Thursday 5 April 2018


So my old Ma has got these bottles of red wine sitting in one of her dank, mouldering, cupboards, but has no use for them. Since she's been existing for the last few years on a diet of brandy and Pringles with an occasional glass of Echo Falls on special occasions, I feel no shame in taking the reds away for my own consumption. And they look well posh: some Dourthe Montagne Saint-Emilions and some Gérard Bertrand Minervois, both 2015 both getting okay write-ups from the wine-spotters on the internet. How the hell did they end up in my Ma's hideous cupboard? I must have bought them and dragged them over for Christmas lunch, or maybe Easter 2017, whereupon they weren't drunk.

Only snag: they're standing up. How long has this been the case? Last time I thought to look I could have sworn they were lying down, in a midget bent-metal wine rack dating back to the 1970s. Somehow they've been translated into the vertical, possibly by my Ma's Stakhanovite cleaning lady, probably not by my Ma herself who can barely get out of her chair. But when? Fear very slightly eats my soul: how much difference is it going to make to these nob wines that they're been pointing upwards?

Of course I get them home and forget about this tiny agony, preferring to gaze on their handsome bottlings and their sleek red capsules among my usual dead man's screwtops and telling myself that when the time comes to drink these wines, I'm going to be living the good life.

Not so, as it happens. First time I get stuck into the Dourthe Saint-Emilion, it tastes of insoles, quite clearly - only I refuse to believe the evidence of my mouth and keep determinedly drinking as if I've been told it'll do me good. After a bit I can't separate my lips on account of the pucker and even I have to conclude that something's wrong. I'm forced to tip the rest away at the same time telling myself that it's a rogue and that the next will be fine. Next bottle, some days later, is one of the Minervois. Not as much deep cack as the Saint-Emilion, but, you know, it too has a wrongness about it that I can't rationalise away. No. 2 son has given me for Christmas a rather excellent wine aerator which has had some success moderating my usual gutbucket stuff, so I force the Minervois through it in the hope of shaming it into good behaviour. And, yes, maybe it's a tiny bit less undrinkable; or maybe it's wishful thinking.

Either way, the next bottle of Saint-Emilion only goes to show that, no, it wasn't a one-off and the whole lot (four bottles, I might add) is probably on the fritz. Same for the Minervois, I'm guessing, although for some reason I'm consoled by presence of a Vizigoth Cross on the label; I mean, it looks as if it really might intercede on my behalf in some way.

But then again, how long can you leave a bottle of wine upright? Internet wisdom has it at a few weeks, not much more - although there seem to be plenty of contrarians who argue that it's okay to leave a bottle upright for years and that all fears are baseless. And once, years ago, we opened a magnum of Moët & Chandon which had been standing tall in an overheated room for ages and it was quite drinkable. In other words, the Minverois and the Saint-Emilion might well have been buggered by storage; or they might not. But if not, why are they so awful? I know my sense of taste is arbitrary at the best of times, but I don't think I'm that bad at knowing what's poison and what's not. I don't think I'm choking and spitting on anything really decent. Which means that - in this case - it only takes a month or so of verticality to make a hash of quite a few quid's worth of drink: a notion which I find slightly disturbing, given my tendency to acquire and then forget almost anything that comes in a bottle. Unless, of course, I just stick to spirits, which can take any amount of punishment: a drinking programme, in other words, for the progressively senile. Like my Ma.



  1. I've sat in on tastings recently that have worked to show storing upright or on the side makes no difference. In fact, if you've tapped a wine with a Coravin, some would say upright as preferable as it allows the heavier argon to settle and keep oxidation out of the way.

    In your instance, it could be any number of factors including the upright storage but it doesn't sound like it's an oxidation issue. Perhaps more to do with heat?

    Wine is weird shit.

  2. Well I've been wondering about the heat question and you never know, it might come down to the worrying proximity of the kitchen radiator...

    On the other hand, your last comment is about the most sensible thing I've read this week; if not this year...


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