Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

This month's wine club lecture was on red burgundy. The members were settling themselves at two large tables when I arrived, about ten to each one. I took an empty seat at the table farthest from the door and looked diffidently around, hoping to meet a welcoming eye. Not one. Presumably members were tired of sharing the mysteries of their deity with people who came only once, and they had evolved a wait-and-see policy.

Everyone had brought their own wine glass. There were glasses of every size and shape. Most had a notebook and biro also at the ready. The woman sitting directly opposite me now spoke to me accusingly. 'Where's your glass?' she said. I shrugged at her. 'Didn't you read the flier? It clearly says to bring a glass and knife. You'll have to go and ask that man over there if he can find you one.' So I humbly went and asked the chap she had pointed out if I could borrow a wine glass. Without a word he went and got me one and handed it over in a deliberately non-judgmental manner.

I retook my seat and placed my borrowed wine glass on the table. For a wine glass it was very small. Beside the woman on my right's gigantic goblet, it looked ridiculous. The lecturer, standing beside a counter with bottles lined up, then commenced to talk about our first red burgundy of the evening, and those with notebook and pen began scribbling. About the first wine I can remember only that it was a 2012 village burgundy. The lecturer was extremely knowledgable and spoke eloquently. He seemed to know the 2012 harvest grape by individual grape. Once, he became emotional and his speech faltered. After stretching the majority of attention spans to well beyond breaking point, he finally came around the tables and tipped a couple of blood-red mouthfuls into each glass. At last the wine club could begin their worship with nose and palate.

Self-consciously, I buried my bugle into my wine glass and with bulging eyeballs sniffed fanatically at the liquid in the bottom. I lowered the glass and pondered. I sniffed again at the wine, more delicately this time. Then I slung the contents of my glass down my open throat, tilting my head back until the glass was upside-down, afterwards straining my head back as far as it would go to let fall that last recalcitrant drop. …

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