At what point did Pinot Grigio start to colonise the space once occupied by Sauvignon Blanc as the default safety white? I mean, this post wasn't even meant to be about Pinot Grigio, but so invasive has this drink become that a stern intention to write about Piesporter Michelsberg has to make way for the great Pinot Grigio taste: a whiff of town gas, followed by about a second of citrus aftershave, ending with a 'long dry finish' as promised on the label, or rather, a blotting-paper sensation around the uvula. A lightly frustrating headache rounds things off, accompanied by an inability to understand why Pinot Grigio seems to have colonised so much of the space once occupied by Sauvignon Blanc, and so on and on.
So, why? Because it was free, is why. The wife's uncle gave us a fistful of bottles of wine which he had been given by his Bournemouth neighbours over the years, announcing to everyone's astonishment that he didn't like wine, never drank it, was much more into cake. Actually, my brother-in-law shrewdly made off with the reds, leaving us some Rosé d'Anjou (which seemed to have no flavour at all), the Pinot Grigio, a bottle of white Viňa Sol, and the thing I was really interested in, a bottle of Piesporter Michelsberg Qualitätswein.
And the Piesporter was all about nostalgia. I can't remember the last time I drank a German wine, but it might well have been when I was sixteen and still living with my parents. Because that's what we had, if anything, back in the Seventies, apart from the odd rogue bottle of Nicolas that crept in as a dangerous experiment. PK has been threatening to write about the Blue Nun revival for some time, so I thought I'd crash his party by getting weepily sentimental over the Piesporter ('Perfect balanced fruitiness' it said on the label, no frilly metaphors, just the sound of a car boot lid shutting efficiently) and the hallucinatory strangeness of German wine, generally.
After all, even I can take a look at the label of a French or Spanish or New World wine and take a half-informed guess as to what it might taste like. But Piesporter Michelsberg? Apparently, it's made in industrial quantities from Riesling grapes and tastes, as a rule, of scented tapwater. But I couldn't have hazarded even that much - and my teenage self would have been no use as a guide, since everything at that age tasted of mashed potato or Instant Whip, apart from the roast beef with which my Dad would painstakingly serve an eggcupful of the room-temperature Riesling.
So I grabbed the sexily slender bottle, panting slightly at its caressable, brown, unfamiliar shape, took a look at the cork, found it to be gnarly, slightly depressed and crowned with blue mould, thought, That's a guarantor of sheer quality, tapped it with the corkscrew and watched as it fell straight down the neck and into the booze. Turns out the wife's uncle not only didn't drink wine, he liked to store it upright and fairly near the gas boiler, as a form of punishment. The Piesporter was thus corked to destruction, and although I tried to get some benefit by drinking a tiny sip with my eyes closed, it was too close to (I'm guessing a bit, here) rabbit urine to be a lot of fun.
There the matter rests. The nostalgia binge has been postponed, the German wine is still waiting for PK and all we are left with is the unsurprising intelligence that elderly people in Bournemouth give one another Rosé d'Anjou, Piesporter Michelsberg, Pinot Grigio and other controversy-free wines as a way of saying thank you. And then leave them on the boiler.