Sunday 18 August 2019

I'm blaming myself for what looks like the end of my love affair with red wine. It just doesn't seem to like me anymore

'Now I'm roundly blaming myself for what looks like the end of my long love affair with red wine'
'Now I'm roundly blaming myself for what looks like the end of my long love affair with red wine'
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

The Christmas invites are starting to roll in and at this time of year, it's almost impossible to navigate the party circuit without thinking about booze. What's your preferred party tipple? Or, in this era of less is more, do you even have one?

With a surname like Power, you can probably tell that I like whiskey. My advice to the barman making me a restaurant hot toddy is usually "don't drown the whiskey".

There's nothing worse than an anaemic hot toddy on a cold November night. And I'm also quite partial to a glass of gin provided there's no dreaded cucumber, though I'm not keen on some of the newer flavoured gins or tonic waters. And hold the dreaded peppercorns.

As for wine, my love of the grape started many moons ago with the now hard-to-find Dubonnet. A fortified wine blended with herbs and spices, they had brilliant adverts with a haunting French soundtrack. The late Queen Mother famously loved a Dubbonet cocktail - two parts Dubonnet, one part gin, on ice.

Back in my student days, I helped friends drain bottles of Mateus Rose so they could transform the bottle into a lamp. Those were pre-IKEA days when students in Rathmines bedsits had to be thrifty, so what could be better than an all-night party and spot of interior decorating all rolled into one?

But the biggest change in my drinking career over the years has taken me quite by surprise. Red wine, old pal, you've been a loyal and fun companion on our travels together. I've judiciously inspected your legs on glasses around the world. In Port Douglas in Australia, that chilled red wine we drank outdoors was an exciting first but when we tried to replicate at home, it was a disaster.

I have fond memories of a very delicious, if very expensive, Clos Du Val, imbibed in Naples, Florida.

And in Italy, we toasted saluti with the best local grapes on the island of Capri where it was so hot you could literally fry an egg on the rocks - but the wines behaved beautifully.

In contrast to Miles from that glorious 2004 movie, Sideways, who was always denigrating Merlot and talking up Pinot Noir, Merlot has been my favourite go-to safe wine in the last few years.

But now I'm roundly blaming myself for what looks like the end of my long love affair with red wine. It just doesn't seem to like me anymore. Even one glass and I could end up with a nasty headache. And there's no doubt that my love of red wine has contributed, along with the summer rosé, to my annoying wine waist.

So what to do about that? Well, I've put all plans aside to do a healthy green juice stint because what's the point on being so good for a week when you know you are coming home to be so bad?

But I am definitely planning a festive season free from hangovers. I'm looking forward to catching up with friends for country walks, finishing up with a thirsty lunch - when a glass of sparkling water is the only thing that will do.

And in my defence, I always sidestep a glass of Prosecco and Champagne at parties in favour of Pellegrino which, in the immortal word of Paul Hogan in the Foster's ad, is like "an angel crying on your tongue".

There's hassle associated with being a non-drinker at Christmas so I often feign 'designated driver' and hope that everyone's forgotten that I don't have a car.

And then there's the horrors of the social minefield that is a dinner out with a wine snob.

We all know them, the people who have done well - well, at least in their heads, they have - and they want us to know all about it.

So if you find yourself landed with a prize git in the party who insists on ordering the priciest Amarone when the rest of you are happy with the house red, it requires bottle to put him in his place before the crackers are pulled and everyone is wearing the silly hats.

It will be worth it because these idiots with 'delusions of adequacy', as my former colleague Charlie Mallon used to put it so succinctly, don't deserve the spotlight they crave on a Christmas night out.

And when it comes to paying the bill, I bet the wine snob will be the very one who doesn't want to tip. Bah humbug to Christmas party Scrooges - and yes please to more sparkling water.

Irish Independent

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