Zio Giovanni is probably in his late sixties, but is one of those men that never managed to leave home. He never married either and still lives quite comfortably with his ancient mother. Every autumn he collects all the grapes from his small patch of land overlooking the sea and sorts them into piles of red and white, ready to be pressed.
The smell of fermenting grapes is strong and wafts up from the house to the alleyway above, a clear warning of what is taking place on the terrace below. Zio Giovanni bustles around importantly, sorting crates of grapes, cranking the handle of the ancient press and dusting off his motley collection of recycled bottles, ready for filling.
Every year at Christmas Zio Giovanni presents us with a bottle of his homemade red and a bottle of his homemade white. Every year we open the wine, sniff it cautiously, reluctantly take a sip, then splutter in disgust and pour the rest away down the sink. For the truth is that Zio Giovannis wine is awful, it taste like cats piss and is completely undrinkable, not even fit for cooking with.
The red wine is fizzy and harsh, making you want to scrape your teeth over your tongue, and if you don’t get rid of it within a year the bottle will explode with pressure (ask me how I know). The white is...how can I explain? It is just not what wine should ever taste like. It is just WRONG.
So of course I was taken completely by surprise this year when on sniffing the wine he had given us I didn’t reel back in disgust. It actually smelt quite like wine. I poured a bit into a glass and tried it and it actually tasted like wine! A weak, cheap wine, but it was drinkable! I was ecstatic for Zio Giovanni. He could do it, he could really make wine! I piled him with compliments and told him how clever he was a few days later when I met him on the road. He blushed shyly and told me to bring the bottles back and he would refill them for me.
But yesterday Zio Giovanni was caught red-handed. Apparently before Christmas he went out and bought two 5-litre casks of ultra cheap table wine and decanted it into his own bottles, then wrapped them up and handed them out to everybody, fooling all of us into thinking he had learnt the secret of wine making.
And I drank it. Grrr.