There’s always another worry for me in this wine-drinking malarkey. “Anxiety irradiating every word” was how CJ described one of my recent offerings. And now I’ve got something else to be anxious about. Have I got “a filthy wine stain”? On my teeth?
Worse; perhaps I have not been looking closely enough at my guests’ teeth after dinner. Has my wine given them filthy stains? Along with the mints and coffee, should one be politely offering a convenient Wine Wipe?
As soon as I saw these in New York, I began to wonder how London society could possibly have drunk red wine for a couple of centuries without them. Wine Wipes are “The agreeable concoction to remove that filthy red wine stain on your teeth without interfering with taste.”
Now, the only time I have observed a significant purpling of teeth is at wine tastings; but then, the participants have been virtually rinsing their mouth with wines for hours. And doing so in the exuberant manner of a dental mouthwash, which even common etiquette would proclaim inappropriate at a dinner table – let alone finally spitting the mouthful out. For wine tasters, staining is surely a professional hazard; wine teeth are like tennis elbow, housemaid’s knee or that pain you get in your wrist.
So perhaps purple teeth are actually a mark of pride, a display of indulgence, the sign of a serious wine drinker? It wouldn’t be the first physical side-effect to gain a social status. I’m old enough to remember when nicotine stains on the fingers were a teenage badge of honour, to show you were a serious smoker, and not just some namby-pamby behind-the-CCF-hut puffer. A stout belly was once an indication of wealth and status. And I’m always a little suspicious myself of people limping around the City on crutches in Autumn and Spring, with a somewhat wry expression that says to everyone “Yeah, ski-ing…”
But then there are those who indulge in absurd teeth-whitening processes, resulting in a mouth like a tiled shower. Perhaps they are paranoid afterwards about the staining effects of functions their mouth was actually designed to pursue, viz eating and drinking, as opposed to grinning at cameras?
A brief online search found one website which warns that “there can be some long-term dulling effects from a chronic diet of dark, acidic wines.” I assume this refers to teeth, and not brain.
“I have a patient who loves red wine and actually drinks it with a straw to avoid tooth contact,” writes A Dentist. Clearly, they must love their teeth more than their wine.
(One useful tip I did pick up was to brush teeth before drinking, which removes the plaque that stains more easily than teeth themselves.)
Anyway, I need not worry, because I now have my Wine Wipes. They resemble small make-up removal pads or, in that slightly disturbing contemporary description, a moist towelette. Indeed, in the fingers they feel exactly like a baby wipe, which has immediate negative flashbacks for those of us who have actually used one to wipe a baby.
On the label they are described as 'Orange Blossom Flavored', in itself bizarre as while many of us eat oranges, few of us I suspect eat their blossom. But the wipes smell distinctly medicinal, and of course they carry the usual warnings; do not swallow etc. Oh, and keep out of the reach of children. Whose teeth should be left wine-stained, for the authorities to see.
Anyway, after a large glassful of cabernet sauvignon, including even a couple of good dental swillings (while Mrs K was out of the room, of course) I repaired to the hall mirror to assess the damage. No “filthy stain” to speak of, but there was a certain minor purpling of the gums and teeth, for which I think I can blame the wine and not some appalling carious disease.
The box, in cheerful manner, says they can “wipe that wine off your smile” – or, presumably, off my awkward gurning into the mirror. I smeared, swiped and eventually scrubbed at my teeth with a Wine Wipe. It tasted of…nothing, actually. And I can honestly say that I saw no difference whatsoever. Although the wipe gained a slight pinkish hue, indicating the absorption of something I can only hope was wine.
“Remove that filthy red wine stain on your teeth without interfering with taste.” The ambiguous grammar employed surely highlights another issue; is it in good taste to wipe your teeth? It’s obviously okay to wipe your mouth with a napkin, but many people baulk at using a toothpick in company. Is this Wiping something you should do in the privacy of a bathroom? Where, of course, there might be other means of cleaning your teeth?
And my final worry; what happens when you have to return to your host, and explain why you have wiped away all vestiges of the lovely wine they have served?
Ah, this age of anxiety…