Thursday 4 April 2013

Spanish Surreal. Some Pedro Ximinez.

So PK and I are at this Spanish Wine Trade Fair in the old Billingsgate Fish Market in the City of London, and it occurs to me that of all the major wine-producing regions, including Australia and the whole of the Americas, Spain is the one on which I have the slenderest intellectual purchase. This takes some doing, obviously, and even I am slightly surprised by my troglodytic ignorance of the wines of Spain. Still. This is one reason why PK and I have made the trip down to the City; to learn.

Of course, being in the company of PK I am likely to learn less, rather than more, on account of the level of discourse in which we habitually engage.

'I went for a 5 k run this morning,' PK says, looking pleased with himself. 'I can show you the route I took. My iPhone plotted it.'
'I've never been here before,' I say, looking at the old Billingsgate Fish Market building, now an all-purpose split-level venue, but still with a pair of fabulous gilded fish weathervanes on the roof. 'When's lunch?'
'I wonder if they'll have that Pedro Ximinez stuff I had at my birthday dinner?' PK asks. 'You remember that stuff? It was like liquid Christmas Pudding.'
'You're always talking about liquid Christmas Pudding. Everything is liquid Christmas Pudding to you.'

Lunch is pretty good by Trade Fair standards, with some flavoursome ham buns and pungent cheeses. So far, neither PK nor I have actually tasted any of the Trade Fair wines, but we do make liberal use of the lunchtime bar, while PK shows me the route he took on his 5 kilometre run.

'Then you get Paula Radcliffe's voice telling you how well you've done.'

At last we re-emerge onto the Trade Fair main floor, and look around. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different wines. Or the same wines, with different packagings. There are definitely hundreds of different packagings. The only Spanish wine I can think of is Rioja. There are scores of differently-packaged Riojas. What the rest are, I have no idea.

Some of the bottles have traditional paper labels with a drypoint of the winery and a date. Many more have multicoloured polka dots, wavy lines, stylised representations of trees and undergrowth, chic little retro cartoons of swinging couples enjoying a bottle of (invariably white) wine together. Some have candystripe vertical bars like a test card. Some have sepia photographs of incredibly grizzled Spanish estate workers pulling faces. One has a Roy Lichtenstein pulp comic image and is called Crash. Another is covered in pictures of door keys.

'I like the keys,' I say to the woman who is in charge of the keys wine.
'We have already won two design awards for our keys,' she says.

I have an idea.

'Spain,' I say, wisely, to PK, 'is the true birthplace of Surrealism. From Cervantes to Goya to Miró to Dalí. That's what this is all about. There are nods to the Freudian subconscious. There is visual playfulness. There is disorientating abstraction. It's all about the labels.'

I am so impressed by the incredible diversity of the labelling, I get out my phone and start taking pictures.

'God, I feel tired,' PK suddenly announces. 'I wish I hadn't gone for that run, now. I feel really tired. I don't think I can get round this. What's the time?'

But the wines. I know that we found the Pedro Ximinez stand, because PK grabbed my arm and told me it tasted like liquid Christmas Pudding, not my arm, the Pedro Ximinez. Other than that?

'Just a couple more pictures,' I say, photographing the bottle covered in door keys.
'Are you wine writers?' the woman behind the table asks, suspiciously.

Another five minutes and I have enough wobbly, out-of-focus shots to keep me happy.

'I've got to go on to a reception now,' PK says, haggardly.

When I get home, I cannot remember anything about the wines I tried at the Trade Fair, or, indeed, if I managed to try any at all. Nonetheless I carefully download all the photographs. Some of them are almost intelligible. Then, just as as carefully, I delete every single one of them, imagining that I'm backing them up. I spend half an hour trying to retrieve them. No success. So now I have no memory of the wines, no record of the event. Everything has vanished. I am precisely back where I started.

'Surreal,' I say to myself.



  1. Julio Iglesias4 April 2013 at 17:01

    Surreal Madrid, si?

  2. Aaaah, 'Dali Atomicus' by Philippe Halsman, the 'Jump' series, the thrown cats, iconic image, etc. Allegedly, Dali's original idea was to jump at a canvas whilst they blew up a duck.


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