I remember well the first bottle of wine I ever bought. Well I didn’t purchase all of it.. I had shares in it, so to speak. I was about 16 and with a few girl pals walked over a mile (no – we had shoes and it wasn’t snowing) to a shop where we had heard they weren’t very fussed about proof of age when purchasing alcohol. We could afford one bottle between us.
As we neared the shop it was decided that I alone should enter the premises since I was the tallest and so surely must have looked the oldest. The girls waited around the corner while I completed the transaction without any bother. Then, nursing our precious purchase, we trudged all the way back (well, it was uphill) to the friend’s house whose parents were away. Once there, we sat around the kitchen table and after a long struggle with a corkscrew managed to get the wine open and carefully doled it out between about five of us.
We were all staying the night and so went to bed convinced we were all drunk and relishing the thought of hangovers in the morning. Oh the innocence of it all.
Since those heady schoolgirl days I have dalliances with various other tipples. There were the Bacardi & Coke days, the (brace yourself) Malibu & Pineapple days (I feel nauseous just thinking about that) and indeed I still am partial to an odd Hot Port or Pear Cider depending on the weather.
But wine... sigh.... wine and I have never fallen out of love. Wine has been there.. every step of the way. From that first bottle of what was most likely Black Tower or Blue Nun to the bottles of Merlot and Shiraz languishing in my wine rack as I type.
Languishing you say? Yes languishing. Because, dear reader, I never saw it coming. I thought we still happily involved in a beautiful relationship; a relationship that I will admit it had its ups and downs. There were some nights (or indeed afternoons) when we overdid our love for each other. There were dawns when I should have been in bed rather than struggling home from a neighbour’s house. There were times when the day after the night before was a bit of a struggle as a result of my overindulgence. But in fairness after well over three decades together we know each other fairly well and like a good marriage, we generally got on pretty well.
In fact it was better than that. We had some great laughs down the years. The early days of cheap plonk and dodgy corks which disintegrated into the bottle as I struggled to remove them and then had to strain the wine through tights.... What? You never did that? The days spent in Spain drinking rough local vino from earthenware jugs. The cosy, winter nights, me and my wine, together by a roaring fire. All the celebrations, the birthdays, the Christmases... we did them all..happily together. Not (necessarily) getting drunk you understand but just enjoying each other’s company.
But over the last few months something changed. At first I assumed we were going through a rocky patch. Two glasses of wine of an evening was starting to result in a horrible headache which often woke me in the middle of the night and lasted for most of the following day. As a sufferer of migraines I do tend to get a bit panicky at the onset of a headache. These weren’t migraines but did leave me feeling pretty awful and very, very tired.
I persevered, as one does when a relationship has a wobble. I tried to drink water along with the wine. I thought that was helping for a while. But I was only fooling myself.
So I bought a bottle of white. It’s not the same. We just don’t have the same chemistry. There were fewer headaches but there was no spark. No deeply satisfying sigh at the first taste on my lips.
The bottles of red sat sadly looking at me from the rack in the kitchen. So I decided to risk a glass the other night. Spaghetti bolognaise tastes better anyway wish a dash of red so I opened a bottle and poured a glass. I inhaled deeply its spicy aroma. Glass to lips and that first taste... oh it was sublime. How I had missed it. But I was sensible – I limited myself to just a glass.. and a half.
Next day, I woke at six am with the familiar feeling of my head thumping on the pillow and my day went south slowly. I cried bitter tears at the realisation that our relationship must end.
Later I went downstairs and addressed the wine rack. “It’s not you” I sobbed, “it’s me. I am so sorry, but it’s over.”
Let me tell you something, it’s a man’s world and the menopause is a bitch... with teeth. But I am holding onto my bottles of red... because this can’t last forever, right?