Friday, October 25, 2013


The cell phone quietly sang. The song was Paper Doll sung by The Mills Brothers. There was a special reason for this having been chosen but that’s another story. It was an iPhone 5 and had been set at the lowest ring volume but Bill Humbert woke at the first bar. He reached over carefully and pressed the listen button trying not to wake Trixie the pregnant barmaid who was sleeping (finally) softly next to him. Well, she wasn’t that much pregnant

Humbert eased himself out of bed and moved quietly into the living room.

“Hello Big Guy” he said, having noticed the caller ID on the screen.

“Bill, Bill, thank God or any other form of omnipresent being that may or may not rule our lives and incidentally who may or may not exist given that Jasper, the planet we live on may or may not be alone in the universe as a populated planet and who knows how it all began and, and…..” blustered Richard (of RBB) having spilled out these words in a barely understood torrent.

“Slow down Rich. This is a poor time to call me you know”. Said Humbert, knowing that his old pal Richard would get the intended pun and most likely come back with a riposte of sorts but there was silence on the end of the line. Nothing. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

“Rich. Are you there? It’s 4 am here as I’m sure you know” Humbert was being kind. Richard was a music teacher. He was a very good music teacher and pretty good at grammar but simple arithmetic wasn’t one of his strengths. Humbert knew that 4am in his motel unit meant that it was 11am the next day in Nuova Lazio where Richard lived. Humbert had an internal clock that gave him a register of all times in all time zones 24 hours a day. 4am was 4pm the same day in Kiev, 9am in Asuncion, 8am the next day in Tonga….

“Bill, Bill, sorry to bother you mate but something’s happened”

Humbert felt a chill creep up his back and goose bumps came out on his arms and legs. Excusing himself from Richard for a moment he stepped back into the bedroom and pulled the quilt off the bed and wrapped himself in it. Trixie stirred and woke shivering but Humbert wasn’t too concerned. She’d buggered up his wine order after all. He went back into the living room and picked up the phone.

“Tell me” he said, knowing that it was best to keep the sentences short or the nit-picking old schoolteacher would want to correct his grammar.

“You know that Shelley and I like Chardonnay” said Richard which was an understatement. Between them they had reversed the ABC (anything but chardonnay) trend and caused grapegrowers to plant the varietal in all sorts of unlikely places in order to keep up demand.

“Yes. I’ve heard something to that effect” said Humbert while pouring himself a glass of the 2010 Batard -Montrachet Grand Cru from the bottle on the coffee table. Good Chardonnay fruit, lean structure, judicious use of wood. Temperature perfect in the early morning chill. It’d go well with a …..

“Bill. Bill. Are you there? You know that we took your advice and only look out for Hawkes Bay and Gisborne Chardonnays. We don’t go near those Marlborough and other South Island ones except for the top Nelson ones but then we can’t afford those?”

“Good man Rich, keep it up” said Humbert and for some reason the thought of going into the next room and keeping Trixie warm sprung into his mind.

“Well” said Richard, finally calming down a bit” I ordered some Hawkes Bay Chardonnay off the internet last week. It was a 2012 Te Awanga barrel fermented Reserve. I did what you advised and looked up the books . The vintage is great and the location superb for Chardonnay with good fruit but with a nice cutting edge. The barrel ferment is supposed to soften out the acids and give a nice creamy texture from lees contact and the Reserve suggests some barrel ageing, about 10 months or more which adds complexity and nice vanillin characters and….”

“Whoah. Slow down, slow down” said Humbert as he stretched himself out on the couch. The Montrachet warming him nicely as he idly imagined spooning with Trixie and….

“But it wasn’t” said Richard.

“What?” Humbert asked thinking the old guy was losing his marbles “What wasn’t?”

“The wine” blurted Richard “the bloody wine I bought wasn’t a 2012 Cape Kidnappers barrel ferment Reserve. When it arrived I grabbed a bottle and … er, I chilled down a bottle and carefully took off the capsule and pulled the cork out and ….”


“Yes, cork and I noticed that the printing on the cork said ‘2009’. I thought that strange and before pouring anoth … before I poured a glass I checked the cork again. It said ‘2009 Eiffelton’. I didn’t think that was in Hawkes Bay so looked up the school computer in the bedroom….er waited until I got to school the next day and checked out where Eiffelton was. It’s in South Canterbury!”

“Bastards” said Humbert “The dirty bastards. They’re up to their old tricks. Look, don’t open any more of those wines. Carefully put them aside with the carton and the courier ticket and wait to hear from me. I’m on my way” Humbert closed the call and looked up Safari on his iPhone, going to Google to check on the next departures from San Francisco to Wellington.
He knew that there wasn't much time. The old guy would only be able to last out four days before he'd crumble, forget all the good advice and go back to drinking those cheap supermarket 'specials'.

Ninety six hours.

 He had a job to do. Bastards.

(To be continued)

1 comment:

Robert said...

They ran out of corks and bought some of a winery in Canterbury?