25th June 2021
It’s been a long time since I posted; if anyone was hanging out for my next piece I’m sorry for the delay! It’s been a difficult time. The most important reason for the silence is the inability to travel. My reflections on wine and its place in culture and society depend on visiting people and places – and for those of us living in most of Europe that’s been effectively barred until very recently. The second reason is that over the last few months I’ve been engaged in a major project also related to wine, culture and society. I’m the co-ordinating editor (along with six other leading academics in the field) of a new book to be published by Routledge later this year – their ‘Handbook of Wine and Culture’. It has 57 contributors, 45 chapters and will weigh in at around 240,000 words; a major undertaking which has been very time consuming. More of this later in the year.
The third reason for my silence is that, early on in all of this, I caught Covid (in class – from a student). It wasn’t life-threatening, but it was rather unpleasant at the time, and took me out for about three weeks – which resulted in a rush to catch up on the day job and even less time on writing here.
I didn’t lose my sense of taste when I was sick (unlike a couple of other members of the family, such as my eldest daughter, who wrote more about her experience here) but it started to become rather worrying for someone who earns their living partly by their nose. (The man I buy cheese from at the market in the French town where I live had Covid in January, lost his sense of smell and hasn’t regained it; that must be very depressing, though he always as a very jovial air when I come to buy from his stall).
However, what did happen to me for a couple of weeks was that my sense of taste changed dramatically. I could still smell, but tastes were fundamentally altered, and for the worse. Coffee suddenly tasted disgusting; think roasted earth, ground and then doused in water. Many other foods tasted in that direction. I didn’t even feel like wine – so at least I was spared that repugnance which may have destroyed my love for it for ever. Unlikely, actually – three weeks later I got back to drinking coffee and everything else fitted in to place. That, though, was my brush with gustatory despair. Given what many have suffered living or dying I have nothing to complain of.
Anyway, normal service is now being restored. Coming up over the next few weeks a bit more about Retsina in Greece, some reflections on a German wine cooperative and a bit on an out-of-the-way village in Champagne. Plus a few more ‘interesting’ wines and – later, I hope – some posts on Sicily.