This is about a forgotten wine. Which, in typical Sediment fashion, does not mean an unusual and rare variety which has slipped off the radar of wine connoisseurs. It’s a wine which I was taking to a dinner party – and forgot.
Mrs K and I had an invitation to a country weekend in Devon, with my very good and very longstanding friend BT. (Those really are his initials; I’m not pretending to be friends with the telephone company. However, his house does therefore boast monogrammed junction boxes.)
Following my principle of giving dessert wines as dinner-party gifts, I was going to take an authentic Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, from Domaine des Bernardins. This is the wine which, back in the 80s, introduced my generation to the idea of dessert wines. Since then, it has been somewhat forgotten. As indeed it was last weekend.
We’re bowling down the motorway, somewhere around Bristol, when Mrs K innocently asks “Did you remember the wine?” Oh. No. It is still in my library, some 120 miles back.
There is only one possibility. We could stop at a motorway service station, with its little mini-supermarket, and buy another bottle of wine. But the wine I could get would be as obviously desperate as garage flowers, those half-dead bouquets which announce their provenance with a faint aroma of benzene, and the unique presence of purple chrysanthemums. It would be rubbish wine, certainly not dessert wine but some basic, caustic red or acidic white at an inflated, captive audience price.
So I am plunged into one of my typical wine etiquette quandaries. Do I buy, or not buy, some service station rubbish wine? And do I explain, or not explain, the circumstances to mine host? There are four potential outcomes…
I could buy and present a bottle of rubbish wine with no explanation. To an old friend, who knows his wine, and has probably got something really nice planned to accompany dinner? The last time we came down, I brought what I think was a rather nice Tokaji Aszu, 5 puttonyos, not as unctuous as some dessert wines but with a greater breadth of honeyed flavours. He might quite reasonably be expecting something similar. Given rubbish service station wine, his face will fall like a child given socks on Christmas Day.
He is also very familiar with the coverage I have given here to rubbish supermarket wines. So even without an irritant hazard warning on the label, I can’t claim ignorance. I can imagine him thinking, this is the sort of industrial product he writes about – and he brings it to me?
Perhaps I could buy and present a bottle of rubbish wine, and explain what had happened. Fair enough, and possibly better than option one, but… what is he going to do with it? Keep it for cooking? Palm it off on offspring seeking a last-minute bottle to take to a PBAB party? Make me drink it, alone, with my dinner, as punishment? To someone who knows about wine, there is little worse than being lumbered with a bottle of rubbish which they would be loath to drink, ashamed to serve and embarrassed to give away.
So perhaps I should buy no wine, and just say nothing. We have some chocolates and Amaretti for our hostess, so we would not arrive empty-handed. Would he even notice, in all the hustle and bustle, whether we also brought any wine? Well, in similar circumstances, I’m afraid I certainly would. It’s part of that whole doorstep business, hail fellow well met, how was the journey, and here’s something to help things along. It’s like noticing whether a chap has come without his trousers.
My final option – buy no wine, and explain. “I had this really nice, carefully chosen dessert wine, which you would have liked, and we would all have enjoyed – but I’ve forgotten it. I am an idiot. It is currently standing on my library table. You may never get to drink it, because in all honesty I will probably take it to someone else’s dinner party or drink it myself at Christmas. I am a stupid, badly organised man, and although I seem to have remembered my trousers, I have probably forgotten to pack something else, which I will only remember when I come to clean my teeth. Oh…”
You may like a moment to ponder which of these options I pursued.
Well, gentle reader, I chose that final option. I bought no wine, and explained. I felt a fool for five minutes, but then I think the gaff was forgiven. And we were plied with a succession of splendid wines, amongst which a service station offering would have looked as awkward as a paper cup in a Wedgwood store. As, indeed, would I.
And like a true friend, BT put me through no social embarrassment. Except when I asked if I could have the claret, rather than the Burgundy, to accompany my duck – and he explained that the claret was meant to go with the cheese…
But that’s another story.