At my embarrassedly advanced age I have been feeling this evening like a kid playing with illegal “substances”. It does prompt me to wonder if these youngsters have any real idea of the excitement that comes from moderate – well, fairly moderate – use of legal stuff like brandy and grappa, not to mention the joys of chocolate and coffee.
So – I’m not good at withhholding secrets – tonight I’ve been doing brandy, grappa, coffee and chocolate. And can’t remember when I had such fun all by myself. (I do have a modest theory that solitary pleasures are ridiculously underrated by an anxious society.)
Punctiliously, let me list the precise components:
- Brandy: Imoya potstill (which is brilliantly packaged by its KWV creators – it bears an uncanny resemblance to a Xhosa woman, a brilliant bit of Africanist design – or am I mad?); it’s also pretty good brandy (and KWV does have some understanding of what good brandy is).
- Grappa: Wilderer Reserve Shiraz Barrique. To my somewhat ignorant palate, with a limited range of reference, Wilderer makes the best local grappas.
- Chocolate: Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. OK, I know chocolate snobs will sneer. But my 90g supermarket bar represented such a determination to be self-indulgent, and I thought it so delicious, that utterly I refuse to admit that I’d have preferred some dreary 90% cocoa stuff from a grand European name. I really, really wouldn’t (though I do confess that I could have even more happily included Lindt Chocolate Truffles; sneer as much as you wish.)
But as everyone knows, or should know, it’s not the components that matter, but the combinations (I seem to remember that the wonderful Germans call it the “gestalt”) that count – not to mention the context – the crucial thing that every competitive tasting of wine or spirits is bound to conveniently forget or ignore.
The procedure (in my adolescent experiment):
Have to hand glasses of the brandy and the grappa. And a bar of the chocolate. (Perhaps, given my remark on context, I should mention that I was watching a thoroughly engaging episode of “Breaking Bad”, a rather brilliant, though undoubtedly lurid, US independent television series.)
Having the glasses primed, and the chocolate bar unwrapped (not always so easy, given modern wrapping technology, as you know):
- Move from one to another, in different, more or less random, order. A bit of chocolate – a sip of grappa – a sip of brandy – a slurp of brandy – a lovingly sucked bit of chocolate which suddenly loudly demands more brandy – a sip of grappa as a corrective to too-easy self-indulgence.
- Etc. Etc.
I can’t recommend this whole business too highly. Who needs drugs when brandy, grappa and chocolate are easily available and comparatively cheap and can be promiscuously and wickedly mixed? There aren’t many convincing arguments in favour of “intelligent design” – maybe the grape counts among the best of them. Though I prefer to think of it as simply one of the great marvels of nature and natural selection – just so long as there are people around to ferment it and, sometimes, distill the results. And also make chocolate.