Thursday 23 April 2020

My very own wine merchant

I never thought I would actually miss wine merchants. Being surrounded by actual bottles of wine, looking at labels one can only dream of buying, the serendipity of finding something interesting. And, that final confirmation of purchase, the bottles wrapped in tissue paper, artfully twisted with a snap of the wrist.

Plus of course, that playful banter with wine merchants, me struggling to appear knowledgeable, and them trying to upsell me into something costing more than I really want to spend. (They usually win – but, to be honest, so do I, since I end up drinking better wine than I would otherwise have planned.)

None of which you get from a website. Oh, it’s all very efficient, but you immediately have to start filtering your options – red or white? Italian or French? – so serendipity disappears. And then you have to choose how your options are presented, like “Price low to high”, basically a test of nerve as to how far you can afford to scroll down.

And where do your chosen wines end up? In your “basket”. When was the last time you went around a wine merchant’s, filling up a wire basket?

My usual opening gambit in a wine merchant’s is that I’m “just browsing”, but that doesn’t cut it at the moment. Full marks to my local posh wine merchant, which is valiantly open, but keen to keep queuing to a minimum; they have a list of “rules” on their door which, along with the now common, social distancing, one-in one-out regulations, limits visits to four minutes, hardly time to lust over the clarets. In present circumstances, drooling is clearly unwelcome.

In fact they state bluntly, and using red type, "Absolutely no browsing please.” They are posh enough to add that “please”, but I think we can safely assume that browsing is off the agenda for now.

And I’m missing that whole wine merchant experience. So as most of our activity at the moment has to be done virtually, I wondered if I could create a virtual wine merchant, as if to sell myself wine from my own meagre cellar…

“Ah welcome back, sir. Don’t I recognise you from yesterday? You were wearing the same, er, slippers?”

“Yes, me again. Thank goodness, I see you’ve still got some actual bottles of wine, there behind the cat food, DIY tools and tumble dryer… Alright if I browse?”

“I’m afraid that won’t take you very long, sir.” (There is an all-too-brief pause, while the visitor considers the all-too-well known wines.) “Is it for yourself?”

“Afraid so. Don’t think I’ll be taking wine to anyone else’s house for a little while yet.”

“A special occasion?”

“Well, we have almost completed a 500-piece jigsaw…”

“And what is sir eating tonight?”

“It’ll be sausages.”

“Not the duck, sir? I’ve got a lovely French red that would go with duck…”

“No. Sadly duck didn’t seem to be on the menu. The phrase I heard was simply “Dinner?” Not as in “What would you like for…”, but as in “I suppose you want some?” Rather like the prix fixe in a restaurant. Except that usually, one has a choice of restaurants.”

“When I said duck, sir, of course I meant sausages. I have something that would definitely go with game, red meats, or, er, sausages.”

“There’s not much choice here, is there?. Your stock is definitely looking a bit low.”

“We’ve not had a delivery lately, I’m afraid. Couldn’t get a slot. But we do have this excellent claret, great vintage, drinking well now…”

“I think that’s really one to share with guests.”

“Might be past its best by then, sir…”

“Well, is there anything else you’d recommend?”

“I wonder if you know this one, sir? A very nice Rioja indeed.”

“Actually yes, I do. I remember drinking that in Barcelona… But I was going to save it for a special occasion…”

“Well sir, look at it this way – how many jigsaws have you got?”


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