A social scientist I’ve just been talking to in a bottle shop (he’s the manager) reckons we’re entering a new dark age and he doesn’t just mean the colour of climate-affected shiraz.
He means truth and the way it’s being carbonically macerated under a daily deluge of warped fantasies and fake facts, and he doesn’t just mean shonky wine lists.
I agree with him that it’s very worrying, and both of us mean for the future of human civilisation or – as we prefer to express it – the orderly production and retailing of wine. If the human brain, a magnificent organ that can distinguish between Mozart and Vivaldi, even in lifts, can be co-opted this easily into its own deception, what hope is there for the humble human palate, not to mention all the other parts of our mouth that tingle when we drink riesling from the bottle?
The prospects are dark indeed. We’re staring at a loss of faith in the very nature of truth itself, and even worse, wine descriptors. Soon we’ll see customers returning cases of the finest wine, claiming it’s the worst Fanta they’ve ever tasted. Utterly delusional, of course, because most of them won’t ever have even drunk Fanta, not out of a Bass Phillip bottle.
The two of us parted gloomily, me taking home for reference a pallet of Lethbridge Ménage A Noirs, one of my favourite medium-priced, same variety, different terroir blends. My plan was to drink a glass every hour for the next few years. I figured as long as I could still taste the pedigree of the vineyards and the quality of the winemaking, I’d know I wasn’t spiralling into a delusionary condition of the middle palate or, even worse, the middle pallet.
I took a first sip. The hairs stood up on the back of my pig’s trotter corkscrew. The complex, medium-weight pinot richness I so loved, the menage of subtle terroir differences and blended clonal characteristics, seemed to be missing. The wine was lighter in weight, fruitier in a pleasant, but dare I say it, simple way. It gave the impression of being almost, dare I think it, a tiny bit sweet.
Frantically I tried to remember the last time I’d tasted Fanta. It was at a dinner party in the 1980s, when we were boycotting French bubbles in protest at the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior and the price of Krug. Mercifully, the effort of recall restored my ability to think scientifically. The Ménage A Noirs couldn’t be Fanta. It’s red. Fanta is orange, presumably from an extended period of skin contact.
My rational powers revived, only then did I notice the year on the bottle. The Ménage is only a few months old and that includes the six weeks in the courier’s truck.
Ah, sweet (but not saccharin) relief. All this quality drop requires is the kiss of time. My plan B can be ditched. No need to pray for overseas travel restrictions to be lifted so I can get myself to a Trump rally wearing a MMANGA cap. Thanks to science rather than superstition, I now know the truth. I know exactly what will Make Ménage A Noirs Great Again.