I’m all for wine and occasion matching, which makes at least as much sense to me as matching food and wine, as preoccupations go. A lot of wine is drunk without any food at all, but I would choose something different for a summer’s evening spent on the patio than for one spent playing poker with “the lads”, or curled up on the sofa with Mrs CF watching a rom-com, or for that matter for one spent on the same sofa with the same Mrs CF watching an action movie. All would seem to call for a glass of something, but not the same something. Different strokes for different folks.
There are lots of wines and lots of occasions, and generally there’s always one, and often very many, to match with the other. But some occasions make life particularly difficult, and camping is one of those.
For a start, if the weather’s good enough to make camping a worthwhile prospect, it’ll be too hot to easily keep wine at a decent temperature. Even if you can harness the magic of iceboxes to manage that, though, you’ll be slurping it from a plastic cup, of a greater or lesser degree of flimsiness. You may have found one which attempts to look like a wine glass, but while it may fool your eyes it will be about an inch thick, reminding your mouth less of the finely-crafted stemware you may well have at home, and more of a plastic beaker your mum used to make you drink from when you were three.
Reader, I have done my best to find the answer. I have spent two of the last three weekends under canvas, or whatever it is that tents are made of these days, and I’ve tried several styles of wine and several styles of camper-friendly bottle-to-mouth facilitators (I can’t really call them glasses, really, what with the total absence of glass). All have fallen short. Even my favourite wines, even at a perfect temperature, are rendered dumb when placed in a chunky plastic pot, or a crinkly, corrugated disposable cup, even more so after the inevitable arrival of the couple of blades of grass that somehow, always, work their way into the equation it at some point.
The fact of the matter is that any good wine drunk in these conditions will be wasted. On the other hand, this is a near-perfect occasion for bottled beers – easy to fit in the ice box, easy to open, easy to serve. It’s also not a bad place for the most basic of cocktails, those whose ingredients can be listed as:
alcohol + mixer (+/- slice lemon/lime)
and whose instructions can be summarised as:
pour into a cup
But then one night, as the sun set and a group of us huddled around a fire with an acoustic guitar, I was handed a, yes, plastic cup containing a healthy slug of Campbell’s Rutherglen Muscat (available from Ocado, Waitrose, Roberson and many independents). Smokey, sweet, dark and warming, fire and wine combined in a fair approximation of harmony, and its scent, which would be defined using official wine-tasting terminology as “pronounced” – in other words, it doesn’t just smell slightly of itself, it absolutely pongs of itself – wafted determinedly out of its ugly mug, absolutely refusing to be denied. And I was happy.
Then I had to go to sleep on the ground with a pillow made from a sleeping-bag-bag stuffed with dirty t-shirt. You can’t win them all.