Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Wine Not?

I think my liver has reached the perfect stasis between normalcy and cirrhosis. It's taken me a while to achieve it, and has forced me to calibrate my intake of alcohol exactly, but here I am.

See, the English drink more than the Americans do. And when in Rome.... Not that I get pissed every night. It's just that if I'm having lunch in a pub, it seems wrong--culturally, ethically--not to have a beer. And when I say beer, I mean a pint of beer, a big ol' goblet that you could resuscitate a carp in. Dinner tastes better with wine, so why not uncork a bottle of shiraz or rioja? And wouldn't it be just plain rude to drink orange juice rather than sherry at an Oxford reception?

Even five months ago, back in Silver Spring, such a regimen would have left me logy in the morning. I had lost the stamina and bounce-back-ability I had so painstakingly gained during four years in college. The problem, I think, is that before I moved to England I wasn't drinking enough. Or, rather, regularly enough. My sporadic intake of booze--a beer here, a glass of wine there--just confused my body. It never had a chance to acclimate.

That's not a problem here. My body has been forced to come to terms with it. Like a climber who has spent a six weeks at Everest base camp as his body gets used to the altitude, I'm finally ready for my assault on the summit. I imagine my liver throwing up its arms and saying, "Looks like another Boddington's ale is coming down the hatch. If you can't fight 'em, join 'em."

Of course, please drink responsibly and if you drink do not operate a motor vehicle, heavy machinery or a blog.

Strange Tablefellows
I'm afraid I haven't learned any more about wine since living here. I like drinking it, and I have a few favorite types: Barbera among the reds, Sancerre among the whites. But I don't know about grapes or regions or vintages. Like a lot of people, I suspect, I usually buy wine based on an imprecise union of two factors: how much it costs and how pretty its label is. Pathetic, isn't it?

Every newspaper and magazine here has a wine column--even, I think, the ones for children-- so I could take the time to learn. But why should I when the grocery stores try to help? Shopping at an insanely crowded Sainsbury's a few days before Christmas, I prowled the wine aisles. Being so close to Europe, the selection was great. The shelf below each bottle was labeled with a description of that wine and what foods it might accompany. You've seen this on the back labels of wine bottles: serve well-chilled with fish; a good accompaniment to steak or chicken. This label below a Portuguese red was so strangely specific that I had to take a photo:

"Try with Irish stew"? I think I'd prefer a nice Guinness. And if it wasn't only 10:30 in the morning, perhaps I'd have one.


mark from alexandria said...

America would probably be a much happier place if we were "likkered up" as well and as regularly as our "special" friends across the Atlantic.

suburbancorrespondent said...

I think you may be taking rationalization to new heights here.

But I love the idea of a wine column in Kids' Post. Might make it a bit more interesting...

Candadai Tirumalai said...

It came as something of a surprise to me during my first year in England (1973) that many colleges and universities include a bar.
I believe that Oxford colleges often have a don who knows a lot about wine, in addition to his expertise in a discipline.
Pubs, which have evocative or picturesque names, do seem a part of the English landscape. The Eagle and Child in Oxford was patronized by Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and the Inklings.

Richard said...

A "British press round up" from a commentor on your website. It has all the trappings of a good British story: knickers, Marks & Spencer and a chip pan. All that's missing is the Duke of Edinburgh.


Henry said...

The best wine/food recommendation I ever saw was in the Oddbins on Oxford High Street back in the 1980s. The sinister, Bond-villainesque manager had nothing but contempt for students and the cheap plonk we bought. He advertised a particularly nasty Cotes du Rhone as "Easy Drinking Fruity Red: particularly good with Shepherds Pie..."
Cheers! and Happy New Year...

MEB said...

New heights in rationalization, indeed. Is the Washington Post going to pay for your rehab as workman's comp when your fellowship ends?