After a while in Hunt Road I graduated to a prime room: Big double bed, an acre of carpet and a lounge suite at the far end: Couch and two comfy chairs.
Every now and then housemate John Newby would wander in, roll back the carpet and disappear under the floorboards to fetch a bottle from his stash of special wines. He would emerge with cobwebs on his whispy pate. He’d have been crayfishing and would very generously feed the whole house on his delicious crayfish, beautifully cooked, and his special wine. He would give us a run-down on the wine, we would nod gravely and down it and scoff the grub. I confess that, as he talked about the bouquet, the nose, the flavours, where and when it was grown, the north-facing slopes, I would think ja, ja, blah blah, let’s drink and eat.
I had grown up in a bottle store and thought grog was grog, the two important elements are volume and percentage alcohol, and have always rolled my eyes at hooch-pretentiousness. Wine is rotten grapes and the third bottle is always delicious, was my mantra.
Then one day John went off to Cape Town. Turned out he had won the Natal wine-tasters guild olympics and was representing us at the nationals! Then turned out he won the nationals, handily defeating all Cape snobbery, and suddenly MY HOUSEMATE was SA’s champion gold medal victor ludorum wine taster and knew what he was talking about! Look, I knew he wasn’t a poephol, him having a CA and an LlB and all.
I always said he was brilliant!