Thursday 5 December 2019

Ian Botham's Disappearing Smell

So in a fit of asininity, I buy a bottle of celebrity wine: Ian Botham's Cabernet Sauvignon ('The All-Rounder' it announces on the label) on account of its being on offer in the supermarket and anyway, don't we all need something to cheer ourselves up with in these dark times? Only 13%, which I would have thought maybe a tiny bit underpowered for a south-eastern Australian red, but what do I know? Also, I have no idea why Ian Botham should have started a side hustle in wines. Yes, 'It’s probably better than scoring a hundred at Lord’s getting this right', he might have said in an interview, but I'm not persuaded. Still. It gives us both something to do, I suppose, him putting his name on a drink, me drinking it, so I get the grog back home and try a glassful.

But here's the thing: it doesn't taste of anything. I mean, there's a kind of rasp of wine somewhere around the roof of my mouth, but nose? After-effects? Tannins? Acidity? The sense of having had a drink? I'm not getting anything, anything at all. All I'm getting is this:

At which point I start to panic. Clearly, Sir Ian can't have let a bottle of fine Australian Cabernet Sauvignon out of the warehouse without making sure it has some kind of flavour; so the clear inference is that I'm losing my sense of taste. Of course I am. I've been subjecting myself to a diet of cheap industrial wines for years and now my taste buds have burnt out. It had to happen. There is a moral here; actions have consequences; what else did I expect? I'm surprised they lasted as long as they did, now I think about it.

Either that or I'm experiencing one of those unpredictable changes which happen over time, in which a favourite taste or sensation simply loses its appeal - or worse, becomes completely unpalatable. People just announce, one day, that they used to love cheese but can't eat it now, or have had to give up coffee because it makes them sweat, or once adored the music of Peter Frampton but now have to leave the room if it ever comes on, not that it ever does, but you take the point. I've seen it happen. Such changes come unannounced and turn out to be permanent. I once used to like milkshakes, but it passed. I am now about to lose any capacity I once had to enjoy red wine. White wine next? Croissants? There it is. It's time to come to terms.

But - just to be sure - I crack open a bottle of affordable Monastrell I happen to have been thinking about for a few days and take a swig. It's not mind-expandingly good; on the other hand, it tastes of some kind of red wine, a taste I already greet with a twinge of nostalgia. I take another swig. Well. Yes. Red wine. I try the Botham again. Still nothing. I put the Botham away for a day, before taking it out again and running it concurrently with the Monastrell. This gets me nowhere. At the end of three days I have drunk most of two bottles of red wine, one of which tastes of something and the other of which doesn't.

I can draw no conclusions from this, because the test sample is too small. All I'm left with is a choice between two unacceptable realities: the prospect of having to give up wine; or the prospect of having to come to terms with the idea that England's greatest all-round cricketer might stick his name on a bottle of something as flavourful as the atmosphere in a lift. I am too old and weak and cranky for this kind of inner conflict.

Apart from that, things are fine. How's your Christmas coming along?


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