Recycling, Medders style
'Now, who is this from?'
We are on the circuit these days, doing the round of summer barbecues. Any hint of good weather and the smoke rises over the back gardens and decks of our fair land, with invitations to the feast issued far and wide.
It is patently bad manners to arrive for dinner out of doors with one arm as long as the other. A bottle of wine is the least that is required by way of a token present for our host and hostess.
'So, who is this from?'
But, do not imagine we are going to hand over one from that precious case of Chateauneuf du Pape. The good stuff is reserved for impressing Her Majesty, the mother-in-law. We are trying to wean her off the sweet sherry.
Two things could happen if the Chateauneuf is produced, neither exactly good. One, the host could open the C de P immediately and dollop it out like lemonade, served at any old temperature, in any old glass, accompanying any old food. Sacrilege.
Or worse, the recipients might spot the true vintage amongst the tide of Chilean cab sav coming their way and stash the Pape away under the stairs for private consumption at a later date. None for me. No way.
'Hoi! Who is this from?'
We at Medders Manor took the precaution of staging our own little convivial bonfire at the beginning of the season. Hermione was in her element among the salads, while I donned the chef's apron and presided over the ritual burning of the burgers.
In return for our hospitality, we acquired the weirdest selection of wines ever assembled, ranging from obscure Bulgarian red to nifty New Zealand white. Which leaves us assessing the odd assortment now being reviewed with furrowed brows.
'Come on. Who is this from?'
Who IS this from, that really is the question? Was it Jenny and John, Mary and Mick, Lilly and Luke or maybe our new pals Barry and Bruce? Or could it have been Millie, who travels alone and is good for a few saucy songs at the end of the evening? No, come to think of it, she always brings Italian bubbles.
It is an important issue. Heaven forbid that we would turn up at the house of Angie and Alan - or is it Zoe and Zach this weekend? - with the very same bottle they presented us with a few weeks back. That would be the height of rudeness.
We greatly appreciate having a reservoir of plonk because we are avid believers in re-cycling. But, like most re-cycling activity, the recycling of wine requires just a little extra effort. We separate the drinks cans from the dog food tins. We rinse out the milk cartons. And we select with care the most appropriate destination for a stray example of France's finest.
There are clues to be considered here. Thin wine tends to come in thin glass. Labels with no indication of year should be treated with caution,
A bottle with just one label bearing little more than the brand name, the date and the concentration of alcohol was probably bought in France. Typical French consumers were taught in crèche and primary school what they need to know about the grape varieties, the character of the wine, recommended accompanying foods and how long to keep it before reaching for the corkscrew.
A second label with text conveying information on grape varieties, character recommended foods and how long to keep is required by the rest of us. If this text is in three languages, including Flemish, then the source is almost certainly a German supermarket.
Incidentally, the Manor is bidding strong to become a wine producing area, though it will be another five years or more before we are peeling off our socks and jumping into the vat to tread the grapes. Vines grow damnably slowly.
In the mean time, to hell with figuring out who it was that gave us that 2011 Maison Malaprop. From now on, anyone who has us around to huddle over a pile of dimly glowing charcoal for a debate as to whether or not the chicken is salmonella free yet will receive no wine at all - but a slab of beer instead. Cheers!