I love wine, not like a dependant, but like a true enthusiast. I am Wine’s biggest fan. Ever since I was allowed to take a sip from my parents’ glass at Christmas I have been fully committed to the musty-nectar. However, it has not been an easy journey. Learning to like drier and redder wines was quite a struggle at times and you can be sure that I have suffered more than my fair share of hellish hangovers – I have sworn off the stuff on many an occasion. I keep coming back though. Not just for the effects, for the whole ritual itself.
My parents were not big wine drinkers, but they paved the way for me. I was lucky enough to grow up in Kent at the South Eastern tip of Great Britain (now an excellent wine region itself). Back then, we were just a stone’s throw from France, one of the best known and oldest wine producing countries in the world. ‘The booze cruise’ was a common phenomenon amongst the common folk, who prior to the opening of the channel tunnel, would borrow their uncle’s estate car and drive it onto the car ferry at Dover. Not venturing into the cultural heart of France, just to a handful of warehouses on the outskirts of Calais, where they could stock up to their heart’s content on cheap booze and fags, all duty free.
My parents were only too happy to pick me up the odd bottle of wine, or later a case. What were they thinking? Marvellous people, my parents. I’d quite often drink it alone too. Not in a mist of teenage angst, but as part of a wonderful experiment in escapism and sophistication.
As an adult I remain captivated. I especially like visiting wine shops and cellar doors, seeing all of the gorgeous bottles lined up in their racks, each with a story that I like to try and guess from their well-designed labels. I love to chat to other enthusiasts and experts about the wines that they enjoy. More recently, group tastings with friends have helped me to further understand the lure of this complex beverage. There is so much to learn and I feel like I am discovering new aromas, flavours and information with every liaison.
The snap and crackle of the bottle opening (much more common than the gentle pop of the cork these days) followed by the throaty glug glug of the wine on the first pour, remains so satisfying. The spell is fully cast when the glass is full – not actually full of course, not since the 90s! The sight of those beautiful wine hues is often all it takes to fully captivate me – quite often it may not even be my own glass that catches my eye, glinting and posing.
The glass is essential. Although I have been known to drink wine from any barely passable receptacle, it cheapens the ritual. Wine glasses themselves are sexual things. Those curves. I like long thin stems and tulip shaped, fine glass bowls. Though as long as the shape is right, I am rather fond of a stemless glass for reds. Never coloured glass, it detracts from the overall effect. The different shapes for various wine varietals is a mystery that I would like to understand a little more on my journey.
The ritual continues with the swirl, the legs, the deep inhalation, the nose….was that the scent of old leather?! The first taste, pulled over my tongue like a blanket, allowed to unfurl down the sides to my palate. Swallow and bathe in the afterglow. When there is food involved in the ritual……well, that is a science in itself, another favourite subject of mine!