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  • Writer's pictureCláudio Giordano

Disconcerting compliment to wine



On a pilgrimage over the Internet, I happened to come across an unsigned text entitled "Del vino y la poesía" ("On wine and poetry"); the anonymous's slight confusion, between the Knight of the Grove's speech and his squire, does not take away the delicious flavor of this chronicle, which led me to re-read the no less tasty chapters related to the aforementioned character from the Grove.


There said Sancho: "But let us leave it all to God, who alone knows what is to happen in this vale of tears, in this evil world of ours, where there is hardly a thing to be found without some mixture of wickedness, roguery, and rascality." And concluded: "we on our part will make the best of it, and get on as well as we can, seeking our adventures, and leaving Time to take his own course; for it is the best physician for these and other greater ailments.”


There follows a long dialogue between the two squires, that is, Sancho and the squire of the Knight of the Grove. And there, at a certain point, with stomach and brains, that is to say, body and spirit, taken by the good wine that, sitting on the grass, they were sipping, while talked about its virtues, writes Cervantes:


“By my faith, brother,” said he of the Grove, “my stomach is not made for thistles, or wild pears, or roots of the woods; let our masters do as they like, with their chivalry notions and laws, and eat what those enjoin; I carry my prog-basket and this bota hanging to the saddle-bow, whatever they may say; and it is such an object of worship with me, and I love it so, that there is hardly a moment but I am kissing and embracing it over and over again;” and so saying he thrust it into Sancho’s hands, who raising it aloft pointed to his mouth, gazed at the stars for a quarter of an hour; and when he had done drinking let his head fall on one side, and giving a deep sigh, exclaimed, “Ah, whoreson rogue, how catholic it is!”


“There, you see,” said he of the Grove, hearing Sancho’s exclamation, “how you have called this wine whoreson by way of praise.”


“Well,” said Sancho, “I own it, and I grant it is no dishonour to call anyone whoreson when it is to be understood as praise. But tell me, senor, by what you love best, is this Ciudad Real wine?”


“O rare wine-taster!” said he of the Grove; “nowhere else indeed does it come from, and it has some years’ age too.”


“Leave me alone for that,” said Sancho; “never fear but I’ll hit upon the place it came from somehow. What would you say, sir squire, to my having such a great natural instinct in judging wines that you have only to let me smell one and I can tell positively its country, its kind, its flavour and soundness, the changes it will undergo, and everything that appertains to a wine? But it is no wonder, for I have had in my family, on my father’s side, the two best wine-tasters that have been known in La Mancha for many a long year, and to prove it I’ll tell you now a thing that happened them. They gave the two of them some wine out of a cask, to try, asking their opinion as to the condition, quality, goodness or badness of the wine. One of them tried it with the tip of his tongue, the other did no more than bring it to his nose. The first said the wine had a flavour of iron, the second said it had a stronger flavour of cordovan. The owner said the cask was clean, and that nothing had been added to the wine from which it could have got a flavour of either iron or leather. Nevertheless, these two great wine-tasters held to what they had said. Time went by, the wine was sold, and when they came to clean out the cask, they found in it a small key hanging to a thong of cordovan; see now if one who comes of the same stock has not a right to give his opinion in such like cases.”


“Therefore, I say,” said he of the Grove, “let us give up going in quest of adventures, and as we have loaves let us not go looking for cakes, but return to our cribs, for God will find us there if it be his will.”


(The quoted excerpts from Don Quijote were taken from John Osmsby’s translation.)








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