There are three bottles of wine in my apartment, two of which I’m not able to drink.
I don’t recall ever finding myself in this situation before. My first real job at age twenty three was at a wine startup and, from that point onwards, I’ve never been without some kind of cellar. In other words, I’ve always had a good selection of wine to choose from. What a luxury.
India, being what it is, isn’t terribly amenable to recreating this level of abundance. There’s tax, first of all, which is sky high at 150%. And technically I’m limited to owning nine litres of wine any at one point in time before being in breach of some kind of local licensing laws. The astute reader will note that my three bottles are well within that limit. Which is both reassuring and deeply depressing.
All this to say that wine, which was for years my go-to pastime, is no longer a big part of my life, purely out of circumstance. I still love it; I just can’t get ahold of it, at least not at a reasonable price and in any great diversity. India makes it up for in all sorts of ways, mind you, yet there is no real substitute for a nice glass of wine with dinner. Cocktails are fine but, you know, rather louche, and fine spirits are way too fast a path to self-destruction to enjoy on a regular basis. And beer makes me fat. No, there’s nothing quite like wine.
I woke up this morning in a bad mood, which is ironic considering I’m on a five day holiday from work. I feel like I should be relishing the quiet time, doing things like writing the Next Great Romantic Comedy (just what the world needs), smashing a few sets of pushups to elevate my gravitationally challenged pecs, getting the perfect ear on my next loaf of sourdough and learning how to make my two favourite styles of biryani (for the record: Malabar/Thalassery and Hyderabadi). Maybe even dyeing my beard (you wouldn’t believe the cultural pressure I’m under to wash away the grey).
Instead, I watched a shitty Hindi movie after having breakfast at 12.30pm, mourned Irrfan Khan’s death, and briefly contemplated self-abuse (too lazy) before opening this bottle of wine at seven o’clock on the dot to try and salvage something of the day.
This is, as I mentioned, the only bottle of wine I am able to drink. I have two others, both promised to friends for sharing. I’m looking forward to that. This one, though, is mine.
I helped out at Lake’s Folly in 2013, washing presses and concrete floors and barrels and… well, you get the idea. It was an incredible experience; my first vintage anywhere in the world. Washing things had never felt so meaningful: there I was, at one of Australia’s legendary wineries, cleaning a press! How lucky was I?! It’s hard to convey how thrilling the whole experience was. It was also the first, but not the last, place where I came to understand the camaraderie of vintage, when there are so many things to do and only limited pairs of hands with which to do them. Walking the vineyard, examining ripeness, discussing picking strategies, receiving the fruit, seeing (and smelling) the ferments, wrangling hoses. And, of course, cleaning everything in sight.
Smelling this wine makes me think of all those things now. It smells great, by the way, and tastes even better. I believe 2017 was a great Hunter vintage, and I can sense it in the glass by way of this wine’s purity, typicité, velvety tannin structure and concentration. It’s pretty spectacular. I have a few more bottles in storage in Brisbane, a fact that would make me even happier if I could actually get to them. This will have to do for now.
I opened this wine out of a sense of desperation, looking for something to make me happy. I’m on my second glass now, waiting for my food to finish cooking, wondering what to watch on Netflix. And what do you know, it worked. In my cozy little flat in leafy Bangalore, I have a glass of fucking Lake’s Folly Cabernets in front of me, something I have a connection to both emotionally and aesthetically, something that makes an otherwise very ordinary day feel just a bit special.
Wine, you’ve done it again. Don’t leave me.