For the last few years, I have had my birthday at the Legion. This year was an exception. I downed a rather decadent amount of prosecco and settled down to watch ‘Hairspray’ with Aimée.
And it got me thinking. As not-normally-a-wine-drinker, there are certain to be people who know nothing about wine beyond its general wetness and colour variations, who might want to, at least look to others as if they know what they’re drinking. We all enjoy knowing something beyond the usual. And who doesn’t want to be a little bit Jilly Goolden? If only for the hair.
When we serve wine at the Club, we all know the red should be allowed to breathe.
This usually involves opening the bottle (screw top) and then wafting the opened top in circles for around three rotations, then pouring. Not the proper way of doing it, but when time is against you, it seems the best method.
Some years back, when we still had the old roof and its attendant wind-chill factor, a friend of mine used to come in on Saturdays. She liked the red wine, even though my boss at the time only bought it because it was cheap. It doubled as pewter cleaner.
The red wines were never kept in the fridge – this appears to be the semi-acceptable practise of the nouveau riche in suburbia – but we kept the bottles sitting on the battered, stained formica worktop. Situated, as the Club is, directly in the path of the howling winds across the highest point in the village, the cabernet might as well have been iced.
Gloria could cope with the wine being cheap. She could tolerate it being opened and breathed in circles by non-wine drinking staff. The only thing she couldn’t bear was the wine being cold.
With this in mind, I stored it next to the widest of our fridges, in the hope that the heat generated by the motor would keep the wine from frosting up. It worked. Rather too well. It was almost mulled by the time it reached the glass.
One evening, when the breeze was not so solid and Gloria wasn’t feeling wine, she decided to have a spritzer. She had never had a red wine spritzer before, and I’m pretty sure she’s never had one since, only because of the way I made it.
The practise with a normal spritzer is simple. One wine glass, filled with the wine of choice (it is, invariably white or rosé, which is where she lost me), poured into a tall tumbler and topped up with either lemonade or soda water.
When Gloria asked me for a cabernet spritzer, I didn’t want to appear gauche but frankly had to make my peace with it.
“The soda’s on the fritz, is lemonade okay?” I asked, and it really was a question. I had no idea.
She was kindness personified to me, and just shrugged. From the resultant walnutting of her lips, I would venture to suggest that in fact no, it was not alright.
When Aimée and I went to a fancy restaurant for her birthday, the sommelier seemed past caring who was driving, perhaps it was her birthday too, because she seemed born to pour.
And so, in the last few days we have had a Club Committee Meeting. I had forgotten my, by now, terribly familiar list of queries, critiques and suggestions. It was stapled to the calendar, begging not to be mislaid, and so I had to go by memory.
A couple of years ago, we had a beer tasting evening at the Club. This didn’t go badly. It just didn’t go. I seem to recall a charge to partake in the sampling of beers, the idea being that the most popular on the night would become a Club staple. However, the price to partake of the selection was the same as three and a half pints of our usual tipple.
We are accustomed to our usual tipple. As such, the samples, unknown, foreign to the Devon tongue, sat in their glass jugs and waited, losing both head and interest.
Wine, on the other hand, wine is a big favourite with the mums. We have Mums’ Night once a month. On Dads’ Night, they have a curry. On Mums’ Night, they deplete our stocks of prosecco to the last strained vestige of a bubble.
I suspect we will seek out a travelling sommelier. If not, one of the local chaps will know something about wine and google what they should be sniffing for.
The mums will be happy, I have no doubt, so long as there’s no chardonnay. They don’t much care for a wine that bites back.