The financial sky is falling. (So what’s new, eh? See here and here.). China’s economy is stumbling, the world’s share markets are tanking, and here in Bangkok anonymous malcontents have been bombing public places. Never mind. Starving writers are shielded from stock market crashes, at least, a regular feature of this life you don’t even notice if you have a pot to piss in but that’s about all.
Still, life can be good, and wine tastings are one reason this is true. In fact, Collin and Sara invite me to one of these things just the other night. Free wine we’re talking here, and food. The object of the exercise is what’s called a blind tasting. Exactly what this occasion turns out to be in some respects, some of us tasters losing sight of the notion we are to rate a series of equivalent wines from France and the USA, judging which are on the whole most pleasing.
Sara has invited some friends, including one Thai dude I come to admire for his habit of swirling wine in goblets till it has all but evaporated before he sips delicately at what’s left and gazes ceiling-wards as he decides whether or not to swallow it. My own approach to wine tasting, on the other hand, is to run through a few candidates in search of something sufficiently robust to wash down the mince tarts, and then try not to look sheepish if I spill some of this stuff on my shirtfront.
Sara’s friend, it turns out, has got nothing on this other fellow who appears out of the crowd in a blue blazer that sags in front with the weight of its solid gold buttons. It turns out he’s a British captain of industry with factories all over Asia, and he didn’t get where he is this day by not knowing his onions. Our little circle also includes a European ambassador, his wife and a Chinese gentleman who doesn’t speak much English and smiles at all and sundry in the same way he’s happy to taste anything you pass his way. Twice, he’ll taste it, if you give him the chance.
Anyway, we get dealt a white, whether it’s from France or America being the mystery du jour, and Mr. Buttons fixes me with a canny gaze, probably figuring from the cut of my jib I’m the most vulnerable specimen in this herd. He swirls his wine and sips at it before seeking my advice. .
“A Chardonnay,” he suggests. “And almost certainly French. Wouldn’t you say?”
All this is addressed in a pseudo-plummy voice to yours truly, who has had a long, hard day making ends meet and I’m merely standing there trying to enjoy my wine. So I tell him this, I tell him, “I’m pretty sure it’s a white.” I take another hit of this stuff followed by a long look at what remains in my glass before adding, “Though I’ll admit I peeked.”
The ambassador snorts into his wine, and his wife, who stands just inside the blast radius in a smart white dress, looks pleased it’s a Chardonnay and not, let’s say, a Shiraz. The Chinese gentleman smiles and watches proceedings carefully, maybe to see whether snorting into one’s glass is actually protocol. The ambassador wipes wine off his spectacles and tells us he’s enjoying this wine more than a little, and, getting into the spirit of things, says the next round is on him.
That’s another nice thing about free wine-tastings — grand gestures are a dime a dozen. So I get the round after that, and in due course we find the connoisseur with his jacket wide open, shirttails flapping in the breeze, and he has no idea what side of the valley either he or the wine is on or where they they came from before that.
Collin continues to prove immoderately moderate in his drinking habits, and little fun. Nevertheless, Sara looks upon him fondly, probably thinking low profiles at wine tastings of this class are not necessarily a bad thing.
Meanwhile I keep scanning the floor for any unattended solid gold buttons that might be lying about.
Sara grins at Collin. “What’s that you’re drinking now?” she asks.
“A red,” he says, arching an eyebrow and not toppling over sideways too much.
Click on the cartoon. Thanks to Doug Savage for permission to use it.
Best not to put all my eggs, or gold buttons or whatever, in one basket, so I would also encourage people to buy my book: