Thursday, 25 September 2014

One green bottle (empty)

The other day, I bought this bottle of a fairly basic Sauvignon Blanc, in order to make and accompany a seafood risotto. 

Now obviously, quite a bit of wine went into the risotto. Quite a bit. It wasn’t a Jamie Oliver recipe, so I wasn’t reduced to measures like two sloshes and a bosh; but even so, I poured into the risotto what might best and most accurately be described as… quite a bit. 

So when I finished off the remainder over the course of the evening, no-one, really, could say that I had drunk an entire bottle. No-one, really, except for Mrs K.

There was an honest answer to the question, “Did you drink all of that?’, and I was prepared, and that answer (see above) was no. Unfortunately the question I was actually asked was “Did you drink the rest of that?”, demonstrating the courtroom clarity for which spouses are renowned.

What could I say?  It just quietly slipped away, before anyone noticed, like a Great Escapee. It had the quiet politeness one expects from Waitrose; nothing pushy, or shouty, or forward, which enabled it to amble away unpoliced. And then… it was gone.

The thing is, at no point did I feel sated. There have been occasions on which I felt I had drunk enough white wine, but that’s largely because I got bored. Or because it was pretty horrible, and I thought that it would be better to save the rest for cooking, and take my chances with something else. 

But a white wine has never been completely fulfilling. Whenever I have moved from the white wine with a starter to the red with a main, it has always been with anticipation, rather than regret. Like a support act on the main stage; you can sometimes be delighted by how good it is, but you still can’t wait for the headliner.

In fact, I sometimes feel as if white wine doesn’t quite count. That you can often drink your way through it like this, almost without noticing. Oh, there are fabulous white Burgundies, but I can’t afford them (or so I am told, by my appointed Head of Procurement, Mr Nat West). I am resigned to the cheaper offerings, most of which seem to regard Pinot Grigio as their role model for consumer-friendly bland drinkability – and all of which evaporate mysteriously from my glass.

I can only draw a comparison with a stonkingly good, stonkingly red wine we had the weekend before. We were joined for a roast beef Sunday supper by two young people who drink only modestly (yes, such do exist), and my brother-in-law, who appreciates a bottle of mature old claret. So I opened a bottle of mature old claret; Chateau Coufran 2001, with a second waiting in the wings.

And what do you know? It was such a deep, resonant wine that a single bottle actually satisfied five of us. That’s an average of just 150ml each, although Mrs K, inevitably, had a little less and my brother-in-law and I, inevitably, had a little more.

I’m left pondering that old adage: “drink better, drink less”. Given that there’s always going to be more to savour slowly in a mature claret than in a brisk, fresh Sauvignon Blanc. That if you’ve invested more to start with – whether money, time or expectation – you’re not going to motor mindlessly through your wine like a suction pump. 

Perhaps “drink better, drink less” is not a philosophy, an encouragement, or an ambition – but a statement of fact?


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