Thursday, 29 June 2017

A travellin' man – and his wine

So I got back from my travels – but did my wine travel as successfully?

There was an old notion that a wine “might not travel”. Many a wine which tasted delicious abroad, with grilled sardines at a beachside table as the sun shone, tasted surprisingly rubbish back home, with tinned sardines at a kitchen table as the rain fell.

Yet still people brought wines back with them, souvenirs which were little more than the sombrero hats and straw donkeys of less sophisticated travellers.
 

That, of course, was in the days when you could carry bottles in your cabin baggage. You would haul a nylon carry-on through the airport, clanking and clonking with bottles of booze, each one in its protective little plastic mesh jerkin. Your bag was so heavy you were hardly able to lift it from the floor, let alone hoist it into the overhead lockers. But unless you actually dropped them on the airport’s terrazzo, you could be pretty sure of getting home in one piece as many bottles as you could carry. Assuming, of course, that HM Customs would accept that they were all for personal consumption. (“Just ask my wife, officer…”)

Those days are sadly over. And there is little to inspire confidence in the treatment of checked-in luggage, when you watch suitcases crashing and sliding from the cargo hold on to the Tetris of the baggage-claim conveyor belt.

But against this comes the siren call of the wheeled suitcase. With hotel lifts and burly taxi-drivers, the first time you lift your case yourself nowadays is to hoist it on to the tell-tale conveyor belt. Surely it could cope with a couple of bottles of wine?

Nowadays people are selling wheeled suitcases entirely designed to check in bottles of wine. These will indeed allow you to safely travel back with a dozen bottles.  I am not sure however what you do with the fortnight’s worth of clothes contained in the suitcase when you went out. Perhaps, if you are willing to be the least popular person on the plane, you make the return journey wearing all your (dirty) clothes at once?

(I also note that a reviewer of the VinGardeValise says “The customs people in Mexico were really interested in the case”. This is meant to be a five-star recommendation, but sounds to me like a prelude to sharing a cell  with El Chapo Guzman.)

Is it still worth trying to bring back wine? Is it any more than just a desperate urge to extend the very taste of a holiday?

Well, there’s the crude financial appeal. Here’s the magnificent Lacuesta Vermouth in London, at £8.95 a bottle. In the Spanish supermarket, El Corte Ingles, it is €4.95. Yes, that’s in Euros.

And visiting the most prestigious wine merchant in Barcelona (as of course I would), it seemed rude not to buy a couple of wines by Telmo Rodriguez, an exciting Spanish winemaker whose wines are hard to get hold of in the UK, and some of which are never imported. Except, now, a brace of them by me.

Some time ago I mentioned travelling back from Spain with bottles encased protectively in dirty socks. But that was unplanned. (And I would like to emphasise to past guests that soiled clothing obviously never touched the contents or indeed even the lip of the bottles. That’s what capsules are for.)
 

This time, however, I planned in advance. I travelled with several large sheets of bubblewrap. 

“Of course you did,” scoffs CJ. But why scoff? Bubblewrap is practical, and weightless, and takes up little space when flat. It’s recycling all the stuff which people like Amazon have sent me. It’s forward thinking. And anyway, CJ scoffs at the fact that I take socks.

My bottles are packed encased in said bubblewrap, then inside plastic carrier bags (in the hope of containing the wine if they should break). These are sealed in place with socks. The base of the bottles are planted inside shoes, at the foot of the suitcase, to absorb any shock if the case is banged upright, and to stop them moving around. That whole lot is inside a big plastic bag. And then that is surrounded by clothes on all sides, to absorb any lateral impact.

See how much thought and planning has gone into this? Which is particularly reassuring when the case trundles off on its conveyor belt and immediately falls on its side. When it crashes onto the belt at Heathrow like a dodgem car. When the cab driver slings it into the taxi.

But mirabile dictu, the bottles survived the journey. I am proud, and CJ is jealous. You just need faith, hope and bubblewrap, these three. But the greatest of these is bubblewrap.

What do they taste like? Sorry, taste? Having gone to all that trouble, you don’t expect me to open them yet, do you?

PK

1 comment:

  1. I am convinced the whole sorry business is to force us to buy the unmitigated filth that is on sale in duty free stores the world over, with nowhere walking off with the golden rat widdle award more than London Gatwick. I was heading to Oman where even Blue Nun retails at about £75 and took a selection of reds with me from Gatwick. All around £7.50 a bottle, all available at supermarkets for less, and all tasting like party leftovers.

    On a cheerier note I was given an excellent bottle of white wine after a tour of La Perla del Garda vineyard in Lombardy and wrapped it in swaddling clothes for the journey back home in the suitcase and it successfully arrived back at Fortress Gatwick.

    Sadly it did not last 48 hours before Mrs K and I had to drink it and I do wish I had bought a couple more, but then I would have been overweight in the luggage and doubtless fined by tehe former Stasi operatives budget airlines favour for these duties. So yes, it is a ruddy conspiracy!

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