Look at my wad! I’ve got Loadsa wine money! Whap it out!.
content with simply offering discounts, wine merchants are now
distributing faux banknotes, as if to make us feel we have some kind of
actual spending power in our hands. They are printing wine “money”
faster than you can say quantitative easing.
And to be honest, they look more like genuine banknotes that some genuine banknotes. (I’m thinking of those childish old Dutch guilder notes,
which looked as if they had come out of a board game.) This “wine
money” is carefully designed, with shiny, silvery sums, with
pseudo-banknote squiggles and lines, to make you feel you’re handling
actual currency. No-one’s going to forge these, you’re meant to feel. They must be genuinely valuable notes of exchange.
like a child, building a stash of Monopoly money. I’ve got all this
pretend moolah, that I can spend on actual wine. Bish, bash, bosh,
lovely job! Look at my wad!!
But think about this for a moment or two. Who on earth pays for a case of wine with cash these days?
occupies the opposite ends of the social spectrum, where people don’t
ask, don’t tell about their money. United in a desire to make their
transactions untraceable and untaxable, the people who hoick out a wad
of cash to pay for purchases are either at the lower end, like
scaffolders, drug dealers and ticket touts, or the high end, like Russian
the people who buy cases of wine are predominantly the middle classes.
Honest, clean-living suburban characters, who read the personal finance
columns and put their money in ISAs. Even in these times of austerity
and low interest rates, they’re still not keeping their money under
their Slumberdown mattresses. Happy in the middle of that social
spectrum, they don’t carry cash – they pay with credit cards – because
they worry about being mugged by the lower end, or mistaken for the
there merchants where the cash cowboys buy their wine? I have a feeling
that drug dealers and scaffolders are not particularly au fait with the world of wine; their involvement with cases is limited to the courts.
At the other end of things, there is somewhere like Hedonism, in Mayfair, the incredibly upmarket wine merchant – sorry, “fine wine and spirits boutique”. But a £60 saving wouldn’t go very far on a case in Hedonism; it might just get you a 10% discount. On a bottle. And someone showing off by pulling out a stack of fifties to pay cash for a 1989 Haut Brion at £2,300 is hardly like to fish out a £60 discount voucher.
fact, the wine merchants who distribute these faux banknotes actually
do most of their business online, where cash is useless. So, hidden in
the ornate calligraphy of their “banknotes” are codes and passwords that
will allow you to get these discounts online – making a mockery of the
whole business of impersonating cash.
And if a merchant did
only accept cash for their wine, wouldn’t we think that a little
suspicious? When any shop nowadays says that their till is broken, or
their debit card machine has gone down, and would you be able to pay in
cash, we assume the worst. They’ve got, as the term has it, cashflow
problems – and we wonder whether they’ll still be around next week.
I know that CJ mocks my yearnings for a mythical past, when wine
drinking was the province of the cultured. But I do not wish to be
associated with either the scaffolder or the plutocrat. And how much
more refined it must have been, when one sent one’s man down to St
James’s to select one’s wine. Presumably a nice hand-written invoice,
made out in guineas, arrived along with the cases. One paid with a
proper cheque. And no, one did not put one’s card details on the back.
One’s signature was sufficient.
it’s all fiscal nowadays. It’s all about handing over the dough and
meeting that pricepoint. Bosh, bosh, shoom, shoom, dollop, dollop. And
surely something about the character and tradition of wine, the
relationship with your merchant, and the sheer pleasure of the
transaction, has been lost, if you pay with a fistful of notes – one of
which has been issued by the merchant themselves?