Paul Keers has written a wine book with a difference together with fellow Oxford alumnus Charles Jennings, based on their ‘almost award-winning’ blog Sediment.
The two of us, CJ and PK, were having lunch, a couple of years ago. We were drinking the kind of red wine we always seem to end up drinking: bafflingly described, boldly overpriced and completely mediocre. ‘This is appalling,’ one of us said. ‘Shall we have another bottle?’
The second bottle arrived, and the other one of us said, ‘Why does nobody write about this? Someone should write about real, everyday wine drinking, and real, everyday wine, like this horrible Valpolicella.’
And so Sediment, a humorous blog about real-life wine drinking, was born; which has now resulted in our book – Sediment: Two Gentlemen and Their Mid-Life Terroirs.
We ‘Two Gentlemen’ are Charles Jennings (St John’s, 1975) and Paul Keers (Lincoln, 1976). We adopted the soubriquets CJ and PK, in order to create characters typical of two mid-life, middle-class drinkers of midmarket wine. The authorial distance is valuable; PK clearly drinks a great deal more wine than me.
PK remains foolishly convinced that wine can be a gateway to connoisseurship and social savoir faire, a journey in which he is constantly thwarted. CJ, meanwhile, simply insists on a chap’s right to drink decent, everyday wine at decent, everyday prices — an ambition in which he is equally frustrated.
Not for us the learned disquisitions on grape varieties, or tasting notes on wines no-one but plutocrats can afford. We wander along the pain threshold of wine, never knowing enough, or spending enough, to get things right. It would be easy to say that the pleasure of the wine itself has made up for our tribulations; but it would also be untrue. We’ve suffered, really suffered, as a consequence of our motto — I’ve bought it, so I’ll drink it.
Real-life wine drinking is beset with social, financial and marital challenges. Negotiating the supermarket aisles, with their tidal flows of discount offers. Braving posh wine merchants with their daunting froideur. Reassuring one’s partner about the cost — and quantity — of wine one consumes.
And it seems we are not the only ones who fret about drinking receptacles, and decanters, and corkscrews; who wonder if they can drink their wine in the manner of Regency bucks, Queen Victoria or James Bond; who ask whatever happened to Le Piat d’Or.
Sadly, Oxford did little to educate us in wine drinking. CJ (above right) was set a misleading start; he remembers ‘St John’s College Claret, which you got from the Buttery and didn't have to pay for in this life’ (although I suspect that his parents did). And the only wine social etiquette I can recall was that, if someone from the Oxford University Conservative Association responded to a PBAB invitation with a bottle of Pinochet-era Chilean red, it was to remain resolutely untouched throughout the evening. The same unopened bottle probably went round and round for years.
CJ has also raised the issue of whether, given that we were undergrads in the late ’70s, we can still claim to be in our mid-life. The answer is yes, providing that we live to be 114.)
Our irreverent approach to the subject seems to have provoked attention, bordering on accolades; having been runner-up in two international contests for online wine writing, we can state that Sediment is ‘an (almost) award-winning blog’. And now there is our book, described by our publisher as ‘for people who wouldn’t know a magnum of Chateau d’Yquem from a can of orange Tango’.
One wine critic has already said, ‘There’s nobody else doing what they’re doing in wine writing.’ For which the wine industry is probably very grateful…
- Sediment: Two Gentlemen and Their Mid-Life Terroirs, by Charles Jennings and Paul Keers, is published by John Blake Books (£12.99). It’s available from all good bookshops, including Amazon and Waterstones.
Cork image by Pinkcandy via Shutterstock. Portraits courtesy of Charles Jennings and Paul Keers.