I realized this morning that there have been no posts this week. I considered after posting my first video that, as a picture is apparently worth a 1000 words, and video is simply 24 pictures a second, I’d get away with it.
I have, however, always found that assumption to over value pictures. Take Gigli, the film was composed of hundreds of thousands of pictures, and it takes only two words to describe it. Goddamn awful. So, what to write about.
The only worthwhile wine endeavor I have taken part in this week was the Young Guns 3 tasting at Wine Cellar. The problem is I was so busy playing music, changing Power Point slides and pressing play that I didn’t properly taste the wines. I drank as much as I could of them, but came away with nothing but a hangover. Luckily I had tasted most of them last week.
And that’s when I realized what the topic of this post should be.
Alcohol is an odd sort of drug because of its prevalence. Other drugs gain some degree of desirability – even at the risk of death – because they are illegal, hard to get, and Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. Alcohol is everywhere. Made and peddled by friends of mine, it is THE state sanctioned drug, the drug of choice for lawyers, doctors, miners, builders, parliamentarians and, well, nearly everybody.
I have been thinking about drunkenness quite keenly since I awoke yesterday morning after the Young Guns tasting with a pounding head, strange scratches and scrapes, and a stiff back.
Apart from an incident with a fence – I wont go into details, but the fence won – it was a rather tame evening. It was entirely unequal to the heights of my university revelling, a distant murmur compared to the life of a restaurant manager I once lived. Why then did I feel so inconsolably awful? Why did it feel that instead of having a few drinks I’d had been given a polite going over with a lead pipe?
Simply put, I am getting older. I am by no means old, to some I am even very young, but the body tolerates excesses less and less each year. This means the way I engage with wine will have to change as I get older.
Of course wine is not simply about getting plastered. But to avoid the topic as some do, to treat drunkenness as wine’s dirty little secret, is wrong.
“Ah, this wine is lovely. It has has notes of all sorts of things, even those baked tomatoes they do at that little place round the corner, and fruit, red fruit; delicious. All colours of fruit actaully. Black fruit, red fruit, blue fruit . . ”
“But does it get you drunk?”
“Hammered, mate, does it get you plastered, off your trolly, bent, boiled-as-an-owl, three-sheets-to-the-wind, shickered, sauced?”
“Well, ahh, you see, it has rather silky tannins, and a delightful finish, just delightful. It’s well structured. Did I mention the low pH? It’s also low in sulphur.”
“Ahh, right you are, so it wont be as bad the next day after I’ve got clobbered?”
It’s remarkable that in the many articles, posts and books I have read on wine very few mention the effect of alcohol.
I can understand why many of these authors believe it wise to divorce wine from its more vulgar, carnal side. It’s to make sure that FINE WINE is set apart. FINE WINE drinkers are not drunkards you see, it’s all about the flavours, the science, the romance, the history, the terroir and not that wine’s success over all of history has been down to the fact that it makes you blotto. Since the first human witnessed the grape’s miraculous transformation into an alcoholic drink (and happily guzzled the evidence) we have been using the stuff to celebrate, party, revere our gods, to ensure the success of our dinner parties, but due to life’s brutish and short nature, mainly to forget.
Of course wine is the most superior form of alcohol; it is the epic poem, the modernist novel of drinks, where alco-pops, vodka mixers and the like are closer to Mills and Boon. No other drink gives you a wider and more complex choice of ride on the journey to peaceful oblivion.
It’s part of the ride. We love the complexity, aesthetic pleasure, historic significance and interestingness that wine provides, but we love this all the more as we drift softly and happily, our eyes glassing over, our grins engorging, into that happy state of drunkenness. Whether it is just a little tipsy, just enough juice to get the brain cogs oiled, to stoke the fires of conversation, or if it’s the feature-length, full blooded, give-em-the-laaaaazy-eye sort of drunk, we love it. Wine lovers love it. It’s a beautiful thing, and nothing achieves it better than wine.
But where the costs of this pleasure used to be a groggy, slightly sore head, now the entire body revolts. It is a strange and difficult situation.
It means, I guess, that as I grow older and the revolt gains traction – today it is my head and back, but I fear the rest will join in eventually – I will have to drink less wine. And if one is to drink less wine, then it will just have to be better wine.
Like, for example, Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite 2012 from Bot River. It was tasted at the Young Gun’s tasting as Beaumont’s winemaker Marelise Jansen van Rensberg was there showing her new Grenache – a fresh, grippy and zippy version of which I hope to drink more. The Hope Marguerite has always been one of my favourite South African Chenin Blancs. It’s always been so balanced, striking the line between oak and fruit astutely. One of those wines that does the clever thing of being at first slightly unassuming, but as you make your way through a bottle it shows itself to be genius. Lots of pear and citrus fruit; pure, fresh, and brilliant. A wine whose hangover I would most happily welcome time and time again.