You know that moment in Shakespeare where something so bizarre and cosmically unprecedented happens that birds start flying backwards and cow’s milk becomes cheese even in Will Studd’s absence and all the wine turns into vinegar?
I thought that was happening recently. I saw people in the street, wide-eyed and stunned. I didn’t hesitate. I rushed to my small but treasured wine collection and started drinking as fast as I could, my flailing palate trying to outrun whatever cosmic reversal was upon us.
Amazingly, given what it turned out to be, I managed to get all three bottles down without a hint of vinegar. Just a lot of lint. Which is the peril of keeping wine in your sock drawer.
Even that didn’t stifle my amazement when I discovered how the cosmos had shifted. How one of the largest social media providers on the planet had done a good thing – started hiding their likes. I didn’t have a clue what that meant. An 18-year-old working in my local bottle shop explained it to me. One of the main creators, he said, of the current toxic culture of approval-addiction among young people, had seen the error of their ways and taken steps to protect vulnerable young people and vulnerable shareholders too.
I was impressed. But I quickly realised it’s not just young people that need that kind of protection. Wine does too.
This epiphany came minutes after a terrible incident known ever since at our place as the Savaterre calamity. Savaterre, near Beechworth, decribes itself as a super premium winery. After drinking their 2017 Chardonnay several times, I’d take issue with that. I’d call them a super-duper premium winery.
And I drink a lot of chardonnay. From all regions. A lot of it in bottles. No Australian chardonnay has ever given me greater drinking pleasure than the Savaterre, not even when other people have paid for it.
Until the Incident. I’d been raving to friends for months about Savaterre and finally we opened a bottle for them. Calamity. The wine had none of its luminous, luscious, complex qualities. It was flat and lifeless. Not faulty, not damaged, it just tasted as if it had sort of given up.
Then I realised what must have happened. Savaterre chardonnay is scarce and I’d stumbled across this bottle unexpectedly, in of all places, a wine barn. Where the likes aren’t hidden (medals gleaming on every second bottle) and neither are the dislikes. (“Eighty bucks for one friggin’ bottle? That name must be French for ‘I’m gunna savagely tear a hole in your bloody wallet!’”)
How often must this wine have heard comments like that? No wonder it was clinically depressed.
Our poor super-premium wines need protecting. If a global social-media algorithm can be changed, so can retail shelving. Sound-proof glass cabinets, that’s what our wines deserve. And extra-thick paper bags. Over the heads of customers. I rest my case. (Not of Savaterre, I’m still saving up for a case of that.)