My first entry is inspired by the Drunken Cyclist’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.
“I was woken in the middle of the night by the sound of wailing. At first I thought it was a baby crying, but as I listened, it sounded more like a cat. I got up and went to investigate where the noise was coming from. As I padded down the stairs, I saw that the front security light had come on and realised that the noise was coming from outside the front door.
I opened the door to find not only a small black cat, but also a bottle of wine, both sitting on the drive, which was glistening with frost. I picked them both up out of the cold and brought them inside. I checked to see if the cat was wearing a collar. He was, a purple collar, bearing a tube for his name and address. I removed the scrap of paper but this contained only a note written in block capitals: “PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS CAT. TO LEARN HIS NAME, TASTE THE WINE.”
Not knowing what to make of this, I turned my attention first to the cat. I gave him some chicken out of the fridge, which he devoured gratefully. I settled him down on my old faux fur coat, then turned my attention to the wine.
The bottle had a screw cap, which was still intact. The bottle was entirely blank; either no labels had ever been affixed or they had been removed extremely carefully. What should I do: pour it away and name the cat either Heathcliff or Morrissey, the two names I had always been torn between? Or take a risk and discover the cat’s true name and possibly a great bottle of wine? What sort of person would abandon a cat on my doorstep in the middle of the night with a bottle of wine? An eccentric feline-loving Master of Wine who just happened to be passing through on the way to a vertical tasting of Mouton Rothschild? Or a mad old lady with a Blue Nun habit?
I looked at the cat, who was perched on the coat, contemplating me as if he was only marginally more in the know than I was. “What’s your name, little boy?” I asked him. “I knew a black cat called Chardonnay once, but I think that was inspired by a soap opera rather than a love of Chablis or Pouilly-Fuissé.”
Feeling intoxicated by the strangeness of my mid-night adventure, I turned my attention to the bottle. I removed the cap and sniffed the contents. I couldn’t perceive any aroma, probably due in part to the fact that it was so well-chilled. I poured a small amount of the wine into a tasting glass and held it up to the light. It was a pale ruby colour with a purple rim. I swirled the glass vigorously to try to arouse its contents. This definitely worked on the cat, who followed my movements intently with his yellow eyes and gave a reproachful miaow, as if to say “it’s obvious, isn’t it?”
I smelled the wine in the glass, looking not just for the usual aroma characteristics, but also for any tell-tale toxic signs. I’m not exactly familiar with poisons, but I understand from Agatha Christie novels that they usually smell of almonds. The wine was slowly beginning to release its secrets, and I thought that I could discern red fruits: cherries, strawberries and violets. Feeling braver, I took a sip. I looked back to the feline, his black fur glossy under the spotlights. He gave another little miaow, which this time sounded more like “Pinot”. “Is that your name, furry boy? Are you called Pinot Noir?” He gave what looked like an approving twitch of his head and curled up to go to sleep, purring like the cat who got the Cremant.
Feeling more confident, I tasted the wine properly, slurping and swirling it round my mouth. It was as soft and velvety as the cat’s fur. An explosion of ripe summer fruit: unmistakably Pinot Noir…
… So, I know that you don’t really like cats and you said that we couldn’t have one, but as he’s just arrived, and in such a strange way, we can’t throw him out, can we? Look how peaceful he looks, he can stay can’t he? And he came with such a great bottle of Pinot Noir, that’s a bonus, isn’t it?”
I looked imploringly at my husband, who turned to look at little PN, his face set in a stern expression. As he looked at the sleeping kitten curled up on my coat, his regard softened into something approaching a smile. “Well, he did make quite an entrance and brought us a fantastic bottle of Pinot. It’s like something out of a deleted scene from “Sideways”. Perhaps he can stay, just for now and we’ll see how he settles in.” With that, he kissed me goodbye, gave Pinot a little rub on the head, and left for work.
I closed the door behind me and smiled fondly at my new furry partner in crime. I opened the rubbish bin, just to check that the carefully steamed-off wine bottle labels and certificate from Cats Protection confirming Sooty’s adoption were fully buried.