Brutus’s full line to Cassius in Julius Caesar is “Give me a bowl of wine; in this I bury all unkindness.” Wine in Shakespeare is often shared between characters who are healing rifts or expressing friendship. Over the years I have enjoyed some very jolly wine-consuming occasions with friends like the Tuffnells and the Lancelots who all appreciate a hearty glug. The latest wine-tasting with online Drink Me magazine’s, Adrian Smith, took place in his stylish Leeds city centre offices towards the end of 2015.
The beauty of Adrian’s “sessions” (apart from the relaxed company and excellent nibbles) is that he loves wine and encourages an enthusiastic approach to sampling, especially new wines that he has discovered on his international travels. I’ve learned how to release the aroma of wine through gadgets, decanting and swirling glasses; and I’ve learned about the body of a wine, the fruitiness or sweetness of wine, the acidity and the tannins. But more important than any of the imaginative and bizarre words to describe the taste and smell of wine is the answer to the simple question – “Do you enjoy drinking it?” Context is everything. Cheap plonk looking across the Bay of Naples can taste just as lovely as expensive wine in a local restaurant. Cheap fizz on a birthday beach picnic can be just as delicious as posh champagne.
Give me some wine and let me speak a little
The above line is the line that follows Antony’s “I am dying, Egypt, dying” just before Antony’s death in the arms of Cleopatra. Apparently alcohol is a common request on death beds, almost as frequent as calling for loved ones and praying to God. Rarely do people think of anything especially witty to say – but a glass of wine or a splash of gin brings immediate comfort and no doubt memories of convivial times with family and friends. 50 years after Shakespeare died, the Rev John Ward, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, relates that the night before he died (in 1616, 400 years ago this year) Shakespeare had a drinking session with buddies playwright Ben Jonson and poet Michael Drayton. It’s hard after all this time to be sure of whether or not this was true, but since Shakespeare'splays and poems are filled with words and images of alcoholic drinks, I have no doubt that my boy Billy enjoyed a tipple. Here’s to the next wine-tasting. Cheers!