A scandalous oeno-porn collection

By / Magazine / March 2nd, 2020 / 36
Tony Aspler After Taste column; oeno-porn collection

Recently my wife Deborah returned home from an estate sale with a framed colour photograph of what looks like an oil painting of two dusty bottles: Château Haut Brion 1919 and Bouchard Ainé & Fils Meursault 1904.

To the left of the bottles: a rather bedraggled label of Mas de Daumas Gassac, and two corks — one branded Rauzan Ségla, the other an unidentifiable Saint-Émilion. To the right: a label of Château Margaux 1949 in excellent condition and an old-fashioned corkscrew standing upright.

This montage can only be described as oeno-porn.

Nothing triggers the compulsion to become a collector more than wine. And not only bottles of wine; I am also talking about all the paraphernalia for serving and consuming wine.

To show you what I mean, here is my inventory of the wine-related stuff in our house.

Wine glasses. 150 of them of various shapes and sizes in a cabinet, and boxes of unused ones in the basement. (We tend to break them so buy them compulsively.)

Eight decanters and two ice buckets sitting on the top of a 500-bottle wine cabinet. 14 corkscrews (including a left-handed one) in our kitchen drawer, plus more secreted around the house and in the car in case of an “emergency.”

Three packets of drip stops, eight table napkins with grape variety names and a matching tablecloth, a Coravin, and a wine aerator/strainer/pourer with stopper. All in the drawer where we keep the wine coasters.

A water jug in the form of a bunch of grapes, two sets of six place mats — one set features Bordeaux labels, the other says “I Sapori d’Italia” and is decorated with a bottle, glasses and grapes. 20-odd rolled up wine region maps that I never look at and old wine dinner menus signed by chefs, in the garage. A set of cork place mats that we bought at MOMA in New York.

My wife’s cork handbag I purchased for her in France that can just hold a chilled bottle and a corkscrew. On the wall in our kitchen: a large red and blue metal genuine license to sell alcoholic beverages in a Paris bistro (liberated by my French brother-in-law, no questions asked).

A collection of metal champagne cork tops, called muselets (from the French verb museler, meaning “to muzzle.”), which make me a practicing placomusophile (the term for nutty collectors of these colourful discs). Dozens of them sit in a drawer, waiting to be framed.

I used to collect wine books and, at one time, I had over 700. Now I am down to a more reasonable 100. I also collect memorable empty wine bottles signed by the winemaker. These bottles have moved with us three times much to my wife’s chagrin. (Are you nodding your head sympathetically with me or her?)

I also own a machine for recorking unfinished wine by hand after applying wine-preserving gas. (May heaven forgive me.)

And do not get me started on wine labels; I donated photo albums full of them to my friend Alain Laliberté, who proudly holds the Guinness Book of Records title for the world’s largest collection of wine labels — 18,000 and counting.

Now back to that object my wife brought home from the estate sale. It cost her $5. I would not part with it for 10 times that. (Well, maybe.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Aspler has been writing about wine for over 30 years. He was the wine columnist for The Toronto Star for 21 years and has authored sixteen books on wine and food, including The Wine Atlas of Canada, Vintage Canada, The Wine Lover's Companion, The Wine Lover Cooks and Travels With My Corkscrew. Tony's latest book is Tony Aspler's Cellar Book.

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