Too much of a good thing
“Wine passions” is supposed to be a series of interviews with wine enthusiasts to explore the intensity and focus of their passion for wine. I know many candidates but all are shrinking violets when it comes to being interviewed. Some feel a little embarrassed about the size of their collection or nature of their wine obsession. Others are concerned that exposure could make them a target for thieves.
In the absence of a living candidate, I decided to write instead about a wine enthusiast who has almost certainly gone to the great vineyard in the sky. I last saw Laurie in the mid-seventies. Laurie was a retired university professor with an immense passion for wine. He’d done a bit of wine show judging, had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the world of wine, and was the very proud owner of an incredibly large wine cellar. I say “very proud” but Laurie was in fact quite a private man who would never boast about his cellar. He was the very opposite of a wine snob.
I was one of the few people to have been inside Laurie’s wine cellar. He’d driven a galvanised water pipe deep into the earth to provide his cellar with a constant stream of cooling air. I was given a tour to see this ingenious device rather than the bottles it was supposed to keep cool.
At the time I was working for a winery in West Auckland. The winery gave staff a generous discount on their wine purchases. I was happy to let my friends buy wine at the same “mate’s rates” deal. Laurie phoned with a request to buy four cases of Chardonnay. I responded by asking him how many bottles he had in his cellar. After a long hesitation, he admitted to 20,000 bottles.
“If you live to 100 you will need to drink more than 15 bottles a day to consume all of the wine in your cellar.”
I responded after punching a few buttons on my calculator.
Laurie insisted so I dropped the wine at his house on my way home from work. He invited me to stay for a glass of wine. It was only then that I learned the horrible truth. Laurie tore open one of the cases of Chardonnay I’d delivered and extracted a bottle. Then he shot down to his cellar, returning with an ancient bottle of Chardonnay that was well past its “best by” date. He mixed the two wines together and poured two glasses.
Laurie was going to have to buy another 20,000 bottles to kick-start the 20,000 wines in his cellar.