Thursday, 18 June 2020

Wine porn

The wine list was long, but you felt excited about spotting that particular wine. Now, carrying the bottle, the waiter returns to the table, offering the label for inspection like a newborn. You nod, and smile. Yes. Flicking open his corkscrew, the waiter skirts the foil cap with its blade, slipping it off in a single piece which he pushes into the front pocket of his waistcoat. Twist, twist, twist, the corkscrew squeaks into the cork; then, still holding the bottle in his left hand, with the handle of the corkscrew over the back of his right, he smoothly performs an elegant, two-stage removal of the cork. Pop.
    Now it’s your part in the choreography. The swirl. The sniff. The sip. The moment’s consideration. This time, the nod you give affirms not just that the wine, but that life itself, is good.

This is wine porn. This what it has come to.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed drinking wine at home for the last couple of months. Of all the things you can do by yourself, drinking wine is probably the second most pleasurable.

But the lockdown has really brought home just how much of the pleasure of wine is about company, and travel, and eating out, none of which we’ve been able to experience for months. A recent ad for a Sicilian Nero d’Avola claims that for £6.99 a bottle, it is “almost as good as going there.” No, it isn’t.

There is bright sunlight on the wineglasses, a sparkle on the sea, and laughter in the hot, open air. The steel of the ice bucket is frosted with condensation. There is a delicious scrunch of ice as the bottle is removed, chill even in the grip of the thick, white, linen napkin. As it pours, the wine looks almost unctuous, and the wineglass itself puts on a mist of condensation to which a fingertip is irresistibly drawn. The wine has scents of grapefruit, apple and peach. It is crisp and clean as no other drink can be. It tastes of summer.

For weeks I’ve known that I’ve been drinking wine in the same way as everybody else, because we’ve all been forced into versions of the same at-home experience. So I’ve dreamt of drinking wine in those wonderful scenarios which enhance the wine-drinking experience.

But now this whole lockdown episode seems to be coming gradually, grindingly, to an end. Times may soon be precedented.

Which could mean people out there actually enjoying wine in those scenarios – going to those restaurants, raising glasses with friends, drinking on fabulous cliff-top terraces, hosting dinner parties…

You decanted it an hour ago, resisting the urge to taste but sniffing just to make sure, and yes, a rich, fragrant, elderly bouquet. It has sat there on the dining table, as your guests chatter over their remaining fizz. The time is now propitious. As you lift the decanter, you sense a couple of curious eyes upon it. You modestly tell the story of the wine as you do the rounds, until everyone raises their glasses and sips respectfully. And the smiles and the eyebrows and the gentle hums of pleasure say it all…

Of course, like most porn, this could all just be a fantasy. The dinner parties actually an amalgam of Downton Abbey and After Eight commercials; the guests, as CJ once observed, “wine connoisseurs, former members of the Diplomatic Corps, academics, senior police officers, Anglican clergymen, newspaper proprietors, Members of the Privy Council, international financiers, UN dignitaries and all the other inhabitants of the fiction factory inside PK’s head.” 

But the restaurants were there, I’m sure. I remember them, don’t I?. Surely the wine really was more enjoyable when the table was in a restaurant rather than in the kitchen? And the red wine in the candelight? The white wine by the sea?

Or had I drunken in my dreams?

PK



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