Down And Out With A Wine Drinking Kraut
German correspondent HANS ON spills his story about a wine drinking liason
I flop down on the sofa, and the dizziness momentarily stops, before room-spin takes hold, and it requires all my remaining energy to hold it all together. The girl who I have misguidedly allowed to hijack the evening, leading me from horrible sweaty club into taxi, calls through that she’s just getting us some drinks.
I want to tell her not to bother, but realize just in time that opening my mouth might be asking for trouble. She brings through some sort of pseudo-‘fancy’ hamper through, telling me that she’s only got a special bottle of wine left, a graduation gift that she’s been saving for a special occasion.
As she starts to unwrap the red from some cellophane packaging, I start to think another glass might not be such a bad idea after all. Until she presents me the label, and I read “JP Chenet, 2010 Merlot”, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I am no connoisseur, but what I do know is that (partially due to a very scarring night in Klute after consumption of the stuff) I am unable to have a glass of Chenet Merlot without feeling horribly ill – it holds the dubious honour of being the only wine I will not countenance buying for pre-lash, no matter how much Tesco North Road decides to slash the price.
There is also the fact that it is genuinely f*cking catpiss.
One issue I have here, however, is that this bottle has definitely and categorically not been bought on North Rd, or indeed any of Durham’s fine streets. I can guarantee this, because I am about 1000 km away, in Düsseldorf on my year abroad. This is only my fourth day here, and as a result I have little idea where I myself live, let alone where I am currently with this enamoured German mädchen. Yet there’s no time to consider this predicament properly, since a brimming glass of JP Chenet is thrust into my grasp.
I’m trapped. I have a stupidly beaming German across the table from me, watching for my first sip – awaiting, no expecting approval of this most exceptional ‘graduation wine’.
I take the plunge, closing my eyes, and instantly regret it as my organs recoil at the prospect of yet more alcohol. Belly lurches badly, but controllably, for now. I inch open my eyes again, desperate not to show how much I detest this present. And yet, I realize that I don’t need to, as she has interpreted the eyes closing and the heaving shoulders as pure and utter enjoyment and the joy on her face is so earnest and unassuming that I can’t bear to burst this (entirely unnecessary and unwanted) bubble.
What follows is classic Brit abroad territory, as I rub my rather sensitive stomach and just about let out a “mmmmmm”, before excusing myself and pouring the rest of the glass covertly down the loo. This process continues for 2 more glasses, each time taking the first sip before rushing, swallowing the retches, to the bathroom. Rather graciously, Fraülein doesn’t comment, despite the fact that I am on face value displaying all the symptoms of IBS (at the very least).
The third time I’m there I take a time out, giving myself a reasonable time for a “sh*t”, and sober Hans comes through, asking me just exactly what I’m doing here. He points out that this girl is probably less than exceptional, and more importantly is emotionally blackmailing me into a pit of Chenet related despair, and I can’t help but agree.
I counter with the classic Erasmus line, that this is an opportunity, nay, an open goal, for a passport badge (pretty self-explanatory, you gain a stamp for each nationality, and I’m well behind a mate who somehow has already bagged 5). Drunken logic just about prevails, and I wander back in, relief washing over me when I see the dregs being dealt with, and finally putting to bed my Chenet nightmare.
Suddenly emboldened, I go for the kill, although realizing that I am a) very pissed b) still very reluctant to be here, and c) completely in the dark about this girl’s identity, apart from the fact that she, oddly for a German, has no taste in booze. All is going rather well until the dread pre-coital “get-to-know each other” starts. I’m asked my age. I reply with the truth, 21, and she recoils in disgust. Hurriedly improvising, I pretend to be joking, and say “No, really I’m 25”. When she replies “That’s still very young”, I know I’m in trouble.
Having established that this woman (it turns out) could almost be my mother (35), I hurriedly, and unthinkingly, propose another drink, and offer to go to a kiosk to get something, seeing my last opportunity to bail. To say that my heart plummets is positively an understatement when she tells me not to be silly, that she has a spare “little something” for emergencies.
I think all readers can tell what came next. JP Chenet. All I can offer in the way of a moral to this sordid, and rather depressing tale, is that, while affordable, and in its own way “special”, their Merlot brings with it only depression, a horrible hangover, and an anxious morning in a German STI clinic.