1) The White Zinfandel Rosé is still sitting, unfinished, in my fridge, like a sticky pink digit. I can't bring myself to throw it away, but it's been there so long it'll be completely and utterly undrinkable rather than merely undrinkable if I try and drink it now. A tragic waste. I wonder about using it to stew some plums, but what if it ends up as a tragic waste of plums? I keep brooding on the problem.
2) I find a nice old advert for American wines, dating, I'm guessing, from the late Forties. You serve the Wine, it announces, and a grand visit is under way. A sweetly-drawn gouache shows two couples seated round a blazing fire, dainty glasses of red on the occasional table, three of the participants listening raptly to the fourth - a young woman with her back to the viewer, apparently musing, warm and humorous, on Life; or recounting a Wartime anecdote with a happy ending (she nursed the Artilleryman back to health, and look! He's sitting in the wingback chair next to her, and could you tell which of his trousered legs is actually made of aluminium?). It is altogether a civilised, low-testerone encounter (the other male in the picture is a spavined academic type, no threat to the grinning uniped opposite), the women are clearly in charge, the embodiment of the sub-heading - People find there's a friendly, moderate kind of relaxation that most everyone wants today. So what are they drinking? Pictured here is full-bodied, rich red Port. Refreshment wines such as Port and Muscatel are very popular for between-meal serving. So the sweet wine fixation, the Zinfandel crisis, is nothing new, not that I really think of Port as a wine at all, more a liquid in its own peculiar class, somewhere between treacle and fence paint, none the worse for that, but taxonomically distinct. I think we can learn something from this.
3) Although, to be fair, I have been offered both Port and Sauternes as pre-meal drinks at different times in France, so it's not a problem confined to the States.
4) But then again, I once ordered a lobster in Maine, on account of its being a speciality there, and indeed this fabulous lobster, about a foot long and grilled to perfection, was placed in front of me: and it had been drenched in sugary clarified butter, a toxic syrup which made the lobster inedible and which broke my heart for the rest of the day. The rest of the trip, even. In fact I feel a bit weepy just thinking about it.
5) But then again, perhaps the awful Zinfandel has some kind of cultural legitimacy which should make it palatable intellectually if not sensuously. Perhaps it's the grandbastardchild of John Steinbeck's Paisano wine, out of Tortilla Flat. This has been described as smelling of 'Fresh strawberries in that way that strawberry Jello smells before it fully sets' and is drunk by the drunks of Tortilla Flat in prodigious quantities: 'Two gallons is a great deal of wine, even for two paisanos', etc. It may even have a kinship with Wine Spodiodi, as in Kerouac's On The Road (also as in the song, Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee) in which it turns out that Wine Spodiodi is a shot of port, a shot of whisky, followed by another shot of port. 'Nice sweet jacket for all that bad whisky!' as one character puts it.
6) Which means that, conceivably, the Full-bodied, rich red Port being drunk in the gemütlich Calfornian wine ad from the 1940's, is actually Wine Spodiodi, and the encounter is about to turn into surburban orgy, or, possibly, catastrophic crime incident, in which the one-legged Artilleryman, crazed with drunken jealousy, murders the academic, belabouring him with his prosthetic leg. There is only one way to get to the bottom of this. I shall have to buy another bottle of Fetzer White Zinfandel Rosé and make my own accomodation with this disgusting drink.