Harley Hay

A bit of whine about wine

I’m one of those guys. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get wine. Virtually every wine I’ve ever tasted seems a lot like vinegar, or perhaps expensive mouthwash. And people pay exorbitant piles of dough for a dusty bottle of converted microbial yeast.

All the fuss over “fine wine” (or as I like to call it, “spoiled grape juice”) is based on fermentation which is something we all learned about in Grade 10 Science from Mr. Mills, and then promptly forgot. I just looked it up, and apparently fermentation is what transforms the aforementioned grape juice into wine by magically making some yeast turn the sugar into alcohol. Or something like that.

This is sort of what our elderly “friend” did when the ALCB (Alberta Liquor Control Board) legal age of consumption was 21 and we were in high school, except the old guy turned our money into alcohol. A special weekend would roll around and the whole gang of us would gather to pool our meager moola and make a long and elaborate list of what we would be requiring from the local ALCB store for the entire weekend of partying with a house full of friends.

The list would be intricately figured to the last cent of who ordered what and carefully scribed with various and sundry adult beverages including Manor St. David’s wine, a barely drinkable, extremely inexpensive swill.

Whoever got the short straw would then drive over and pick up the “friend” and head to the ALCB. Now it must be said that our said ‘friend’ was an elderly gentlemen who was, shall we say, perpetually tipsy, and the outcome of this rather tenuous procedure was always in serious doubt.

More often than not, our carefully created list of well-thought out, very specific choices for the party ahead would end up instead, as an armload of gallon jugs of outrageously cheap Berry Cup red wine. Our friend would ignore the list, take a large commission and use the rest of our moola to buy us “rot gut.” In fact, Berry Cup made Manor St. David’s seem like Dom Perignon. Maybe that’s why I whine about wine.

I have good friends who sincerely believe that the sacrosanct choosing of the correct wine for dinner is one of life’s great challenges and enduring pleasures. I kind of envy them. For people like me who don’t know the difference between a Chardonnay and a Charolais, a fancy wine list might as well be in a foreign language, which it is. The only thing a “full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon” ever did for me was give me a massive headache. Especially when I got the bill.

But now there is a very special wine that I actually wouldn’t mind having a go at. Just this week the SpaceX Dragon capsule splashed down in the Pacific and it was carrying a case of wine that had been stored in the International Space Station for over a year. Ostensibly, the experiment was to see what long periods of zero gravity does to “agriculture” and what effect it has on food. But I betcha one or two of those 12 bottles just might end up selling for a pretty penny on some black market somewhere. I mean, up until now, the interweb says the most expensive single bottle of wine ever sold was in 2018, when a 1945 Romanee-Conti (whatever that is) fetched $558,000!

Never mind, however. A year in space with thirsty astronauts? I bet the scientists here on Earth will be surprised to find that zero gravity has somehow transformed that fine wine into pure H2O.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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