I think everyone has been a wine snob at some time even though they know nothing about wine. I certainly have, and I don’t.
Growing up in a Yorkshire mill town, wine was low on the list of alcoholic beverages of choice. My old man managed to put away a few bottles of whisky a week that he ‘acquired’ from the shop where he worked, mum would occasionally get giddy on bottles of warm pale ale, and at Christmas there was sherry, Advocaat, Babycham, and Pink Lady. Wine was for the posh gits like Penny Peep’s family who lived in the leafy crescent along the road from our cobbled, smoke-grimed street.
Britain has always had a drinking culture, and sneaking into the pub at fifteen years old was a rite of passage. If you were caught and thrown out, there was always the off-license where you could buy bottles of cider and get off your head in the park on that and a couple of woodbine cigarette pinched from your granddad. This is long before we knew what a joint was.
By the time you were sixteen, you pretty much knew which pubs would turn a blind eye to your illegal drinking, and by the time you were seventeen you looked the part anyway. It was down to the landlord, he’d look at you and then look away or he’d come around the bar and toss you out. They never asked for ID, it was unheard of back then.
Does anybody remember the wine bars like Yates that once flourished, they were the equivalent of those awful Wetherspoons pubs that today blight Britain’s drinking culture. Yates Wine Lodges served rocket fuel under the guise of Australian wine in schooners and after downing a couple you understood why Australians talk so much shite. Down four or five and you were ready to chuck your jumbuck into a billabong and jump in after it stark naked screaming God bless Australia, good on yer mate.
Of all the things I miss about Britain, pubs are high on the list, and I mean proper pubs, with proper mates, and real ale pulled by busty landladies into pint glasses that haven’t been sterilized between refills and still contain a dribble of your slaver at the bottom. Pubs where on a snowy night you could step into a cozy room with a roaring fire, smell the smoke, spilled beer, and steam rising from damp woolen coats drying on pegs by the door. Life was a late summer evening in the beer garden when twilight went on forever. You’d hear the landlord call time but your mate’s on his way back with a full tray. Another pint of Best for you and a vodka and lime for the missus.
But I left Britain and went off to see the world, and pubs, the foundation to my social life, were replaced by bodegas, Cafés, beach bars, street vendors with iceboxes, Hooters, feux Irish watering holes, Chinese shops, Kneipes, μπαρ, מִסְבָּאָה, bares, dens and dives.
Eventually, I washed up in a rather strange corner of France, and that brings me back to wine in a box.
At one time I wouldn’t dream of buying wine in a box, I mean, what would the neighbors think if they saw me walking out of the store with wine in a box, or two? The French are civilized, right?
Let me tell you, wine in a box is a winner. First, it’s cheap. I mean really cheap. And there’s five liters in there, and because it has a little tap on it, you can repeatedly fill your glass without seeing the level going down, so it cuts out the guilt. Also, your wife doesn’t know how much you’re drinking, so she doesn’t nag. Just in case you’re wondering, every drop of wine comes out of that box, I know because I cut one open to have a look. Surprising things happen too. I was nearing the end of a box when suddenly it took on a life of its own and started PUMPING out the last of the wine, like there was a little heart in there. Pump, squirt, pump, squirt. Wha Hey! You don’t get that with a bottle. Wine in a box can save your embarrassment at the recycling bin too if a friend drives by and waves and then drives by again half an hour later to see you still tossing in empties. And it gets better. You know how when friends come around for dinner, they usually bring a bottle of wine? Well, I can almost guarantee that if you pointedly bang down their little bottle of wine on the kitchen counter next to your handsomely inscribed five liter cube of cabernet sauvignon, they’ll feel so bad that when next they come to dinner they’ll rock up with a box as well!
Bacchus, God of Wine in a Box.