The big moment was imminent. For weeks the host had been rehearsing in his head how the evening would end. I knew this because every morning when our paths crossed at the school drop-off he’d had something to say about the special wine that would conclude his next dinner party.
It was to be a Burkheimer Feuerberg Kesselberg Spätburgunder Eiswein, some ten years old, and emanating from the Baden region of Southern Germany. These details and more besides were tripping off the host’s tongue with increasing facility in the days before the meal.
I learned how the grapes for this model of vinous perfection must be picked whilst frozen and how they are heavy with sugar because Baden is the warmest wine growing region in the Federal Republic. It was explained to me that this white dessert wine would be so delicious that no food could be served with it, for nothing should detract from our intense and unalloyed pleasure in its consumption.
It was a big build up, right enough.
And now here we were on an Autumn night in the 1980s. The starter, main course, cheese and pudding had been dispatched. All the guests had several glasses before them – the legacy of wines matched carefully by the host to each course of the meal.
A feeling of wellbeing prevailed among us.
When the host left the dining room and returned moments later, he was holding with infinite care the cherished wine, and assuring us it was at the optimum temperature.
He circumnavigated the table with ease, deftly pouring for each guest a modest measure into beautiful Roemer glasses, selected specially for the Eiswein. A practiced twist of the bottle ensured nothing dripped to the table or was wasted.
The person to my right sat with reverence while the host poured. The sense of anticipation was mounting as I, the final guest, was about to be served.
It was at this point that my neighbour, who could contain himself no longer, raised the newly charged glass to his nose, sniffed deeply, paused, and then threw back his head in a moan of delight.
Seeing such enthusiasm even before the wine was tasted, the host was palpably pleased, indeed distracted. Half speaking to my ecstatic neighbour, he proceeded to pour for me.
Thus it was that our sommelier made a fatal error.
Instead of the green stemmed Roemer, my drink glugged into a much larger glass, to whit one from which I had not yet finished a rather good claret.
Seeing his mistake, the host looked on in the epitome of incredulous horror. For once he was speechless.
Taking my time to fill the silence, I smiled, looked around the table at my aghast companions, and then made to speak to our host in the friendliest of tones and in a way that seemed commensurate with the situation. There was only one thing that could be said:
“I beg your pardon, you never promised me a rosé Baden. Along with the white wine, you’ve gone and mixed a drop of red this time”.