Thursday 2 July 2020

Last orders

After a decade, we’re bringing Sediment to a close.


It’s exactly ten years since we started the blog, and in that time we have written over 500 posts; produced an e-book, Wining & Dining; and the Sediment hardback book, which won an André Simon award and came out in a subsequent paperback edition. We have drunk some of the best wine, and a lot of the worst; and we have even made our own. It’s been a ton of fun - but you have to take a break some time; and that time is now.


We’d particularly like to thank Toby Buchan, who edited our book; Julian Barnes, who gave us our André Simon Award; and our long-suffering wives, to whom we are still, luckily, married.


And if you have been, thanks for reading.


Charles Jennings & Paul Keers

Tuesday 23 June 2020

I’m Going To Get Lit Up

So the plan is this, when this whole damn thing comes to some sort of end: 

- I shall get my hair cut while having a glass of wine. I’ve actually done this before and it’s pretty good. Unless I’m wearing a mask, of course. Could try and drink through the mask; but then what’s the point of the mask in the first place? Maybe the hairdresser needs to stand back while I lower the mask, take a swig. Surely if I’m steeped in alcohol, that makes me less infectious?

- I shall peer through the windows of recently-reopened shops while holding a glass of wine. Although possibly not drinking from it, depending on local by-laws and restrictions.

- I shall sit down heavily on a pub bench and drink beer and eat crisps, sighing audibly and saying I can’t remember the last time I did this. The fact that I can’t remember the last time I did anything is in no way going to subdue my enjoyment. The sitting down heavily is also very much part of the experience.

- I shall attempt to drink whisky in a moving lift. I’ve heard of people doing this and it’s always struck me as the height of cool. Going up or down, though? Or both?

- I shall stand around in an art gallery at a private showing, drinking wine, if anyone ever asks me to a private showing at an art gallery again. Failing that, I shall have a drink before going into any old gallery and a drink when I come out. The term Gallery, so far as I’m concerned, includes car dealerships and shoe shops.

- I shall accept tasters of beverages in supermarkets instead of pretending that I’m too pressed to hang around drinking free samples.

- I shall, God willing, drink something, anything, in someone else’s house, before, during and after a meal. Probably not tea, now I think about it. I’m assuming masks won’t be compulsory when going round to someone else’s house to eat and drink. But then, see the hairdresser, above.

- I shall attempt to sell my wine-making kit on eBay.

- I shall drink wine in the front garden. I’ve only ever drunk coffee in the front garden, never booze. Why is this? Because I don’t want to get a reputation as the kind of guy who drinks in his front garden? I mean, I’ve drunk gallons of drink in the back. Why not the front? It’s not as if I’m sitting on a park bench or on a canal towpath or in a graveyard, drinking from a bag. Although it is close.

- I shall lean on the taffrail of an ocean liner, holding a glass of champagne.*

- I shall stop saying I shall on account of it sounding so affected. Instead I shall say I’ll. No, better, I’m going to. I’m going to: it sounds as if I really mean business. Seriously.

- I’m going to do all the things listed above.

- I’m also going to have a beer, one day, on a cross-Channel ferry. The way one used to as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

- And I’m going to listen to the fabulous Caroll Gibbons and The Savoy Hotel Orpheans with their version of I’m Going To Get Lit Up When The Lights Go Up In London. This is such a wonderful song - written by Hubert Gregg in 1940 - it should be mandatory listening across the nation just before the ten o’clock news. As the lyrics point out:

You will find me on the tiles

You will find me wreathed in smiles

I'm going to get so lit up I'll  be visible for miles


And before the party's played out

They will fetch the Fire Brigade out

To the lit-est up-est scene you ever saw

That’s what I’m talking about.


* For taffrail of an ocean liner, read: back of our thirty year old sailboat. Also, for champagne read: gin.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Wine porn

The wine list was long, but you felt excited about spotting that particular wine. Now, carrying the bottle, the waiter returns to the table, offering the label for inspection like a newborn. You nod, and smile. Yes. Flicking open his corkscrew, the waiter skirts the foil cap with its blade, slipping it off in a single piece which he pushes into the front pocket of his waistcoat. Twist, twist, twist, the corkscrew squeaks into the cork; then, still holding the bottle in his left hand, with the handle of the corkscrew over the back of his right, he smoothly performs an elegant, two-stage removal of the cork. Pop.
    Now it’s your part in the choreography. The swirl. The sniff. The sip. The moment’s consideration. This time, the nod you give affirms not just that the wine, but that life itself, is good.

This is wine porn. This what it has come to.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed drinking wine at home for the last couple of months. Of all the things you can do by yourself, drinking wine is probably the second most pleasurable.

But the lockdown has really brought home just how much of the pleasure of wine is about company, and travel, and eating out, none of which we’ve been able to experience for months. A recent ad for a Sicilian Nero d’Avola claims that for £6.99 a bottle, it is “almost as good as going there.” No, it isn’t.

There is bright sunlight on the wineglasses, a sparkle on the sea, and laughter in the hot, open air. The steel of the ice bucket is frosted with condensation. There is a delicious scrunch of ice as the bottle is removed, chill even in the grip of the thick, white, linen napkin. As it pours, the wine looks almost unctuous, and the wineglass itself puts on a mist of condensation to which a fingertip is irresistibly drawn. The wine has scents of grapefruit, apple and peach. It is crisp and clean as no other drink can be. It tastes of summer.

For weeks I’ve known that I’ve been drinking wine in the same way as everybody else, because we’ve all been forced into versions of the same at-home experience. So I’ve dreamt of drinking wine in those wonderful scenarios which enhance the wine-drinking experience.

But now this whole lockdown episode seems to be coming gradually, grindingly, to an end. Times may soon be precedented.

Which could mean people out there actually enjoying wine in those scenarios – going to those restaurants, raising glasses with friends, drinking on fabulous cliff-top terraces, hosting dinner parties…

You decanted it an hour ago, resisting the urge to taste but sniffing just to make sure, and yes, a rich, fragrant, elderly bouquet. It has sat there on the dining table, as your guests chatter over their remaining fizz. The time is now propitious. As you lift the decanter, you sense a couple of curious eyes upon it. You modestly tell the story of the wine as you do the rounds, until everyone raises their glasses and sips respectfully. And the smiles and the eyebrows and the gentle hums of pleasure say it all…

Of course, like most porn, this could all just be a fantasy. The dinner parties actually an amalgam of Downton Abbey and After Eight commercials; the guests, as CJ once observed, “wine connoisseurs, former members of the Diplomatic Corps, academics, senior police officers, Anglican clergymen, newspaper proprietors, Members of the Privy Council, international financiers, UN dignitaries and all the other inhabitants of the fiction factory inside PK’s head.” 

But the restaurants were there, I’m sure. I remember them, don’t I?. Surely the wine really was more enjoyable when the table was in a restaurant rather than in the kitchen? And the red wine in the candelight? The white wine by the sea?

Or had I drunken in my dreams?


Thursday 11 June 2020

Went The Day Well?

1) So, Sweden. Not only are people flocking to that country on account of it having kept bars and restaurants open throughout the crisis, it also has wine. I didn’t know this until a pal thoughtfully tipped me off about the Sav Winery. Apparently they make their stuff from birch sap, which, according to them, is an excellent source to make a well-balanced, crisp and fresh sparkling wine.’ Not only that, but, in in evironmentally conscientious way, ‘The birch sap is carefully harvested through small holes drilled in the tree trunk.’ It’s lightly sparkling and only 16. Beat that, Pol Roger!

2) Two bottles of my home-made muck still in the wine rack. I really must take a swig. I mean, if not now, when?

3) Three o’clock. Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do. An odd moment in the afternoon. Today it is intolerable. 

3a) So what would Sartre have drunk, in this state of unending global three o’clockness? I’m open to suggestions, but it seems that both Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were not usually far from a bottle of vodka and both really enjoyed a party: ‘I liked having confused, vaguely questioning ideas that then fell apart’, Sartre said, alluding to the metaphysical playfulness which alcohol engendered. He also took amphetamines and psychedelics, but didn’t we all in those days?

3a) (i) Which still leaves the problem of the three o’clock drink implicit in Sartre’s famous quote. Yes, a cup of tea would be the sensible option but we’ve had three months of sensible. I’m sick of sensible and so is everyone else. Equally, I don’t want to uncork a bottle of dingy red (least of all my own, see 2) because by five o’clock I’ll feel like dropping down dead, even it’s a proper bottle, I mean, yes, one used to drink wine at three p.m. decades ago but then a lot of things happened decades ago, including dying at five o’clock. But, tea?

3a) (ii) But wait a minute. The Swedes! They’ve got the answer! Of course! A bottle of Sav 1785 Pétillant Naturel! It’s only 11.5%, which puts it only a shade over a strong glass of tapwater, so I can drink it at any time of the day or night. And it’s so wholesome, being organic, vegan, pesitcide-free, made using something they call the Méthode Suédoise, normally something you get from a physiotherapist, and bottled on site. You could sit around drinking fermented birch sap all afternoon and long into the evening without undue ill-effect. 

3a) (iii) But on the other hand it might just compound the ennui of three in the afternoon on account of its very Swedishness. I’ve only been to Sweden once and that was to Stockholm for a long weekend; which was nice enough although a tiny bit underwhelming. All those meatballs and lingonberries. I’m also told that the definition of boredom is the drive from Stockholm to Malmö but I don’t mean to complain about a country so broadly unfamiliar to me. I can merely see that a bottle of Sav 1785 might dig me deeper into a pit of Existential despair rather than get me out of it.

4) Didn’t it occur to Sartre that three o’clock was the perfect time to take a nap?

5) Coffee with a dash of brandy. A caffè corretto in other words. Three o’clock in Italy, in the old days, they’d just have finished lunch and be readying themselves for a bit of quiet time in the afternoon shade. Of course. I can see it now, the terrace with a broad-leafed tree at its centre, the dappled sunlight, the view over the drowsing valley, the insects buzzing in the depths of the heat, the deeper shade of the house and adjacent buildings, maybe a fountain playing not far off.

6) Sweden! I must have been mad!

7) I shall now lie down and dream about this. Bonne nuit. Godnatt. Buona notte. Good night everybody.


Thursday 4 June 2020

A change of art

What could this label be saying about its wine? Modern, calm, understated, and quietly sophisticated, perhaps. It suggests the wine’s so good they named it more than twice. "It's Bandol on a budget’, with softer edges.” Pair it with Conran Shop tableware, David Mellor cutlery and Zalto wine glasses.


By way of contrast, what does this label say? It’s bright, it’s colourful, it’s lively, all positive attributes of certain kinds of wine. Perhaps pair it with colourful Tuscan crockery and maybe drink it from tumblers in a relaxed kind of way. Because “It’s ‘Bandol on a budget’, with softer edges.”


You’ve worked out where this is going, haven’t you? Of course; it’s the same wine. From the 2017 to the 2018 vintage, they’ve changed the label.

I got terribly exercised about this. I was upset, because I prefer the first label, which sits more comfortably on my table. Because I respect cool, austere design. Because that label looks sophisticated, which is how I like to see my wine, and now it looks loud, which is not. Because it’s now got yet another bloody animal on it.

(What is it about animals on wine labels? From birds and cats right down to frogs and penguins, you name them, you see them. There can only be a few genuinely unpleasant creatures left, which never appear on wine labels, because no-one has a good word to say about them. Like jellyfish. Oh.)

Anyway, I got even more exercised because, on a simple sales level, I could no longer see the bottle I wanted on the wine merchant’s shelf. I like to just pick up – or, in these awkward times, point at – the wine I want, in a knowledgeable, had-it-before manner. Instead of which I had to ask plaintively, “Oh, are you not stocking Talento any more?”, and then to feel ignorant because how was I to know they had changed the label?

I just wanted the same wine I had had before. And quite fundamentally, I don’t like change.. They say that a change is as good as a rest. Well, give it a rest.

But then, next morning, I thought about the way in which individual vintages change. The way in which, regardless of the (usually) consistent graphics of a wine’s label, the thing which really tells you about the character of a particular bottle may be the four little digits stating its year. That annual variation is celebrated by some wineries, as an aspect of their nature, a variation they proudly describe each year. (The only surprise being that it always seems to vary in a positive, purchase-encouraging way…)

So perhaps, if each year’s wine is genuinely different, the labels themselves should actually change each year? This is, after all, a new vintage (even if, to my palate, more like a boar than a bird). Perhaps the latest vintage deserves a new presentation, like the latest novel by an author, to show at a glance that it’s the same but different? Perhaps the misleading labels are the ones which don’t change, and suggest that the wine is essentially the same?

And then I got really philosophical, and wondered, can we ever drink the same wine twice? After all, a wine is constantly changing, not just from year to year, but even in the bottle. Even if the label is exactly the same, the bottle I opened last week is not the bottle I will drink tonight. Tomorrow’s wine must always be a little older, with a slightly different past. Like, indeed, ourselves. If Heraclitus had been having a picnic on the bank, before he considered whether he could ever step into the same river again, would he have stated instead that you can never drink the same wine twice?

Ah well. That’s what happens in lockdown, when you wake up early, and read Four Quartets outdoors, in a London profoundly quiet and still as you could never have imagined, while “Dawn points, and another day/Prepares for heat and silence.”

These days, eh?


Thursday 28 May 2020

Mrs. Miniver

So as we all slowly lose our minds in lockdown or whatever it is we’re currently in, I turn to drink for solace. And when that fails, I turn to liquids of any kind. My top six this week?

- Penguin Sands Chardonnay, £3.85 from Sainsbury’s. An Argentinian white at a fantastically affordable price. PK didn’t much like their Shiraz, typically short-sighted of him, but the Chardonnay works just fine if you put it in the freezer an hour beforehand. Only snag, Penguins and sand? Apparently they do walk around a beach in South Africa, but normally you’d say, rocks, ice, pack snow, that kind of thing. Sand is just wrong. But what do I know? Great with shellfish and soft cheeses.

- Mr. Muscle Sink Unblocker, £3.95 from Tesco. Never drunk sink unblocker before? Try this from Mr. D. Trump of D.C.: I’m taking it, it’s been tested by the best doctors in the world, many people have taken it, people in the medical profession all over the world, it’s a highly effective way of preventing the Coronavirus. I don’t need a mask. I’ve inhaled some Mr. Muscle, enough to count, can we just leave it at that? Ideal with venison and red meats.

- All discount whiskies. Leave it to Tesco or Sainsbury’s to knock a few quid off a litre of whatever it might be, and move in: Famous Grouse, Bell’s, Whyte & Mackay, something’s going to be on offer this week and that’s the one you want. At present we’re getting through about half a litre of Grouse a day and neither of us has yet shown symptoms of the virus. Some alcohol poisoning, I won’t lie, but worth it for that moment when the time comes for a sundowner and we can blot out the ongoing situation. Owing to a geographical quirk, sundown where we live is around 4.00 pm. Great with linguine, Genoa cake and kippers.

- London tapwater - probably going to be rationed if the heatwave goes on, so get it while you can. Massively chlorinated, which means it’s like drinking the contents of the Putney Swimming Baths, but so good for you. I sometimes pour a glass of tapwater and merely inhale the bouquet with all its memories and associations, all its bounty. Then I pour it away. That’s just how I roll. Also, you can use it to wash the car, boil potatoes and ward off pandemic infections. Tea made with London tapwater is like no other tea. Instant coffee takes on a new savour. Great with sliced bread, game, toothpaste.

- B & Q Brush Cleaner, in the big bottle, £9.97 for two litres. This stuff a) cleans paint brushes and b) is an appealing sapphire colour. You want to put it in a cocktail, soon as look at it. And the smell! Is there any experience better than cleaning your paintbrush after a long lockdown half-morning’s painting the bathroom, standing there, inhaling the crisp aroma of brush cleaner? You feel like a king, a king who’s successfully painted a couple of doors. Plus this, from D.T. of D.C.: There are lots of things, brush cleaner, it’s a thing with a lot of uses, of lot of great uses, many people in the scientific community are using it. It’s a beautiful blue colour, it works for Covid-19, I don’t have to say it but it’s well known. Also great with curries, hard cheeses, game.

- Dominic Cummings’ four star petroleum promise! Yes, you can get petrol for £1 a litre or less if you hunt around. Remember the days of filling up the car and sucking in those petrol fumes while you stood there in a freezing draught, nozzle in hand? Remember the sense of promise those fumes held, the promise of journeys to come, of new landscapes to explore? Remember that tingle of anticipation? Well, petrol’s back! It’s time to gas up the tank and go for a drive! With petrol! Or diesel! It’s time to shake off the musty integuments of lockdown and make a nuisance of yourself somewhere miles away! Great with vegan burgers, Tesco Puff Snacks, Twixes, egg sandwiches.

Next week: cooking with Vitalis Hair Tonic and other amazing lockdown tips.


Thursday 21 May 2020

The great wine gambles

I am not a gambling man. Or rather, I didn’t think that I was.

I spotted this extraordinary wine ad just the other day. The gist of it is that you can buy a case of wine which has come from one of eight named wineries, whose wines sell for up to £300 a bottle – but they won’t tell you which one.

It’s as if someone was selling a leather bag, and said that it’s made by either Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble… or Gucci.

What kind of purchasing roulette is this meant to be? At what point did guesswork enter the already challenging business of buying wine? And what other £89 purchase would you make on this sort of basis?

At least they’ve got the decency to admit in the caption that the wine is not from the £300-a-bottle winery. Because the wine-drinking gamblers out there might just have thought that their luck was in. And there are a lot of them, because as we know, one is born every minute.

Before now I always thought the most absurd gambles in wine buying were those ‘mystery cases’. The ones where you don’t know what you’re going to get, but it’ll be a bargain, honestly. The word “probably” is often judiciously applied, as in “They will all be quality wines and there will probably be some proper gems in there…” They won’t tell you what’s in the case – it's an "adventure" – but you’ll save money on what they would have charged if they could have sold them by name. Which presumably they couldn’t.

There’s a reason why merchants have to get rid of unwanted wine – nobody wants it. Call me cynical, but the only ‘mystery’ likely to be resolved by one of these cases is how to fob off unwanted wine.

(At least two retailers recently came up with a different story; they said that they had assembled their mystery cases because of “damaged labels”, which meant they couldn’t sell the bottles in store. “Do hurry,” one of them encouraged customers, “only 400 mystery cases are available.” That’s 4,800 bottles which accidentally had their labels damaged. Clumsy or what?)

Perhaps the wine merchants have got it right, and other retailers should learn from them. The next time I enter a bookshop, perhaps I will see a table of wrapped books. “They’re by one of eight authors,” the shopkeeper will say. “We can’t tell you which one. Alright, not Hilary Mantel. But their books normally sell for at least £19.99. Yours for a tenner.”

And then I started thinking about the other gambles we take as wine drinkers. The age of a wine, for instance, which could indicate that it’s ready for drinking, somewhere near its best, past its prime, or bloody hell that’s awful.

You take that chance, don’t you, when you open the bottle you stuck away to “mature”. You gamble on the prospect of the upside. So it’s not like those sausages you discover in a corner of the freezer, because you know with frozen sausages that you can no longer trust their date; they’re never going to taste better than the day they went in; and if you’ve left them too long to, er, mature, they might actually poison you.

No, you believe with wine that it might actually have got better. And some of it will. Perhaps. To improve your chances you’ve scoured the vintage charts like someone studying form in the Racing Post. With a similar ambition of improving your odds.

Then there’s the whole matter of price. I often end up waiting for a supermarket to offer 25% off six or more bottles, only to find that the wine I want has disappeared from the shelves (in another of those retailing “mysteries”). Frankly I’d rather have had a couple of bottles at full price than no bottles at all. My fault for gambling.

And the issue of health and wine seems to be a constant gamble. Is it going to benefit my heart, or damage my liver? Help me lose weight, or put it on? If I ignore the government’s alcohol guidelines, will my body explode, or will I just have a much more enjoyable evening?

Finally of course, the ultimate wine gamble – will it be corked? Read all you like, take all the advice you want, but you won’t know until you open the bottle. Roll me and call me the tumblin' dice.

So the whole wine thing is one enormous gamble. And with higher stakes than I would ever consider wagering in any other way.

Is there anything to be said in favour of all of this? Perhaps just one. That feeling of pleasure you get on first sipping a wine which tastes great. Is it partly the feeling of satisfaction at beating the odds?


Thursday 14 May 2020

Millions Like Us

Boredom has now taken over from anxiety, although anxiety remains as a dull rumour in the background. Still. Things are happening:

a) I seem to have lost three-quarters of a stone (10.5 pounds; 4.8 kilos) in weight since my post-Christmas peak at the start of the year. This is good. I put it down to the immense effortful quantities of decorating and home improvements I’ve been managing in the last few weeks; plus, cutting right back on the red. Seriously. It’s the red wine that lards you up. Don’t take my word for it: try a month on whisky and tea and see how you are at the end. I guarantee success. You will be amazed. I am also available for motivational talks and seminars.

b) The theme tune to this time has to be Noël Coward’s There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner. If you don’t know it already you can listen to it here, but just to get you in the mood, the first chorus begins:

There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it's no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won't roll by.

And goes from there.

c) I keep buying whisky. It’s a nervous compulsion. We now have nearly five litres of Scotch in the house, just in case.

d) A pal of mine tipped me off about Boris Vian and his incredible Pianocktail. Vian (b.1920) was a novelist, trumpeter, avant-gardist, party-thrower, enfant terrible, jazz obsessive, Parisian, pataphysician, friend of Duke of Ellington, engineer, friend of Albert Camus, playwright, virtuoso scamp and inventor of the Pianocktail. His novel L’écume Des Jours, published in 1947, is, from all accounts, mostly an Existentialist love story; but it is also the place where the Pianocktail makes its entrance:

- Prendras-tu un apéritif? demanda Colin. Mon pianocktail est achevé, tu pourrais l’essayer.
- Il marche? demanda Chick
- Parfaitement. J’ai eu du mal à le mettre au point, mais le résultat dépasse mes espérances.

What does the Pianocktail do? Each note on the keyboard corresponds to a different liquor, these liquors contained in an array of bottles built into the piano and connected by a sytem of pipes, levers, relays and valves. Play a sequence of notes and the machine transposes the music alcoholically, pouring an equivalent sequence of beverages into a glass. At the end of a piece, you have a cocktail. The length of any given note determines the amount of drink poured. The loud pedal dispenses beaten egg while the soft pedal distributes ice. There’s an injunction not to play your jazz too hot or you’ll make an omelette. The first cocktail to come out of the machine, according to L’écume Des Jours, is a Black and Tan Fantasy, a product of Ellington’s famous 1927 number. Colin pronounces it vraiment ahurissant. Thus the mood of any given piece finds tangible expression in a mixture of cocktail ingredients. Music becomes drink, the drink is consumed, the art becomes truly internalised. It is genius in action.

And what do you know? Ça existe. One version appears in the 2013 movie Mood Indigo, directed by Michel Gondry (of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and starring, among others, Audrey Tatou - but, yes, this is a delightful film prop rather than a real working model. On the other hand: a pair of Romanian bartenders cobbled together a kind of working Pianocktail in 2015; while a Swiss musician called Géraldine Schenkel has also got one to function. In other words, this fabulous device has escaped the confines of fiction and become a work of art in its own right. This, more than ever, is why we need the French.

e) Georges Perec: Il n’y a pas de lettre e

My work h r is don .


Thursday 7 May 2020

Boxing not so clever

How much is left in my wine box? Your guess is as good as mine – and it’s my box.

You might recall that at the beginning of lockdown I bought a box of wine, as a desperate measure when it seemed as if we might never be able to purchase wine again. I went happily along for several days, pouring myself a nightly pichet from the box for supper, before it became possible to order, purchase and drink wine pretty much as ever before. And when I switched to the newly delivered bottles, I lost track of how many evenings I had drunk from “the bottomless well”.

Then Mrs K asked whether it was okay to use some for cooking – and reported back with the ominous news that she had had to tip the box to make it pour. Oh no. Like those wretched rechargeable devices such as radios, which simply run out of power without warning, the box is running out of wine.

It’s hard enough to judge how much is left in a bottle of wine, when you can see through the glass, given that you have to allow for the narrowing of the neck. Can you pour yourself just a bit more, or are you going to leave yourself short for the next time? It’s a difficult calculation, and can have consequences, when you realise you’ve gone that bit too far so that, sod it, you might as well drink the lot.

But with a box, there’s no visual indication at all of how much is left. And shaking it doesn’t really help. There’s just a vague sloshing noise, which I can’t relate to any particular quantity. What does a glass of wine sound like?

Nor does shaking it seem to release any more of the wine. It’s not like freeing the last glutinous contents of a bottle of sauce, of which I was warned as a child, “Shake and shake the ketchup bottle; None’ll come out, and then a lot’ll.”

Although I remember drinking with someone once who showed me how they would remove the silver bag from inside a wine box, and literally wring it out to get at the last few drops. It may sound mean, or desperate, or even borderline alcoholic, but actually you’d be surprised how much extra you can squeeze out…

Why get worked up about it, you might ask? Because there is no point in coming to the box and finding that it only pours out half a glass. Assuming you don’t have another box of the same (and no, of course I don’t), what do you do then? Mix it, with something different from the cellar? Switch wine halfway through supper? Down it in one and open a new bottle? Throw it aw… no, forget that one.

It cannot be beyond the wit of man to devise a solution. Like a clear column in the side of the box which shows you the level inside, as with some designs of kettle. Or something like a fuel gauge, which goes down, not so much into the red as out of it. Or some kind of thing, I don’t know, floating on the wine which you can see through a window. I’m thinking of that little flotation device in the dishwasher which tells you when you need more salt. Allegedly.

Or must I resort to weighing the box? There are three bottles of wine in there, so as I think I remember (find the tables on the back of my Silvine exercise book) height times width times depth to get the cubic capacity in inches, sir, then convert to, er, fluid ounces, then 16 to a pint, er, a pint weighs a pound… oh, it says here on the box 2.25 litres. Which is 2.25 kilos. God, kids today…

So I’d have to weigh the full box, noting anything over 2.25 kilos as the weight of the packaging, and then monitor the ongoing weight of the box (minus the weight of the packaging) as an indication of how much liquid is left inside? But it somehow sounds like you're drinking so much more. "You've drunk half a kilo of wine tonight!"

And it’s a bit of a faff, isn’t it? Writing the ongoing weight/quantity on the box itself each night to keep track? Oh, and just where one’s partner can see it and remark upon the amount one appears to have consumed in three nights? Perhaps not.

In the meantime, the box just sits there, guarding the secret of its contents like Colonel Sanders’s recipe. There may be enough wine inside to accompany a meal – or there may not. And having lost track in all this excitement, I can only ask myself one question. 

Do I feel lucky?