A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Nascence of a Wine Connoisseur
By Segun Oguntola

And so it was that I became a connoisseur of red wine, vin ordinaire, vin de pays several glasses of which I daily drank.

How did my passionate relationship with red wine start? I was as usual out walking about my neighborhood one day. On my way back to my apartment I decided on impulse to stop at 'Master Cheng's Wines & Spirits.' I inquired of Master Cheng, the proprietor, which wine to get. "Red or White?" he said. "Red, I guess." I replied. "Okay. The question is really about what to look for in a red wine. So, what do you think one should look for in red a wine?" He gazed at me like a tutor challenging his pupil with a question. I shrugged. "Think," he said. "I really do not know," I said. "Okay, okay, Master Cheng will tell you." He proceeded to lecture me on the subject. "What do you look for in a red wine? . . . you look for whether it is made of one type of grape . . . Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot . . . or a mixture of any two, or all of them together . . . you look for the date it is bottled . . . some Merlot are best drunk young, others older . . . you look for whether it is bottled on the producing estate. These are three useful ways to know whether the wine will taste good. People think it is the price but that is not necessarily the case. There are many good red wines, full bodied, well rounded, smooth taste, that are not that expensive. Trust me, Master Cheng does not lie." He smiled.

Master Cheng walked to a table at a corner of the store on which sat breathing bottles of red wine, several gaping goblets attending them. He poured from one of the bottles into a goblet. "Try this,"he said, handing me the drink. He stood gazing at me as I drank. The wine tasted good, but sharp, vinegary, a bit like a fruit not sun-ripened. "Now, try this one," he handed me another. Nice taste, smooth, a bit vinegary but not as sharp as the previous one. "And this." It tasted good, with a hint of bitterness, and somewhat heavy, with particles in it, as if one is drinking the dregs of palm wine, which I sometimes drank back in Gidaland. "And now, try this one," he said, smiling as he handed me the goblet, as if he knew I would be most excited by the taste of this one. And I was. It tasted smooth, non-vinegary, and intensely fruity. The smile on my face betrayed my excitement. "I knew that you would like it. It is a Merlot. The one before is a Syrah, unfiltered. The one before that is a mixture of all three grapes. And the first one is a young Cabernet Sauvignon.

After Master Cheng's lecture I soon became adept at recognizing thrifty, gracious Merlot. I would spot her sitting boldly among her aristocratic neighbors. And thus I became her devoted lover, always giddy from the heady smell of her, the feel of her between my teeth, on my gum, palate, tongue, throat, and the heady warm feeling down my throat as I swallow her. Initially I indulged in her moderately. Gradually, intense my desire for her became. I daily romanced her, five, six times a day, and still itched for more. . . .