A Classic Wine Tasting

Compulsory confinement has turned me back to some re-reading of old favourites and this delight today as Evelyn Waugh had me revisit Charles Ryder and his Oxford companion Sebastian Flyte sampling the delights of the Brideshead cellar.

Here’s Ryder remembering the hours during which they made a “serious acquaintance with wine.”

““We would sit, he and I, in the Painted Parlour with three bottles open on the table and three glasses before each of us; Sebastian had found a book on wine-tasting, and we followed its instructions in detail. We warmed the glass slightly at a candle, filled it a third high, swirled the wine round, nursed it in our hands, held it to the light, breathed it, sipped it, filled our mouths with it, and rolled it over the tongue, ringing it on the palate like a coin on a counter, tilted our heads back and let it trickle down the throat. Then we talked of it and nibbled Bath Oliver biscuits, and passed on to another wine; then back to the first, then on to another, until all three were in circulation and the order of glasses got confused, and we fell out over which was which, and we passed the glasses to and fro between us until there were six glasses, some of them with mixed wines in them which we had filled from the wrong bottle, till we were obliged to start again with three clean glasses each, and the bottles were empty and our praise of them wilder and more exotic.

‘…It is a little shy wine like a gazelle.’

‘Like a leprechaun.’

‘Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.’

‘Like flute by still water.’

‘…And this is a wise old wine.’

‘A prophet in a cave.’

‘…And this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck.’

‘Like a swan.’

‘Like the last unicorn.’

And we would leave the golden candlelight of the dining-room for the starlight outside and sit on the edge of the fountain, cooling our hands in the water and listening drunkenly to its splash and gurgle over the rocks.”

From chapter four of “Brideshead Revisited” and surely one of the great pieces of wine writing.

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