Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 05/13/00 1:24 PM

Humour: That red elixir

                                           That Red Elixir

There is a lot I don’t know about wines. I will freely admit to that.

However, there is one little thing that puzzles me no end: why for the love of God, are wines being endowed with human characteristics? Is it pretentiousness raised to a fine art? Or is just the evil designs of a thwarted Thesaurus writer with a secret penchant for the red elixir?

Read about any world famous wine or champagne and you’ll see what I mean. There is a riot of adverbs, all eminently suitable footnotes to the biodata of an elder statesman, a superstar or a feisty activist; anyone and anything, actually, but a bottle of wine.

Moreau Rouge is described as a `formidable, superior wine of considerable merit,` immediately bringing to mind the vision of a Helmut Kohl-like figure,  at the helm of affairs purely on merit, detractors be damned.

Rose d’Anjou has a blurb that states it is `most appealing, full-figured, with more than a a touch of sweetness counterbalanced by a faintly tart, stringent aspect.` Now, does that description suit Kajol or doesn`t it, I ask you.

Elsewhere, you read of a `small to moderate bodied` Moreau Blanc, an `austere` Muscadet de Sevre, a `complacent` Chardonnay. See what I mean?

The virtues of good wines seem truly amazing, even humbling. Many a good rose, blanc or ruby has been called, variously, `unassuming, respectable, resplendant, ageless, exceptional.`

And in case you thought, rather in the fashion of PG Wodehouse, that a wine is just a wine, stand corrected: the Moreau Chablis is known to be an `amusing ` wine. Most mystifying, unless it means the liquid bubbles in a merry fashion or induces instant hilarity in those who have drunk their Bacchanal full.

Even as prominent human beings have been reduced to mere caricatures, wines of eminence, presence and charisma make their debut in style. Our politicians may be exposed as charlatans but the Pouilly Fume is of  the `highest character.`

Our silver screen heroes may possess their own brand of machismo but can that compare with a Chablis Premier Cru with `opulent yet smoky constituent, an altogether vigorously stylish presence?` A Satish Gujral sculpture may be a feast to the eye but to counterbalance that, we have a Chablis Grand Cru which is `finely structured, with nice size and appearance.`

No Anjolie Ela Menon  artwork  has as yet been described as `neatly wrought, with a velvety structure, subtle and most civilised.` As for the Chabilis Moreau `mysterious and sombre, subtle and delicate, very beautiful, a true gem,` why that is the kind of sign-off line most women would die for.

With all due respect to connoisseurs, wine aficianados, unabashed winos, anyone and everyone who likes a glass of tart white with their fish, and piquant red with their meat and veggies, I have this to say: call a wine a wine.

Call it a lovely wine if you must. But stop embodying it with otherworldly virtues. It’s not fair to humans. And ultimately, we are the ones who drink that wine.

Restore the balance of things.

This ran in DECCAN HERALD of 13 May 2000.

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Sheila Kumar • May 13, 2000

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