Sommelier, there’s a fly in my rouge

You know those people who put half a finger in a meat pie, or a mouse-tail in a loaf of bread and then sue the hell out of someone? Well, I realised this evening that I might once (only might, I’m not definitely admitting guilt) have done something rather similar, on a minor scale. Nine or 10 years back, so surely a statute of limitations woud apply anyway.

So. This evening. I’d started off my drinking with a splendid pre-prandial glass of crisp, bone-dry sherry – Lustau Manzanilla La Papirusa, from a newly-opened half-bottle. I love sherry (and will be paying my first visit to Jerez in a few months, which is a wonderful thought). Then I decided to switch to the bottle of red I’d opened last night and left the remnants of in the bottle on the kitchen sideboard. Normally I re-cork the bottle, but last night I’d forgotten to do so.

The wine? Oh, the wine was Orangerie Red 2009, a rather delicious, unpretentious and very satisfying Swartland blend of shiraz, grenache and mourvèdre, made by Pieter Euvrard on his 1707-founded farm on the Paardeberg. (That’s Pieter in the pic alongside.)

Well, I scarcely noticed the first little lump in the liquid – distastefully assumed it was a bit of food dislodged from my mouth by my enthusiastic drinking. Same with the second, which was defintely rather nice and crunchy (my supper was not crunchy). Three, however, seemed excessive, so I spat that one out. A fly. Decidely dead. Would presumably also have been delicately crunchy, but I didn’t test.

I’m not particularly fastidious, but after peering into the ruddy depths of my glass, and uselessly holding the bottle up to the light, I decided not to pursue this particular bottle – though its aroma, flavour and happy presence were surely untainted. But three is a lot of flies, and I thought there were perhaps more – perhaps it was some sort of mass suicide pact. More likely, I presume, is that flies (bored with the crusty fragments in the dog’s dish) are as attracted to this sort of wine as I am, swoop in for a sip and succumb to the heady alcoholic fumes.

I wasn’t greatly disturbed by the experience, in fact (as I say, I’m not hugely fastidious about these things). Until I suddenly remembered the last time I’d poured a dead fly out of a bottle of wine.

It must have been in 2004, I guess. The wine was La Vieille Ferme Rouge, a charming, easy wine from the south of France that I drunk quite a lot of at the time. The property is owned by the great Châteauneuf-du-Pape house of Beaucastel, and both wines were imported by Michael Fridjhon’s Reciprocal Wines.

Anyway – I fished out that fly from the glass, and continued drinking (do I need to repeat my lack of exquisite squeamishness?). Soon thereafter, when chatting with Michael about this and that, I mentioned the experience – somehow, a dead fly had got involved in the Vielle Ferme bottle line, I said. I wasn’t even complaining, it just seemed vaguely interesting. But the upshot was that Michael informed the Beaucastel people, who were a bit horrified at the tale, and despatched me three bottles in compensation – not of humble Côtes du Ventoux Rouge 2003, but of Château de Beaucastel from the great 2001 vintage. It seemed excessive, but what could I do except gratefully accept, and assure them that my faith in their products wasn’t damaged by the French fly in my bottle.

Tonight, of course, somewhat belatedly, I realise the great possibility that it was actually a South African fly that had crept into the bottle and drowned before I’d had a chance to pour it out….

I haven’t yet broached the three bottles of Beaucastel 2001 – I’d also bought another three, incidentally, so I have some good treats ahead of me. They should be maturing nicely now. Or should I shamefacedly offer to return them? Nah…

The other possibility, of course, is that somehow Orangerie’s bottling line is riddled with suicidal flies… should I demand, with menaces, compensation from the very nice Pieter Euvrard? No, I fear that’s not the answer.

Tonight’s episode was not without a happy ending, however. Even I couldn’t quite bring myself to finish the bottle of Orangerie Rouge. But the rest of the half-bottle of Manzanilla did great service.

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