Thursday, 30 July 2015

One Damn Thing After Another: Pinot Noir

So No.1 Son and his girlfriend are coming round for supper, and I decide to get a bottle of something half-way respectable in an effort to impress them. Standing like an imbecile in Waitrose, I fall into the clutches of a bottle of Louis Latour Pinor Noir, copperplate writing on the front + cork, at 25% off what is presumably an initial price overinflated by 33%.

'That'll do the trick,' I say, allowing myself a 45% probability that actually, it won't.

And do you know what? I'm right. It is crummy: just a vapid red drink with a bit of lacquer on its breath. Startled and slightly ashamed, I drag out a screwtop Fitou to try and make amends to the young people whom I have let down.

'At least this tastes of something,' I announce sportively. Indeed: ink, a hint of liftshafts, blackberries, an extinguished barbeque, all the things you'd look for in a no-quality Fitou. Nobody much cares, though, by this stage. The empty Latour bottle sits there, fat, vain and friendless and I loathe it. Then I have another idea. A pal, recently travelling in Latvia, has brought back a very small bottle of something he can't account for, and kindly given it to us.

'It might be a liqueur,' he said at the time. 'Or cough mixture. They seem to like it in Riga.'

The Riga bottle, Riga Black Balsam it says in silver on a black label, itself stuck on a bottle made of black glass, is about the size of a single round of ammo. I forget to make a joke about the word noir. We all look at it seriously for a while, then each take a sip. And yes, it could be cough mixture, or a drink, if, like the late Malcolm Lowry, you're the kind of person who drains a whole bottle of olive oil under the mistaken impression that it's hair tonic and might contain alcohol. It's 30% by volume, it says so. Liquorice is in there somewhere. We experience it with a sense of sadness and some loss.

A day after that, no.2 Son comes round and makes off with the only dependable Waiter's Friend in the building. We now have no reliable means of getting a cork out of a bottle.

A couple of days after that, I try and drag myself out of the slough that seems to be deepening around me by acquiring a special-offer (screwtop) Hardy's Shiraz Rosé. Having already mentioned this fine winemaker in the last two weeks, I feel I'm on safe ground, in much the way I felt on safe ground with the imposing-looking Louis Latour.

'It'll cheer me up,' is what I think. But it too, turns out to be a failure - more than a failure, an eye-watering bubblegum and hairspray catastrophe. How can this be? Does the term safe ground mean nothing? I react to it so wildly even my wife notices.

'Not good?' she says without a trace of pity.

Salvation only arrives a few days after that, when some pals turn up, and what do they bring with them, but a bottle of the dreaded Pinot Noir - providentially with a screw top - only this time there is no Louis Latour tinsel about it. This one resides in a positively self-deprecating light green bottle from Wairau Cove, New Zealand, with an equally quiet label and the instruction that it goes well with pan-fried duck. Turns out that this is the stuff I should have been buying a week earlier: supple, structured, actually tastes of something. Probably cost the same as the Louis Latour, too, although I am so busy with furtive admiration it doesn't occur to me to ask.

New Zealand, eh? A country so far off my conceptual radar I usually forget it's there. And I'm never going to visit it, unless someone's prepared to fly me Club Class all the way because I mean, I just don't fit airline seats. It will have to remain an enigma, like Finnegans Wake or the enduring appeal of the Republican Party. My loss, I suppose.

CJ



2 comments:

  1. I've yet to find a Louis Latour that I even remotely enjoyed, except those that I could only afford through resorting to re-mortgaging. It appears to be a brand that appeals to people that see the word 'Latour' and assume it must be all fancy, like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which of course CJ would never have done…

      PK

      Delete