I remember this Peter Sellers radio sketch, involving a blindfolded wine tasting: Swills glass, sniffs wine and tastes.
“Ah from the left bank of the Gironde; it’s a Chateau Pis du Chat, probably 1961….” “Not quite, sir.” “Really? then it must be the 1965?” “No, it isn’t.” “It is from the Gironde, isn’t it?” “I’m afraid not ….” He tastes it again. “Well, it is a Medoc….” “No.” “Saint Emilion?” “Not quite, sir.” “Is it a Bordeaux?” “Er, no….” “A Burgundy?” “Not really.” “It must beared wine?” “I’m afraid it isn’t, sir.” “White?” “Not exactly, but you are getting closer.” “It’s not beer, is it?” “Certainly not….”Another taste “Well, it’s not coffee-it could be tea.” “Look, we’re not getting anywhere; you have one more go.” He takes another taste. “Is it a chocolate drink, perhaps?” “No way!” “Then I give up; what is it then?” “Well, actually it’s a Scotch egg.
”Until the sixties, wine in England, virtually a non-wine region, thirty-five kilometres from the country producing the world’s greatest wines, was a treat, shrouded in mystery and enjoyed mainly by the better off. It was talked about rather than appreciated, and used as a subject for one-upmanship. The attitude towards wine has always provided a platform for pretentiousness. In most up-market restaurants in the fifties, the menus were only in French (in a country where hardly anybody spoke anything but English) and the wines were listed without details of their provenance (to a nation then unaccustomed to wine).
The labels on bottles often omitted the names of the grapes and even the region of origin, but at least we were spared some of the ridiculous descriptions on many labels today (“delicious”, “perfect with beans on toast”, “the right wine for celebrating your father’s retirement.”)
But the language used by critical reviewers and wine columnists is what really baffles most of us.
WHITE-A cheeky little number that smiles a little every now and then. It suddenly bursts with delicate pumpkin and toothpaste flavours with hints of ham omelette and a touch of wood shavings on the nose.
RED-It’s quite a power house, rippling with cabbages, fish fingers and notes of marmalade. The robust structure offers complex hues of beetroot, boot polish and coconuts on the finish.
ROSE–This one conjures up a moonlit beach with its presence of seaweed, tuna and sugar beet. There is a subtle suspicion of iodine and lilacs at the back of the mouth.
Nowadays, in Britain, wine is far more widely available and a few wines are produced for home consumption (meaning not exported, rather than quaffed in the kitchen). In pubs it has made huge in roads into beer’s share of the market, especially in gastro pubs.
On the downside, it is the source of much of the vomit swilling around on British streets at night, although probably not as much as beer.
Thank you for reading this article, “THE GRAPES OF MIRTH”. For more from David Worboys, visit the Euro Weekly News website.