The 3rd Covid wave is around the corner, and I ain’t taking any chances. When said tsunami arrives, chances are South Africans will once again have to endure the sight of a sombre Pres Cyril Ramaphosa telling us that he has been advised to implement yet another lock-down. Which will include a ban on the sale of alcohol, as has been the frequent wont of himself and his party-pooping Command Council.
As a qualified veteran of liquor lock-downs, and someone with interests in the alcohol industry, I am as of now being Boy Scoutish about the whole thing and preparing for the next lockdown. In the following manner:
- Un-installing Zoom: Every alcohol ban has led to a spectacular increase in the hosting of wine-tastings and related talk-shops via Zoom. Last year this time Zoom was nothing but a misspelt insect-repellent. Now it is a seemingly seamless technological way for which to engage in discussions with other people via the cold face of a lap-top screen. As a medium to communicate a personable and engaging topic like wine, Zoom is about as effective as attempting to cook a cassoulet in a microwave. It is stop-start; “can you see me?”; “I can hear you, but I can’t see you”; “please unmute yourself”….even the hottest, most-informed gang partaking in a Zoom call on the most interesting topic end-up making the show look like one of those fluffed SABC TV new inserts. And those automated backgrounds of forests, mountains and libraries some Zoomers prefer using gives the presentation an eerily cheap 1970s porn-star feel. Zoom me up, Scotty, because I am out of here.
- Block e-mails from SA wine industry bodies: Strangely quiet outside of lockdown, the South African wine industry authorities go into communications hysteria once a liquor ban is called. In-boxes to media and other concerned parties are inundated with endless quotes accentuating the economic ravages caused by the shutting of retail and on-trade liquor outlets, the spewing of furious calls for the Government to undo its wicked ways and impassioned pleas to the world crying “#saveSAwine”. We’ve seen this movie before during the past year’s three alcohol bans. The messages stay the same. The projected figures of job-losses and farm-closures remain unsubstantiated. It all comes across as knee-jerk, reactionary and alarmist. Nothing new. No talk of what the industry was doing in-between lockdown periods to engage with decision-makers. No real message of progress made within its ranks to tackle the authorities’ concerns. Heard it all before and will thus take a break now.
- Lock away the good stuff: Self-pity plays just havoc with one’s self-control. During the first three lockdowns I found myself bemoaning my lot in a prohibitionist world by opening bottles from the more serious walls of my wine collection. Looking back, I really should not have de-corked the Calon-Ségur 1982, the Nederburg 1974, that Graham’s Tawny Port 1952 nor the Harlan Cabernet Sauvignon 1998. But there you are, in an emotionally brittle state trying to show the short-sighted Government that you’ll respond to their churlish lock-down measures by drinking the good stuff in the face of life’s adversity. Now, those treasures are empty and whilst enjoyable, should have been opened in celebration and not maudlin victim-hood.
- Get vermouth: There are few better drinks to take-off the edge and get the engine humming than a solid shot of gin. However, tonic water gives gas and sugar, while I have not yet sunken to the depths of depravity required to drink gin neat. Real gin, that is, not these over-botanical perfume-fruited herb and spice concoctions. The only way to drink gin – well, for me – is in the form of a martini – the most civilised drink on earth. Yet, hastily stocking-up for the first few lockdowns, I forgot that the dry vermouth was empty, thus putting the joys of a dry martini out of reach. Only half a teaspoon of dry vermouth is required for my world-beating dry martini, yet during previous lockdowns not only that small an amount could be found. For this next stretch, the Noilly Prat – the only vermouth – is standing tall, ready for deployment in making the sip from the gods.
- Take the dog out: Prohibition includes the banning of the transportation of alcohol as an extra bolt of kill-joy fundamentalism by Ramaphosa and his posse. As a wine industry professional, however, one is often required to convey bottles of vinous goods to various parties dependent on your levels of service and the lengths to which you are prepared to go to offer these. In recent times it has become evident that the chances of being stopped and searched for contraband lessens should there be a canine companion in one’s car. During lockdown number three I was carting my neighbour’s Staffordshire from Cape Town to Worcester for breeding purposes – the dog’s, not mine – and we passed three full-on blue-lighted road-blocks. At each stop the officer took one look at the slobbering pink-tongued black Staffie and indicated I continue driving, almost pleading me not to stop. For the next Covid wave, thus, I have secured the services of a part-time dog rental in the form of Lughaid, a very large, hairy and dim Irish Wolfhound who will be accompanying me on my wine-laden lockdown journeys. At 73kg and a calf-sized head covered with strands of ghostly grey hair, Lughaid will discourage the most eager traffic officer from opening and searching the vehicle. And I shall drive happily on, realising that the length of the road is of no matter if there is good wine that needs to be delivered to fine people. Which there always is.