The Wine Widow and the corking machine
Not being one of the world’s natural travellers, I am eyeing up the impending trip to Japan with a mixture of feelings. Zam is joining a number of English vineyards, invited by the Department for International Trade, to promote English sparking wine at a trade fair in Tokyo. He gets to take an assistant. I am nervous.
Being an assistant involves answering questions and for some reason, I panic when asked for the simplest information about the wine. How big is the vineyard? When was it planted? What year are we drinking? I should know. I do know. But whenever I’m asked anything I stare at my interlocutor and my mind goes blank. As for bottling dates, dosages and pruning techniques… I wonder if it’s because Zam has told me all of this so many times that it’s like being given directions to somewhere and you just switch off after the second directive to turn right.
I am attempting some revision when he appears in the kitchen, beaming. He rubs his hands together, and declares that this has been a really terrific day. The reason, it transpires, is down to the 1964 German corking machine that I had seen earlier in the week at the winery, bought from a closing down sale. It had just arrived and it had not been plugged in. In design, it reminds me of the 1960’s orange squeezer I recently bought online.
The beauty is in its simplicity, few parts to break. But when the Korma corker was turned on, nothing happened. Harry and Samuel took it apart and put it back together and… well the details being given to me by Zam are somehow akin to the second directive to turn right but I do remember jubilee clips and hydraulic tubing being mentioned. “And it makes the most beautiful noise,” he concluded.
Zam’s luxury on a desert island would be a box of broken things so I’m not remotely surprised that this episode has brought him joy. “But I’m not clear quite what you had to do with mending it?” I ask. That he was not part of the solution doesn’t dim his enjoyment one bit. That evening he spends hours with a pin trying to unclog the bialetti coffee pot that hasn’t worked for months and which has been gathering dust next to the broken toaster. Breakfast, I tell him, is becoming increasingly difficult. The pin yields no results and toast is now made on the hot plate. The aga toasting rack fell apart years ago. But the orange squeezer is, at the moment, operational.