Illustration by Daisy Leeson
Saint-Chinian 2018: Tesco Finest, £9
Rowan’s tasting notes:
On the nose: a trail of scent whose source is a macabre couple waltzing lasciviously in a moonlit orangery.
On the pallet: the oral equivalent to your eyes relaxing into the dim candlelight of a restaurant after 9:30pm.
In the hand: another, leading you towards the boathouse through the overgrown lawns where cobwebs shatter starlight over pumpkins and barley.
For best results: dim the lights, open a window behind you, settle into a prewarmed chair, and accompany your laptop’s American Horror Story playlist with Bach played quietly by your phone on the window ledge.
It’s a cold night, full of mischief and threat; wolves howl, foxes fox, and I sit alone in my office, fire spitting at me in a desperate attempt to gain my attention. In one hand my pen droops whilst the other grapples with a wine glass’ shaft. Suddenly behind me I hear the unmistakable echo of black nail varnish against my oak bed frame and I turn, coming eye to dark-red-eye with him – undone shirt-cuffs flapping in my heavy breaths; cravat upon cravat upon cravat choking lightly at the bottle’s neck.
Taking me by the hand the vampire leads me out into the night, thrusting a new crystal wine glass into my chest as we parade through the beguiling mausoleums. Although dark fruits and pumpkin piles staunch the flow of flavour, the dam will surely be busted soon enough; but for the time being the wine is mellow and well-spoken and when our hands brush reaching for the stereo I only briefly consider how cold they are.
The wine, the vampire, and I enter a subterranean cavern, roots dribble from the ceiling and style my fringe with fondling fronds, and the occasional drop of mineral water maintains a morose mist of moisture. My mouth waters with the thought of lemons as my vampire gesticulates to glowing stalactites and the stalagmites shaved into tables for the patrons who crowd around the bulging stage.
In one corner Hugh Grant is locked in combat with a grizzly bear and is winning, and by the bar James Masters (Spike from Buffy) is cutting limes with his cheek bones. Cradled in the vampire’s arms I lean back and catch water globules with my mouth – overflowing with sticky wine, and goring up my shirt.
The floor is two inches deep with red berries, black fruits, sweat and blood; and dancers throw sanguineous arches under the pale light. “Are you bursting with a dream?” Hugh Jackman asks, but it’s not that sort of party, and I sip a little oyster before slithering away through the madding crowd. Bacchus pulls himself onto the stage but before he can say anything inappropriate Hugh Grant throws the bear at him.
“Having fun?” the vampire growls as I tip another glass onto my shirt in a belated attempt at a costume. The wine roars in my ears whilst at the bar a man who tried to order a cider is torn limb from limb by a jazz quartet of skeletons, his juices joining so many other’s on the floor as I lower my glass into it all and get a top up. The vampire is trying in vain to bite my neck, but I’m far too ticklish and swat at him with a branch that I picked up earlier but chose not to mention until now.
The wine grows filling the gaps between me and my vampire, oak flavours like those of a well gnawed bedframe and squalid grapes fermented on the vine, intoxicating the blackbirds and b-list movie stars who stop by for a quick meal. A lone dancer emotes under a vinous deluge, and the audience are on one another’s feet to capture a glimpse of the goetic ballet.
“Tell them how classy I am” the vampire begs me, melding with the wine sexily. I turn to the camera and spit voluminously, slathering the teleprompter before trying my hardest to explain that the wine is incredible, heavy like a helium balloon pressing against the ceiling, deep and wide and gaping. I try my hardest but I fail, and we cut to camera 2 which is just a panning shot of Manhattan. The vampire pounces on me, spigot in hand, but I’m still ticklish and he shouldn’t expect me to change just for him.
You turn to me and ask: “Rowan, please tell me what the fucking wine tastes like?” and I look back with threatening eyebrows and wistful vanity and say: “if you want to know what this wine tastes like so much, why don’t you bloody buy it? I made up this vampiric metaphor, this hedonistic party… I tried my hardest to encourage you, but for goodness’ sake, take some bloody initiative.” The wine catches my eye over your shoulder and gives me a wink… we’re going to have a good night.
Saint-Chinian can be acquired for £9 at Tesco, and as you sip it, toast to the full-moon and remember that we share the same one.