Thursday 1 May 2014

"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"

I have never been drawn to the rather depressing notion of everyday drinking. (As opposed to the rather attractive notion of drinking every day.) A great wine for everyday drinking, they say. A great everyday wine. 

“Everyday wine”? You don’t get people promoting “everyday meat”.

An “everyday” item is mundane, unexciting and predictable. You don’t really want to be surprised by your butter, to have a complicated carrot or interesting milk. There’s nothing uplifting about the everyday. And for all the talk of everyday wine, the imagery of wine itself is anything but everyday.

The firelight flickers in the background of a glass of red…the sunset glistens through a glass of white…the bay can be seen shimmering behind a glass of rosé. This is the wine of most promotional images –  a fantasy, at complete odds with this widely expressed enthusiasm for everyday wine.

Everyday wine is usually mentioned in the same breath as kitchen suppers and weekend lunches. But kitchen tables, with their flotsam and jetsam of family life, their rich ethnographic tapestry of stains, last weekend's newspapers and bicycle repair tools, are not where glasses of wine are shown.

Red wine is usually pictured in a glass upon a posh dining table, alongside a place set for dinner. The quantity of cutlery suggests the food is something rather superior to spag bol. The expensive crockery, the napery, the flowers, all speak of a sophisticated meal, the supposedly ideal setting for a glass of red wine. Fires are lit. Wood is polished. There are often candles involved.

A glass of red wine is not shown on the corner of a tray, with News at Ten in the background. You don’t see it standing on a pile of books which haven’t been moved off the coffee table, with just a tiny dribble running down the outside of the glass. You don’t see a promotional picture of a glass of red wine perched precariously on the armrest of a sofa. 

White wine is usually depicted impossibly chilled, the glass glistening with condensation, a bubble winking at the brim. I have been told by photographers that this is often artifice in itself, that the condensation on the glass may be glycerine, and the bubble a transparent bead. Be that as it may; no-one shows a desirable glass of white wine standing on a carpet by a settee.

Rosé is probably the most fantastic, commonly portrayed on a sunny balcony with a bay in the background. It is nearly always shown being drunk outdoors, clearly an issue as far as “everyday” in the UK is concerned. There are those who do drink outdoors every day in this country, but they veer away from rosé wine in favour of Special Brew. Try as some might, barbecues have never become part of our everyday culture, and while dejeuner sur l’herbe is theoretically possible in a London park, there will probably be a bit of stick from the locals for the naked girl in front. 

If there’s any identifiable exterior background to a glass of wine in an promotional picture, it is inevitably of the vineyard from which the wine has come. Why? Do you really want to be transported from your comfortable home to what is, for all intents and purposes, a field? Conveyed to your wine’s dusty origin? I mean, for heaven’s sake, it might be New Zealand

On the one hand I have this threat of everyday wine, thrummingly dull and as uplifting as lettuce. On the other, the fantasy notion of wine, a world of sophistication, romance and travel, where all dining is indoor by firelight or outside in the sun, where my rosé can turn a drizzly afternoon into a sunny day – and my glass of red will make, if not a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, at least a Michelin star out of a pork sausage.

Which one is harder to swallow?


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