Thursday, 5 July 2018

White rabbit

I’m so sick of white wine. I’ve had three weeks of hot weather, three weeks of fish, and shellfish, and salads, across London and Cornwall. Which has meant three weeks of white wine. Oh, I’ve put away so much of the damn stuff. And I’m thoroughly fed up with it.

Of course we’re going to choose white wine during a heatwave. Everyone keeps telling us it’s “crisp”, and “zesty”, and “fresh”, descriptions which would sell anything during a spell of hot weather. It’s served cold, the condensation calling alluringly from the glass. And we’re eating all those lightweight dishes, which a proper red wine would smother like a duvet.

But honestly? It’s a glass of nayce whayte wayne.  It’s what you have at those canapé and conversation events where talking is more important than drinking. Where you’re never sure of the quality of the wine, and so you pick up a glass of white, because bad white is never as bad as bad red.

White wine is for lunch. As Keith Waterhouse wrote in his magnificent The Theory and Practice of Lunch – a theory and practice sadly forsworn by today’s teetotal lunchers – “the wine that travels best with the lunchtime banter and gossip is not served at room temperature.” (Although of course when that was published two decades ago, few restaurants had their own rooms chilled.)

It’s been the mainstay of lunch at a gentleman’s club, the steely Chablis with the smoked salmon and the Dover Sole. But when the weather’s like this, you have the same kind of supper in the evening at home. You’re not cooking stews, or roasts, or anything else which requires having the oven on for an hour. No, it’s fish and salads and cold collations, which just scream out for white wine.

So you have to accept you’ll have another cold white wine – but then it doesn’t stay cold. Those coolers, whether plastic or terracotta, never really work, and the absence of a home ice bucket means I am faced with constant trips back to the fridge. Even so, the wine simply warms up in the glass, becoming rapidly tepid. Great; I’ve eschewed something which on a hot summer’s day has the look and temperature of blood, for something which has the similar characteristics of urine.

And let’s not talk about the flavour. It’s “steely”, it’s “flinty”, it’s “chalky”. Have you noticed how many of the adjectives used to describe white wine apply to things you would never put in your mouth?

OK yes, I am modern enough to drink chilled reds, and have now purposefully bought a Brouilly for the cellar and a Chinon for the fridge. But I am not going to ask for a chilled red in a restaurant in Cornwall, where I would risk looking like some utter bassoon, coming down here with his trendy Shoreditch ways.

(And don’t get me started on rosé, with its “here comes the sun, here comes the rosé” seasonal marketing, as if the mere presence of sunshine demands that you drink it. Quick boys, the clouds are parting, wheel out the rosé. Well thank you waiter but no, there are people passing my table and I don’t wish to look like a gullible dilbert.)

After three weeks, I’ve had enough. Enough crispy freshness and fresh crispness and perky zesty steely minerality and what have you – and never the deep, resonant weight of a red which sends you off genuinely satisfied.

Eventually, this weather has to break. Spit, fire, spout, rain and all that. We’ll all go back indoors and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the alfresco set and the barbeque boys. But over here will be a happy man, retreating to his dining room with a proper supper and a glass of good claret. At last.

PK



2 comments:

  1. I am not surprised that you are missing red wine. I can recall numerous luncheons or dinners in England where all around me where drinking claret - with fish, with fowl, whatever. I came to believe that Brits drink claret with everything, even puddings. You obviously are more principled. But never fear: summer is also the season for grilling, and grilling is focused on red wine friendly meats like beef, pork, lamb, sausages and hamburgers. Light up, burn one and enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Unfortunately “grilling” is almost always associated with a “barbeque”, and the horrors which that entails are even worse than drinking white wine.

    ReplyDelete