Thursday 3 October 2013

It needs drinking up – the dutiful answer to leftover wine

There is a phrase which has become something of a cliché here in Casa K. Whenever a no-frills, no-guests meal arises – which, whatever you imagine from my writings, is frankly most of the time – the menu will be determined by the fact that there’s some food or other which “needs eating up”.

So an opening gambit of “What shall we have for lunch?” is likely to be met with a response along the lines of, “There’s some ham needs eating up…”

Now, there are very good fiscal and social reasons for eating all the food that you buy, but I have pointed out that this is a very depressing way to approach a meal. It’s as if one is some kind of food processing system, condemned to mechanically digest whatever happens to be left. It would sound far more enticing if one were told “There’s still just enough of that lovely ham…”, as if one was enjoying the final remaining morsel of an earlier treat – rather than grimly fulfilling one’s duty because it “needs eating up”.

But it has now struck me that this idea might be advantageously transferred from food to wine consumption. 

Some people, heaven knows why, may have need for an explanation they can provide as to why they have finished the bottle they started that night – and the phrase “needs drinking up” could be of some use. Like finishing up the food, it turns consumption into a duty.

Merchants use this phrase, “needs drinking up”, of a wine which has been laid down, and is now passing its prime. It’s not going to improve, indeed may well deteriorate, and should be drunk now. Now. (This timescale is not defined – even Morrissey once asked How Soon is Now?, and never provided an answer – which lets the merchant off the hook if it turns out to be disappointing. “Ah, you didn’t drink it now, sir, did you? Right now? When I told you? You had that journey home…”)

But I have decided to apply this phrase to individual bottles. Our motto on Sediment, “I’ve bought it, so I’ll drink it”, has oft been challenge enough. But perhaps it should be, “I’ve bought it so I’ll drink it – all. Now.” Like it or not (and often, in our case, sadly not). Because it’s a duty. Because it needs drinking up.

It needs drinking up, because there’s not enough of it to be worth keeping. I mean, if there isn’t enough left in the bottle to see me through another meal, I might as well drink the rest now and start a fresh bottle tomorrow.

It needs drinking up because no-one other than me seems to use the Vac-U-Vin properly. People in my household – no names, no pack drill – just put the rubber bung back in, without pumping the air out, which is pointless. And I can tell, you see, as soon as the removal of the bung is not accompanied by that little hiss like a duchess farting. So if it’s going to spoil, because no-one else can be arsed to pump the air out, I’d better drink it all now.

It needs drinking up because it’s really good, and I want to enjoy it at its best. My sophisticated palate (hem, hem) tells me that this wine is not going to improve with aeration. It is at its best fresh from the bottle, so now it’s been opened, I‘m taking what I call the Mastermind approach – I’ve started, so I’ll finish.

Or, alternatively, it needs drinking up because it’s really bad. I need to get it out of the way so I can open something better tomorrow. There’s nothing worse than the remains of a bottle of something vile, sitting on the side like a malevolent threat. Get it down you now, I say.

It needs drinking up because it’s white, which means it will have to be kept in the fridge, and there’s so little room. Same goes for rosé. Honestly, you need the room for that jar of…what is that?

It needs drinking up because I can see that we are going away at the weekend, or going out for the next couple of nights, or won’t be eating fish again for a week, so I’d better finish it now because it really won’t keep that long.

It needs drinking up because an unfinished bottle is about as appealing as unfinished sex.

I see enormous benefit in this approach. The internet is full of complicated advice on what to do with leftover wine and unfinished bottles. With this approach, you don’t have to worry, because you won’t have any.

Instead, you can feel the warm, self-satisfied glow that can only come from a combination of taking pleasure with fulfilling a duty, as you pour the remains of 
that bottle into your glass, and say to yourself as you might to a guest, “Come on – it needs drinking up.”


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