It was 23:35 on New Year’s Eve, and Paul Stiller, Lower Strangling’s wine merchant, stood at the foot of his extensive wine cellar, wondering what to drink.
Usually, the villagers congregated at the Vicarage for a New Year’s Eve Bash organised by Simon, but due to the ongoing pandemic they had to ring in the New Year over Zoom instead. So now, Paul was standing in his cold, dark, cellar, looking for the perfect drink.
Of course, Paul had an opened bottle of Sauvignon Blanc all ready and waiting in his fridge. But this was New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Eve 2020 at that. He’d survived the year, he deserved something special. He deserved his favourite; vintage wine.
He walked through his cellar and sifted through the different vintage wines until he found the one he was going to drink.
“Now then, what to drink?” Paul mused to himself whilst looking at Sauvignon after Sauvignon, Rose after Rose, until he found a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Hmm”, he thought as he looked at the bottle. Sure, drinking it would mean losing about £25.00, but who cares? This was New Year’s Eve, and he deserved to drink the best.
Deciding on his wine, he pulled the wine bottle off the shelf and prepared to walk back into his living room. But then he spotted something deep inside the shelf. It looked like another bottle of wine, too dark to see properly.
“It can’t be, could it?” Paul wondered aloud to himself as he put down the wine bottle he was holding and reached deep into the shelf, to see if his eyes were deceiving him.
He felt the familiar indent of the bottom of a bottle of wine. He then felt the rounded shape of the bottle. His eyes were not deceiving him.
“Hello,” Paul said as he pulled out a cobweb covered bottle.
“Wow, this has been here a long time,” he mused to himself as he looked at the bottle. The wine was a Madeira Terrantez.
“Hmm, a Portuguese wine,” Paul said, “probably won’t be seeing much of this for a while after next week.” He then looked at the year on the bottle, which took his breath away.
The wine he was holding was dated 1720; he was holding a 300-year-old bottle of wine. By the looks of things the bottle was bought and stored in 1720, hidden away and forgotten at the back of this wine cellar for 300 years, until now.
“Well I never,” Paul said. He faced a dilemma; on one hand, he could make a lot of money by selling it to a rich Oenophile, on the other, he might be holding in his hands the best wine he’s ever drunk. He stared at the bottle for a moment, wondering what to do.
“Sod it,” he finally said after a while. He’d survived a bloody pandemic for goodness sake, the least he deserved was vintage Portuguese wine of the highest quality. So he picked up the measly 6-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon and put it back in it’s slot. He then took the mighty 300-year-old Madeira Terrantez to his living room, ready to pour it into a glass.
Once he’d made himself comfortable in his armchair, Paul looked at the clock; 23:45. There was five minutes to go before the New Year’s Eve village zoom meeting was about to start.
“Hmm, what to do? What to do?” Paul thought aloud. He stared at the 300-year-old bottle sitting next to him.
“No,” he thought, “I must save it for when the Zoom meeting starts.”
But the temptation was too much. “Sod it,” he thought. One glass wouldn’t hurt, would it?
To get himself in the mood for drinking 18th Century wine, Paul put on Handel’s Sarabande. He felt he should be listening to the type of music the people who would have originally drunken this wine would have listened too. Once he was ready, he poured the wine into a glass. He smelled the aroma of the wine; it smelled heavenly. He checked the legs; they were the thickest legs he’d ever seen. Finally, it was time to taste the wine. He closed his eyes, breathed in, and slowly sipped from the glass.
He exhaled, it was the best wine he’d ever tasted. So much so, it was almost orgasmic. He finished the glass, but he couldn’t get enough.
“I suppose another glass would be ok,” Paul said as he poured himself another glass. It was New Year’s Eve; he deserved it after all.
About four glasses later, and the Zoom meeting began. Simon, John, Dave, Sarah, Will, Eleanor, Robert, Hans, Bruce, Janet, and Jo all appeared on screen from their various homes.
“Well, is everyone excited to see the back of this godforsaken year?” Simon asked the other villagers.
The other villagers cheered.
“YESSSSSSSSS!” Paul said somewhat drunkenly, whilst swaying to and fro.
“Are you alright, Paul?” John asked.
“Yesss John, I’m as goodssss can be.” Paul replied.
“You’re not drunk… already, are you?” John asked, slightly concerned.
“Ok, so maybe I’ma little bit pissed.” Paul responded, “but that’sssssnot a problem, isit? There’s nothing in the Bible about getting hammeredon New Year’s Eve, issssthere?”
“No, there isn’t”, Simon replied calmly, “although that’s mainly because the modern concept of New Year’s Eve wasn’t really a thing in biblical times.”
“I bet Jesus and his disciplessssgot proper plastered atthe Last Supper,” Paul said.
Dave and Sarah quickly covered Will and Eleanor’s ears to that their minds would not be corrupted by Paul’s drunken ramblings.
“What are you drinking, anyway?” Janet asked Paul.
“Oh nothing, jussa glassof red from Tesco, that’s all.”
“Hmm,” Janet mused. Something was going on with Paul, she just didn’t know what.
“It’s probably vintage,” John said, “you know how much he’s a sucker for vintage wine. He can’t resist.”
Soon it was 23:58, it was almost time for the big countdown.
“It’s shame the fireworks are cancelled this year,” Simon mused after a while.
“Yeah, we went to see them in person in 2018, I’d love to see them again,” Dave added.
“Still, at least this year we’ve avoided seeing an artist who’s neither current nor old enough to be a timeless icon perform at the Methodist Hall,” Simon added.
“Yeah, thereis that,” Paul added before drinking yet another glass of Mediera Terrantez.
“I think you’ve had enough to drink now, Paul,” Simon said.
“You’renot memum.” Paul replied.
“I know how much you love vintage wine,” John added, “but maybe it’s time to drink some water.”
“No. You’renot medad,” Paul responded.
“Fine”, John conceded with a sigh.
Finally, it was 23:59:10, and all the villagers counted down to 2021.
“Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…five…four…three…two…one,” the villagers counted down until all their clocks struck midnight.
The villagers cheered and then sung a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, as was the custom, although this year they couldn’t link arms.
After the villagers bade each other goodnight (or good morning, as Robert knew it to be), the Zoom meeting ended, and Paul was greeted with a black screen.
“The jokeson them,” Paul mused to himself as he logged off his laptop and put it aside. “They’ve missedout on the best wine inthe world,” he said as he stood up to walk over to his bed.
“I mean, five, six, sevenglasses isn’t too bad surely? I mean what’s the worst that could-“
With that, Paul stumbled onto the floor and went into a deep, dreamless sleep.
TO BE CONTINUED