Thought for the Day

Since retirement has deprived me of my wine cellar along with my sound studio, the only storage space remaining has been in our garage, which is subject to the vicissitudes of global warming. At this very moment, Britain is experiencing a heatwave that has converted it into a machine for accellerating vinous maturity.


One of the wines so precariously stored was a Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 1990. In thirsty desperation I popped it into the freezer to get it quickly down to a drinkable temperature. When I broached it, it was too cold, but there was a promise for which I waited impatiently.


Alas, It had been too long in the heat. What emerged was a distinguished vintage that had been forced through its prime into a slight sourness. In my disappointment I tossed off the rest of the bottle. By the end, I had been reminded once again that the chatter of connoisseurs is merely a mask for the essential fact that the primary purpose of drinking alcohol is intoxication. I recalled, through a boozy haze, the words of Bertrand Russell in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech of 1950:


When white men first effect contact with some unspoilt race of savages, they offer them all kinds of benefits, from the light of the gospel to pumpkin pie. These, however, much as we may regret it, most savages receive with indifference. What they really value among the gifts that we bring to them is intoxicating liquor which enables them, for the first time in their lives, to have the illusion for a few brief moments that it is better to be alive than dead.


©2006 John Whiting