Everyone will, at some point, think of the ‘Ultimate Dinner Party’ and who they would invite – living or dead. Oscar Wilde would be a great conversationalist, but he would absolutely upstage the host in every way while drinking all the Rioja. Marie Curie would, of course, be radiant. Ringo Starr would just be his amazing self. One of my consistent choices is Theophrastus; not only is he an ancient Greek – he would definitely enjoy a tipple and a good time – he was a philosopher, so the conversation would be scintillating. He is also one of the first people watchers and wrote a short, tongue-in-cheek piece called The Characters, which describes all the different people you are likely to meet in your life. After dinner was over and all the other guests had gone home, Theo (he lets his friends call him Theo) and I would open a vintage fortified and he would describe all the people you meet in the wine world.
The One-Trick Pony
This person will be heard saying that they only drink shiraz or something of this ilk. Offer them something outside their comfort zone and they will recoil as if burnt by fire. They know what they want and they aren’t afraid to take it. They also only eat steak and only watch movies featuring Tom Hanks.
The Golden Oldie
Over a glass of wine, this person will suddenly and dramatically sigh, “Once you could buy a Penfolds Grange for $80.” They miss those times. They move on to gleefully say that the house they bought octupled in value overnight. They have a preference for wines with a family crest or insignia on the label.
The Sweet Tooth
If you bring out a bottle of moscato this person will scoff and roll their eyes. It is far too sweet – how do you drink that?! While you pour yourself a glass of sweet and refreshing fizz, they will reach for a 0% ABV lemonade. If only the wine were as sweet as the irony.
The Trophy Hunter
You could peruse their cellar for hours – rare vintages, decades-old Barolo and even wines from your birth year. They proudly inform you that all the wines have been rated 95 points or higher by critics. Every. Single. One. You then look at their music selection; you realise that it, too, is made exclusively of Top 10 hits regardless of genre and all their books are Pulitzer Prize winners. Every. Single. One.
They met a winemaker 15 years ago and still carry a signed picture of them in their wallet. It comes out whenever they talk to wine retailers or sommeliers. The social event of the year is their Wine Club Dinner, and they are disappointed when the head winemaker forgets their name. The good food and great wine now leaves a sour taste in their mouth.
This person comes to life at corporate lunch. Bottle after bottle of bold reds are poured, with little regard for the barramundi main course. Big name after big name is poured. The only thing better than a bold red is a big name. They especially love bold reds from big names. Because of course they do.
They had a wine recently that they really enjoyed, maybe it was the best wine they have ever had. Sadly, they cannot remember its name. Or the variety. It was a red, maybe. But also perhaps a rosé. It definitely was not a white. The letter K was somewhere on the label.
The Trailblazer cannot believe that you have never had a Granazza, a grape only grown in the southern mountains of Sardinia. Their wine rack, which is organised alphabetically by country, includes labels from their recent trip to Madagascar – which can only be drunk when paired with an authentic Malagasy meal – and a red of indeterminate variety from Uzbekistan.
Vintages are arriving earlier! The world is getting hotter! Water is a precious resource! The Alarmist is currently investing in the sparkling wines of England because Champagne is a lost cause. They are also writing letters to South Australian winemakers encouraging them to rip out shiraz vines dating to the 1860s and replace them with more viable alternatives like Barbera and nero d'Avola.
The Crazy Diamond
This person exclusively drinks fizz. The day begins with Prosecco at breakfast. Lunch is domestic sparkling. Dinner is Champagne. Oysters and cheese are served at half-hour intervals with angelic choirs singing a capella and they refer to everyone as 'darling', more so if they haven't met before. Mentioning pétillant naturel is best avoided while in their presence.
The Armchair Critic
Much like a fan at a sporting event, the Armchair Critic yells at reviews. You hear them shriek: “What are they thinking? This Burgundy is worth two more points at least! And they only rated this Chianti in the low 90s?! Boooo! Get your palate checked!!”
The Flower Child
Natural wine is good wine. The more natural it is, the better it is. Organics are good, biodynamics are preferred, but in a pinch anything cloudy will do. They have no real understanding of what these words mean when it comes to wine, but something about it being better for you and not giving you a headache, no matter how much you drink, sounds about right.
And finally, Theo would swirl his fortified before finishing it.
He would reach for a second bottle and describe one last character. “The Drinking Companion,” he would say, “doesn't mind what they drink – red or white, still or sparkling. As long as it is delicious and paired with good company and conversation, they are happy, because that is the whole point.”
And to that I would raise a glass.