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A glass of wine

"Every time I open a bottle of wine, it is an amazing trip somewhere."

José Andres

A few random thoughts on wine inspired from a frame in a film. Although not this one, even though there is indeed a glass of wine in it. The film was the very whimsical, possibly too cute, but overall wonderful The Man in the Hat. I think it might be Irish or English, but is set entirely in the south of France. One review we found said the French Tourism Office would be extremely pleased with it. Nothing much happens. A man in a hat drives around France in his ridiculously tiny and unreliable Fiat. There are recurring eccentric characters, animals, hardly any dialogue, music of all kinds, gorgeous but not too gorgeous scenery, beauty, comedy in the manner of Jacques Tati and an underlying melancholy - even tragedy. But beauty - in every way you can think of.

At first we were a bit unsure - would we stick with it? But stick with it we did and in the end were very, very pleased we did. Try it - it's on SBS Demand - and thank you Patricia for the recommendation. So very, very French although made by the Irish and English.

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” John Keats

I don't remember many books in the film but there is a photograph and a very sad and sort of poetic statement painted on a tree. There are also two, also sad, stories told by incidental characters, and a whole world of stories implied by small glimpses into people's lives. But all the rest is there.

But back to my rambling thoughts on wine. As I said the frame of the film I had in mind was not the one above and try as I might I cannot find it. The closest I could come to it was this painting, although this couple are younger and more beautiful. Besides the lady is obviously not the waitress/owner for the film sequence begins with a very sad man in a café on his own, being served by a plump African French lady, who eventually sits down and joins him in a meal. There are glasses of white wine, a white tablecloth, they sit in front of the window which looks out onto a small village - and she smiles.

“I like on the table,

when we're speaking,

the light of a bottle

of intelligent wine.” Pablo Neruda

It is in fact, as the film continues the beginning of a relationship. And I think the glasses of wine - white - added to the beauty and the blossoming atmosphere of that tiny moment. For tiny it was.

“Wine enters through the mouth,

Love, the eyes.

I raise the glass to my mouth,

I look at you,

I sigh.” William Butler Yeats

And that's the thing about wine isn't it? It's always presented in some kind of romantic way - whether it be romance in the form of love, or the romance of travel, a beautiful setting, glamour and wealth, and so on. For yes, it is true, the wine makers and marketers often do their best to create a gorgeous setting, and promote their wares with photographs such as the one at the top of the page, architecturally designed wineries that capture a view and artfully designed labels. Well that's something I think that we Australians can be proud of beginning. Before the Australian wine labels the design was very traditional. Now even the French are becoming more design conscious.

And yet as we know wine is not necessarily a good thing. In oh so many ways, not only because it can lead to alcoholism, violence, illness, even death. Indeed the very French General de Gaulle, introduced milk into schools in an attempt to prevent parents feeding their children wine at the dinner table. What about the attached snobbery - the dark side of romanticism? What about the chemicals that might be in the wine - wine is definitely not health food in spite of that attempt to say it's good for preventing heart attacks. What about potentially dodgy business practices and so on - the selling of wine and other alcoholic drinks to the poor and the desperate. Remember Dan Murphy's in Darwin - or was it Alice Springs? In quite the wrong place, morally speaking, anyway. Well there may not be many dodgy business practices, but it's big business so I'm sure that all is not romantic, artisan hands in the dirt, creating the perfect wine kind of thing.

For example - we have just bought another ten bottles of Aldi's excellent South Point Pinot Grigio at $4.99 a bottle. Now how can anyone make wine at that price? Even if you are making it at scale. Somebody, somewhere along the line must be being squeezed and I doubt it's Aldi. The wine is gorgeous and worth much more than $4.99 - its gold medals surely prove that. But somehow, whoever the winemaker is they are not getting the benefit of being able to raise the price.

I know all these things and yet I still get a kick out of drinking a good glass of wine with good food. Somehow it lifts the entire meal into another sphere. Particularly if it is drunk from a beautiful glass. Of course our Aldi pinot grigio is an utter bargain and we rejoice in it, but I do wonder sometimes whether an expensive bottle of wine every now and then might be even better. Although I suspect David, like Pliny would probably disagree.

"The best kind of wine is that which is most pleasant to him who drinks it."

Pliny the Elder

"Wine is bottled poetry." said Robert Louis Stevenson, and yes it does transport one to other times, other places, makes one wonder about new places to which one could perhaps travel one day ,,,

And yet it took me years to appreciate wine. I didn't like it at all at first, gradually grew to appreciate it more as we graduated from the truly awful and cheap to the better and more tempting. I think it might have been that first glass of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc that really captured my soul though. I doubt that's a Cloudy Bay in my glass at the Port Douglas Yacht Club but I'm sure it was pretty nice. Besides just look at the view.

"We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine." Edouardo Galeano

The photograph is of a small statue tucked away in a far corner of Ostia - Rome's old port.



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