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March 26, 2018 | by  | in From the Archives Opinion |
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From the Archives

Students, for better or worse, are known for their propensity to get stupidly plastered on the cheapest shit possible. This is usually the assumption upon which any discussion of alcohol in Salient takes place. However, CB Black’s seminal “Wine: to be drunk intelligently”, published in Salient in March 31, 1965, stands apart from this debauchery.

Black speaks about wine with an almost obnoxious earnestness. He covers the merits of particular French regions, he lists proper food pairings, he delivers a treatise on the proper storage and uncorking of a bottle of Bordeaux, and so much more. He is 1965’s answer to Craft Beer Guys.

But I was also intrigued to know what I was missing. Spurred by Black’s words, I was determined to achieve the same enlightenment, to ascend to a higher plane and spread the vintage gospel. To this end, I gathered the b o y s and hit up a BYO. Black categorically rules out curry and Chinese food as pairings for wine, but I defy you to find a BYO in Wellington which doesn’t serve one or both of these. We went to Istana Malaysia.

As disciples of CB Black, we were bound to follow his steps to wine-tasting. As an instructive guide to modern Salient readers I present those steps, along with the highlights from our observations:

“Firstly, check the colour.”

Robbie (Selak’s 2016 Zesty Sauvignon Blanc, $16.99 with Club Card): “Very much like urine after 6 beers.”

Avi (Church Road 2017 Pinot Gris, $12): “[Urine with] the straw-colouring of a man who drinks the required 8 cups [of water] a day.”

Vincent (Selak’s 2016 Buttery Chardonnay, $16.99 with Club Card): “Mildly yellow, like mildly dehydrated urine.”

“Secondly, swirl the glass around to really bring up the bouquet.” (i.e. smell the wine)

Liam (Old Coach Road 2016 Pinot Noir, $9.99 with Club Card): “Vinegar, but vaguely fruity – plummy, but bad.”

Robbie: “Chemical, harsh, it physically hurt the inside of my nose, pleasant.”

Vincent: “Hints of an unplaceable vegetable – a sweet red onion peppercorn medley.”

“Thirdly, take a good sip, then another. Roll it around for at least a second.”

Max (Tiki Estate 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, $14.99): “Like lemon and lime Ajax cleaning product, spring onions, and jelly beans.”

Liam: “Sour, clammy, kind of shit – like licking the wall of a cave.”

Avi: “I surprisingly don’t hate it, definitely better than the 5 beers I had prior [because I’m a bit of a cool guy].”

“Fourthly, is the second part of the aroma: Finesse. This is the warm feeling as you swallow, followed by a lingering fragrance.”

Vincent: “Warm and buttery, especially in the lingering fragrance.”

Liam: “Warming, but in a ‘drinking acid’ kind of way. Hurts quite a bit.”

Avi: “Max, what the hell am I meant to say to this???”

Black is insistent that drinking wine was not for the purpose of getting “happy”. I was initially smug, looking around the restaurant at people downing their bottles, drunkenness their objective. “These fools, these dullards,” I thought, shaking my head, “These philistines. It’s like they don’t even know that the wine is the objective!”

Unfortunately, having finished our notes, things devolved for my party of budding sommeliers. Someone dropped a 20c piece in my glass and I had to down it to “Save the Queen” (tasting notes: copper, zinc, the filthy hands of one hundred strangers). All bets were off. Levels of “happiness” ensued which would make Black spin in the grave he may or may not occupy.

Has “From the Archives” already shed any pretence that it will provide any kind of informed historical insight and/or analysis? Perhaps. See you in two weeks.  

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