Sunday 1 February 2009

Essential equipment

Here’s a new addition to my cruising kit. A wineskin as used by shepherds, goatherds and, I’m assuming, fishermen over the centuries, ever since wine was first produced. Quite the traditional drinking vessel they are made of thick goatskin and the seam is sealed with pine resin. To use you unscrew the top, lift the skin high applying light pressure and direct the resulting fine jet of wine into your mouth. There is certain knack in finding your mouth immediately and many a tourist, pouring wine over face and shirt, has been the cause of mirth. There’s an even greater knack, though, to halting the flow and as you wonder how you are going to stop without spraying the company you’ll find it’s also useful to be able to swallow with your mouth open, as it tends to fill up quite quickly. The trick to interrupting the flow is in a brisk flick of the wrist, though inevitably a few drops go astray there’s no shame in having a drip hanging from your chin. Some seasoned aficionados don’t actually direct the wine into their mouths at all but into their moustaches (men and women) the idea being that a bushy, nicotine impregnated bigote imparts flavour. I have heard of, but never seen, some directing the jet between the eyes so that two rivulets of wine run down either side of the nose, through the moustache, and so into the corners of the mouth.

But practices of dubious hygiene aside my wineskin will hopefully solve the problem of wine spoiling when cruising. Last summer I carried wine, decanted from bottles, in a plastic 2L water container and it became undrinkable before I could finish it. Opened wine lasts up to about four days before it becomes vinegary. With the wineskin I hope to squeeze out the air and keep the wine quaffable for longer. And while a gourd is hardly where you’d want to put the Pinot Noir it is a supremely fitting vessel for the rough and ready wine that I take cruising.

The instruction booklet says that during the first few days of use the wine should be changed regularly and (hic) the quantity of varnish on the terrace floor and the quality of finish on the new mast testify to the diligence with which I’ve followed those recommendations. Don’t shay I’m not a martyr to shmall coat bruising.


Chris Partridge said...

Should be on every boater's check list. Our local Waitrose has started selling a high tech version, a plastic bag with a screw top and a line of finger holes to hold it with. It has the advantage that is it already full, so you don't have all that messing about with funnels. And the bag is so thin it looks like an ordinary bottle but actually holds a litre.

Ben said...

Sounds good. I did think about using the bag from inside a wine box, but aside from the fact you can't get them here I think they would be too thin to suffer much rough stowage. This gourd is thick skinned enough to take any amount of stuffing into lockers, heat and damp.