Fruity, with a hint of chaos

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The Independent Online
Have you noticed that there are certain jars and bottles in your kitchen or larder that never get consumed? They may be things you bought on a whim, things from a Christmas hamper, things that guests brought as a present or - most likely - things that you bought on holiday and that seemed a wonderful idea at the time; but the moment for opening and consuming all these things has somehow come and gone. Yet they remain.

Along with all of these is the kind of bottle of wine that is too disgusting to open but not horrible enough to throw away. These are usually brought by guests, dragged back from holiday or purchased on a whim because they are lying in a basket at the wine shop labelled Really Nice New Sauvignon from Chile - Surprisingly Palatable! They enter the home without much of a welcome and get relegated down the Household Wine League until they lurk at the bottom of Division Four, but they never quite get chucked out. When they do come under threat of expulsion, someone always says, "Oh, keep it, it can always be used as a cooking wine".

In our house, this role is played by a bottle of dry white Sicilian table wine that has lain undrunk for more than a year at the bottom of the fridge. Or it was until a night or two ago, when my wife said: "Have we got a nondescript white which I can use for cooking some chicken?" I said I had just the thing. I got the bottle of Sicilian white wine out. I got my classy expensive Screwpull out (probably the best corkscrew in the world, etc) and screwed it in. Halfway through the operation, the Screwpull broke.

This wasn't meant to happen. The Screwpull is probably the best, etc. It just doesn't break. It's like having a BMW blow up or a new hardback fall to bits in your hands. And yet the screw snapped as I was trying to insert it into this native Sicilian cork and withdraw it. Amazing.

Well, it wasn't the first time I have seen a Screwpull break, and at least it did mean I could now twirl my moustaches at young girls and say, "I think you could call me someone completely without Screwpulls, my dear", so I went and got my waiter's friend, which is a large corkscrew with lever attached, and, having removed the remaining fragment of Screwpull with a pair of pliers, inserted the screw into the cork.

I then placed the lever on the top of the bottle.

Using this leverage, I pulled as hard as possible on the corkscrew.


I pulled harder.

I went red in the face.

I felt parts of my stomach muscle wall sending out signals to tell me that I was within 60 seconds of getting a hernia.

I started feeling sick and dizzy and quite uninterested in what life was all about and what we were all here for and even bored by the idea of the Irish draft discussion document.

I desisted, and - after the red dots had stopped dancing in front of my eyes - found myself with a bottle of white Sicilian wine and a waiter's friend protruding from the cork in a T-shape, like part of a motorway bridge sticking from concrete.

It suddenly occurred to me that a little lateral thinking would solve it. Instead of trying to pull the cork from the bottle, if I could find somewhere high up to hang the T-shape from and then use my body weight to pull the bottle down ...

Fifteen minutes later, I found it. In the bicycle shed. There were two projecting bolts at the height of seven feet, just wide enough to take the corkscrew handle. Holding the bottle above my head, I reached up, slotted the corkscrew handle on and hung from the bolts. I actually took my feet off the ground and swayed in mid-air, suspended only by a bottle of Sicilian white wine and a corkscrew.

The cork did not show the least sign of coming out. I tried to jiggle up and down in mid-air, like a parachutist trying to change direction, but there are not very good hand-grips on bottles of Sicilian wine, or I suppose on bottles of any kind of wine.

Meanwhile, my wife was in the house, saying: "Have you opened that bottle of wine yet?" Getting no answer and hearing strange noises in the bike shed, she came out and found me dangling from the rafters with the wine bottle above my head. It must have looked like a very eccentric suicide bid.

"Any luck?" she said.

"No," I said. "I think we'll have to try a more expensive wine with a better cork. And I'll have to borrow a corkscrew from next door."

If anyone wants a bottle of Sicilian table wine with the corkscrew already in, I am open to offers.