So it occurs to me that I'm missing the obvious: why am I not using YouTube™, that dustbin of human culture, to inform myself about wine? There's a ton of stuff out there. It's free. Some of it has to be good. My challenge for today? Find it.
Of course it depends how you start. I type wine into the search box. One of the first things to come up is Eddie Vedder (him out of Pearl Jam) drinking wine from a sweaty sneaker at a gig in Stockholm, followed, a little further down, by a Texan explaining how to make six gallons of homebrew wine in a gigantic plastic bucket. Then a pop video - Winé - by an Italian called Giulio Silvestris, which is a ton of fun but from all appearances nothing to do with wine. I start to feel uneasy.
Another couple of Tubes down, however, and one of the first of many, many, deafening Americans crops up: The Boring Wine Guy, telling you how to be a wine snob in 5 minutes. Actually, he may be prone to baffling vulgarisms (red wines are 'As red as a Cardinal's robe'; whites are like 'Sunset on a warm summer's evening'), but otherwise the Boring Wine Guy pretty much nails wine appreciation right there and then (in précis: it's all horseshit), and I am tempted to quit while I am ahead.
But because this is YouTube© and I am depressingly human, I think, where's the harm in one more? The harm, it turns out, is in the form of the CrazyRussianHacker, who shows you how to get the cork out of a wine bottle using only a fantastically dangerous knife. It's not without its interest, but it also makes me cringe with apprehension - a feeling shared by other viewers, who have left comments such as 'You guys are gonna cut the shit out of your hand', 'I suggest u doing the same with fork', and 'This Russian guy is fucking annoying'.
I try a refinement: wine tasting. This produces results which are a) clearly more relevant to my needs b) surpassingly dull. I feel I ought to take an interest in JamesNevison's 4-step Wine Tasting Tutorial, but after thirty seconds all I can think of is how he seems to be wearing a comedy false nose, the sort that's attached to the spectacle frames and comes off in one. How To Taste Wine Like a Pro is scarcely better, with a crushingly preachy woman in a red dress boring her wisdoms into my head (comments: 'That was the most complicated and useless bit of nonsense I have ever heard'; 'I can't help but notice the necklace that looks like a bit of bacon'), but at least she's not Wine Tasting in Temecula Ca with a couple of shrill West Coast narcissists ('Aw you guys are cute'), or, even worse, someone called Matt yelling his head off in the Alexander Valley (no comments shown).
In fact, I quite soon begin to experience Internet fatigue, that spiritual death which comes from so many jabbering voices, so much noise, so little editorial control. Time to turn my back on the whole thing, I gloomily conclude, the whole of the Internet, including, yes, Sediment. It's nothing but random, undifferentiated matter, a million warring egos, and there is no reason to add to the shambles.
And then, what do you know? YouTube® performs that conjuring trick, that thing which (well I never) has you coming back for more: it turns up something bizarrely compelling - in this case, Brown Bag WineTasting, starring the Great Blimp himself, William Shatner. What's the premise? Basically, the octogenarian Captain Kirk does a series of blind tastings with real, everyday, people, and asks them to talk about wine in terms which they would use in their real, everyday, jobs. It's a series of staged encounters, it's only just started, it's hallucinatory in its weirdness. If Shatner is still alive by the end, I shall be surprised.
Oh, and then this: Opening a Bottle of Red Wine. Doesn't sound like much, but it's five minutes of a master sommelier called Ronan Sayburn opening and decanting a bottle of fine wine, perfectly. It's such a joy to watch him and experience the pleasure of seeing something done really well, that I could have it playing in the background all day: it would, I think, make me a better person.
I know. That's the last thing the Internet is there for.