment. The sitting down heavily is also very much part of the experience.

- I shall attempt to drink whisky in a moving lift. I’ve heard of people doing this and it’s always struck me as the height of cool. Going up or down, though? Or both?

- I shall stand around in an art gallery at a private showing, drinking wine, if anyone ever asks me to a private showing at an art gallery again. Failing that, I shall have a drink before going into any old gallery and a drink when I come out. The term Gallery, so far as I’m concerned, includes car dealerships and shoe shops.

- I shall accept tasters of beverages in supermarkets instead of pretending that I’m too pressed to hang around drinking free samples.

- I shall, God willing, drink something, anything, in someone else’s house, before, during and after a meal. Probably not tea, now I think about it. I’m assuming masks won’t be compulsory when going round to someone else’s house to eat and drink. But then, see the hairdresser, above.

- I shall attempt to sell my wine-making kit on eBay.

- I shall drink wine in the front garden. I’ve only ever drunk coffee in the front garden, never booze. Why is this? Because I don’t want to get a reputation as the kind of guy who drinks in his front garden? I mean, I’ve drunk gallons of drink in the back. Why not the front? It’s not as if I’m sitting on a park bench or on a canal towpath or in a graveyard, drinking from a bag. Although it is close.

- I shall lean on the taffrail of an ocean liner, holding a glass of champagne.*

- I shall stop saying I shall on account of it sounding so affected. Instead I shall say I’ll. No, better, I’m going to. I’m going to: it sounds as if I really mean business. Seriously.

- I’m going to do all the things listed above.

- I’m also going to have a beer, one day, on a cross-Channel ferry. The way one used to as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

- And I’m going to listen to the fabulous Caroll Gibbons and The Savoy Hotel Orpheans with their version of I’m Going To Get Lit Up When The Lights Go Up In London. This is such a wonderful song - written by Hubert Gregg in 1940 - it should be mandatory listening across the nation just before the ten o’clock news. As the lyrics point out:

You will find me on the tiles

You will find me wreathed in smiles

I'm going to get so lit up I'll  be visible for miles


And before the party's played out

They will fetch the Fire Brigade out

To the lit-est up-est scene you ever saw

That’s what I’m talking about.


* For taffrail of an ocean liner, read: back of our thirty year old sailboat. Also, for champagne read: gin.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Wine porn

The wine list was long, but you felt excited about spotting that particular wine. Now, carrying the bottle, the waiter returns to the table, offering the label for inspection like a newborn. You nod, and smile. Yes. Flicking open his corkscrew, the waiter skirts the foil cap with its blade, slipping it off in a single piece which he pushes into the front pocket of his waistcoat. Twist, twist, twist, the corkscrew squeaks into the cork; then, still holding the bottle in his left hand, with the handle of the corkscrew over the back of his right, he smoothly performs an elegant, two-stage removal of the cork. Pop.
    Now it’s your part in the choreography. The swirl. The sniff. The sip. The moment’s consideration. This time, the nod you give affirms not just that the wine, but that life itself, is good.

This is wine porn. This what it has come to.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed drinking wine at home for the last couple of months. Of all the things you can do by yourself, drinking wine is probably the second most pleasurable.

But the lockdown has really brought home just how much of the pleasure of wine is about company, and travel, and eating out, none of which we’ve been able to experience for months. A recent ad for a Sicilian Nero d’Avola claims that for £6.99 a bottle, it is “almost as good as going there.” No, it isn’t.

There is bright sunlight on the wineglasses, a sparkle on the sea, and laughter in the hot, open air. The steel of the ice bucket is frosted with condensation. There is a delicious scrunch of ice as the bottle is removed, chill even in the grip of the thick, white, linen napkin. As it pours, the wine looks almost unctuous, and the wineglass itself puts on a mist of condensation to which a fingertip is irresistibly drawn. The wine has scents of grapefruit, apple and peach. It is crisp and clean as no other drink can be. It tastes of summer.

For weeks I’ve known that I’ve been drinking wine in the same way as everybody else, because we’ve all been forced into versions of the same at-home experience. So I’ve dreamt of drinking wine in those wonderful scenarios which enhance the wine-drinking experience.

But now this whole lockdown episode seems to be coming gradually, grindingly, to an end. Times may soon be precedented.

Which could mean people out there actually enjoying wine in those scenarios – going to those restaurants, raising glasses with friends, drinking on fabulous cliff-top terraces, hosting dinner parties…

You decanted it an hour ago, resisting the urge to taste but sniffing just to make sure, and yes, a rich, fragrant, elderly bouquet. It has sat there on the dining table, as your guests chatter over their remaining fizz. The time is now propitious. As you lift the decanter, you sense a couple of curious eyes upon it. You modestly tell the story of the wine as you do the rounds, until everyone raises their glasses and sips respectfully. And the smiles and the eyebrows and the gentle hums of pleasure say it all…

Of course, like most porn, this could all just be a fantasy. The dinner parties actually an amalgam of Downton Abbey and After Eight commercials; the guests, as CJ once observed, “wine connoisseurs, former members of the Diplomatic Corps, academics, senior police officers, Anglican clergymen, newspaper proprietors, Members of the Privy Council, international financiers, UN dignitaries and all the other inhabitants of the fiction factory inside PK’s head.” 

But the restaurants were there, I’m sure. I remember them, don’t I?. Surely the wine really was more enjoyable when the table was in a restaurant rather than in the kitchen? And the red wine in the candelight? The white wine by the sea?

Or had I drunken in my dreams?