Apologies, friends. I know that this month’s entry is a little on the tardy side, but I have been wrestling with the fiendish challenge set by last month’s worthy winner, Dracaena Wines, to write on the subject of “friend”.
I made a couple of false starts:
1) Serious thoughts about food and wine matching – how wine and food can be (a) the perfect mariage (b) headed for the divorce courts, or (c) just a bit indifferent to each other. However, I have nothing like enough expertise in this area to write anything that people would be interested in. Although I can tell you that Malbec (to be more precise, Tour de Belfort Malbec Cabernet Franc 2012) is fantastic with chipotle prawns. I made a bit of a matching cock-up the other night. I was making swordfish salad and wasn’t sure what to serve with it, so I consulted Larousse. The closest food suggestion was salade niçoise, for which it suggested Bandol rosé. We don’t have any Bandol, but we do have some rather lovely Mas de Cadenet rosé I wrote about here. In the dim light of our wine cupboard I grabbed what I thought was the right bottle. It was paler than I remembered, but you know what Provence rosé is like. I’d got as far as opening the bottle and pouring a taste before I realised that it was the white (Vermentino aka Rolle), not the rosé. Anyway, it was delicately delicious and went with the salad just fine. Ooh, I’ve remembered another one. Last week, I served chocolate and raspberry pavlova with Banyuls, bought years ago on holiday in wait-for-it, Banyuls. A classic combination with anything chocolatey. Do it. And I’m out.
2) My second idea was to write something hilarious around faux-amis (false-friends, or what happens when you guess a French word by making an English word sound French). The best one ever was when a friend told a French friend that English bread has condoms in it. Don’t worry, my non-English friends and don’t let it put you off visiting our fairly friendly country, our bread does not contain condoms. Anyway, I couldn’t think of any wine-related false friends.
The idea I kept coming back to was wine and friendship – what role has wine played in making, building and breaking friendships? One of my fondest wine/friendship moments is the first bottle I shared with Lynn, my roommate in my first year at university. Sharing a room with someone you’ve only just met is a rather strange situation, and we spent the first week politely pussyfooting around each other. Until the first Friday evening, when Lynn opened a bottle of her dad’s homemade wine and offered me a glass. Don’t get excited, her dad isn’t Bob Lindo of Camel Valley fame, or anyone like that. The wine was made from a kit, probably a bit like this. (How good does that sound? Not at all good.) If my memory serves me correctly, we drank the rosé, which Lynn explained was the result of blending an overly-sour red with an overly-sweet white. Yes, that’s how the WSET textbooks tell you the finest rosés are made. However, it was strong and loosened our inhibitions. We swapped teenage secrets and I made footprints up her window. Fortunately, she thought this was funny. That evening was not the genesis of my love of wine. However, it was the start of a very long-term friendship with someone completely different to me (she’s into motorbikes and heavy metal, I was a pseudo-intellectual Buddhist hippy in a skirt with mirrors and tassels), with whom I would probably not have made friends, if we had not been thrown together in a student bedroom with some dodgy homebrew.
As the term went on, we made friends with the other students on our corridor. Special mention must go to Eylan, who introduced me to Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon. With hindtaste, it was probably as rough as hell, but I felt so sophisticated to be drinking wine that was a) red and b) had its grape variety on the bottle. Thanks too to Sofie for all the peach schnapps, but that’s another story. There was an uncomfortable moment during that term when someone thought that I’d bought sherry for our shared Christmas dinner. I had bought sherry, but it wasn’t for drinking, it was to make my famous mushroom and sherry sauce to accompany my famous cashew nut roast. How things have changed, these days everyone would probably think I was really sophisticated for bringing sherry.
Differences in vinous opinion have thrown up the odd friendship obstacle over the years. I’ve written before about awkward meals out with my former colleagues, who refused to countenance the suggestion that it might be nice to order something other than Pinot Grigio once in a while. They branded me a wine snob. There may well be some truth in that, although I prefer Jeff’s terminology of D.I.V.A. or “crappy wine intolerant”. I did win some brownie points by cutting Pinot Grigio recommendations out of the weekend papers and circulating them at work. Well, they were no use to me.
I’ve written above about the bottle that didn’t start my close personal friendship with wine, but, in his final reminder to get our entries in, my good friend Jeff appears to have made a legally binding offer 😉 to supply a bottle of Montrachet to all entrants. Which reminded me of the bottle that did start that friendship: a Puligny-Montrachet at an Association of Women Solicitors event. That’s the thing about friends – they always remind you of the good times.