Thursday 6 October 2011

Drinking Wine From A Mug – Santa Julia Malbec

So I was trying to face down this Argentinian Malbec, got it from Waitrose, in the right price range, screw cap, red, no vintage, all the qualities one looks for in a quality table wine; only it was proving a bit hard to get through on account of being incredibly aggressive and full of blood and sweat and heat and dust and flies and volcanic gas, and even though it was only 13.5%, the thing taken as a whole had a kick like a mule and I wasn't sure how much I could swallow without blacking out. It was like drinking the floor of an abattoir. Impasse.

Then, in a mixture of boredom and desperation, I thought, I'll drink this out of a mug, that's the correct medium for this bad boy. And then I thought, I'd better try it from some other drinking vessels to provide a comparison and some scientific rigour. So I got together my usual Duralex drinking tumbler, a Paris goblet, a nice Royal Doulton bone china teacup and a biggish coffee mug and took a hit of the Malbec from each one. The results were:

Duralex tumbler: Tasted the same.

Paris goblet: Tasted the same, but with an inexplicable added tweeness.

Bone china teacup: Tasted of curry. After a minor panic I decided that the tea towel I wiped it out with must have been a good bit dirtier than it looked, but either way it felt wrong, what with the deep aquamarine on white pattern and the gold edging and having to sip from it in that affected tea-drinking way.

Mug: Tasted just right. We're talking about a proper 250ml glazed earthenware mug here, with a full builder's handle, software logo printed on it to increase the functionality, the whole thing thick and robust enough to survive being dropped repeatedly on the kitchen floor. When I mentioned this to PK he got incredibly exercised, as ever, turns out he has different mugs for different times of the day, some for tea some for coffee, some china some porcelain. Thickness of rim he kept insisting. Well, this had a rim as thick as my small toe and all the better for it. The filthy Malbec sat at the bottom, still belligerent but knowing when it was beaten, and every quaff only made it taste better.

Picture my excitement at discovering a new way to interpret a familiar drinking experience. Feeling bullied by your rough red wine? Drink it from a mug! With a mug, you are in charge, you call the shots, you get a Hemingwayesque sensation in the thorax as if you were a Partisan up in the mountains, slaking your thirst before a) wenching b) killing Fascists.

On the other hand: If I do start drinking wine from a mug on a regular basis, it's going to look like a piece of willed and slightly pathetic eccentricity. I have no beard, nor do I speak Catalan. At the same time, no-one will ever tear me away from my beloved Duralex tumbler, except possibly to give me a larger one.

But then again, this business of drinking wine from a glass: it's a relatively recent practice, after all, since mass-produced wine glasses only got going from around the very end of the nineteenth century. Before that, glassware was for the gentility; the rest of us drank out of anything that didn't leak. It's not a given. And the mug was and is good, satisfying and apt and with an extra safety margin provided by the handle. Its only drawback, in fact, is that you can't see how much wine is left except by peering down inside, and that only gives you a very approximate sense. Maybe one of those transparent measures built into the wall of the mug, like you get in electric kettles, would do the job.

It needs further thought. Txin Txin.



  1. I'm convinced: a mug o' vino will be my next vessel. Thanks!

  2. V. glad at last to find someone credible taking a bold and open-minded approach to alternative wine receptacles. Why is everyone so fixed on glass?

    Here’s an unashamed plug for wineskins: they can’t be knocked over or spilled, won’t break if dropped, don’t need washing up, can be hygienically shared and they keep wine fresh to the last drop. Especially good if you like animal flavours. The truly organic solution to containing wine.

    Come on, global wine industry, wake up and smell the cuvee!

    - Piet van Proot, Acme Wineskin Co.

  3. I love Malbec, thanks for the tip about the mug i would love to try it sometime.

  4. i only use mugs for wine when I wanna hide from people that i am not drinking wine :P


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