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Wine alternatives for hayfever sufferers


Since the Lord smote Whitey with hayfever, he’s sticking to drinks from very shiny receptacles – Absolut vodka and Japanese beer.

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It’s a long time since Andy Warhol wrote to Absolut Vodka and said “I like your bottle”, and asked if he might decorate one for special release.

Since there’s not really a lot of gastronomic things to think about when drinking vodka, I’ve been thinking about this on and off while drinking from the most recent special arty bottle, which, being 100 per cent chrome, or something like it, and virtually free of trademarking, makes me think of even less stuff. The process goes like this: #1 – It looks very cool. #2 – Chrome is my favourite colour. #3 – Well that’ll be enough thinking for now.

I even forget to remind myself that this stuff is 40 alcohols per centum. And it’s exactly the same vodka as you get in the ordinary clear Absolut bottle.

The reason for this desertion of wine duties started with the vineyard. Last week the Ironheart Shiraz which surrounds Casa Blanca burst into bloom, cleverly selecting a narrow window between thunderstorm rain, some of it frozen hard, which would have messed up the yields of vintage 2016, and extreme hot wind, which would have blown the pollen away with half of next year’s bunches anyhow. So the timing was perfect for next year’s wine. And the aroma: the joint smelled like that Ukranian Christmas cake made from honey, orange and cinnamon.

Trouble was, that heavenly wave of pollen installed a bout of eight Richter hayfever which has stayed for 10 days. The vineyard flowering’s over, safe and sound, but various irritating grasses have taken over the trigger role, leaving me with gurry eyes and no sense of smell. It feels like I’m being sandblasted. I am increasingly allergic to Australia.

So the chrome bottle it’s been, served freezing on big ice with soda, the fresh juice of limes and lemons, maybe some real orange.

And oh yes: one key ingredient to replace the horrid steroid and anti-histamine nose sprays and the cursed Ventolin, which mucks up my smell receptors with the same deadly efficiency of the pollen: the old Zingiber officinale: ginger; its root. If you have a very sturdy juicer and procure some fresh, soft ginger root, make a juice and add a dribble to your tincture.

If, like me, you love the fiery stuff, you can handle quite a schlück of this. While it may not restore the head’s organoleptic receptors to formula one nick, it’ll certainly knock that catarrh on its head.

And it’s quite good at motion sickness and vertigo. Keep your ginger up!

Japanese beer

The only other drink of much efficacy this week is beer in shiny tins. In these moments of inadequacy, I avoid the burgeoning flood of craft suds: the last thing my hooter needs is an invasion of hippy yeast.

At five per cent alcohol, Asahi Dry, the brewed-in-Japan jobby (as opposed to the bottled stuff which is from somewhere else and, well, forget it) is as clean as a whistle and best at that moment seconds before its H2O turns to sleet. This also provides the patient with some essential goodness in the form of food and vitamins.

No chewing necessary.

Then there’s the splendid Sapporo, which is brewed under licence to the Japanese in Vietnam, where wages are lower and they still have young people. Originally, the big tin had a lid which came entirely away, leaving the drinkers to face their suds in what was practically a big tin beer glass. Because they once plagued our landscape, our brilliant Beverages Container Legislation did away with removeable metallic ring-pulls and lids, so while one gets only a little standard Adelaide-sized hole through which to suck one’s suds, it is possible.

One of the best things about the super-clean and crisp Sapporo is rice. They add a little to the barley malt then brew away, giving a softening saki-like cream to the beer’s otherwise steely, tannic frame.


PS: I’ve not mentioned prices, as they vary so widely. Shop around on the phone before leaving home.

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