Well so I got bored of joking that someone should buy me a Lafite Rothschild bottle and just went and did it myself. Let’s not dwell too long on the fact that it maybe cost more than every other wine I’ve drunk here put together. It’s our ninety-ninth bottle pulled from the Pynchon cabinet: we need a big gun. I found this at auction (which if buying wine at auction doesn’t make me a Scarsdale Vibe-esque Pynchon villian what will), managed to win, and shepherded it oh-so-gently somewhat nervously home. Before of course turning it into jelly.
Lafite Rothschild wine jellies are the glorious final gem in our trilogy of Disgusting English Candy Drill drinks/lollies. First came the gin marshmallows, back in 2016. Then the Bernkasteler Doctor wine gums a couple of years later. Now at last, their ruddier, somewhat pricier brother.
Wine jellies kick off the whole Candy Drill show, Mrs Quoad producing a great bowl of “prewar” jellies almost as soon as Slothrop enters. They don’t exactly bring back happy memories for poor Tyrone. Last time he encountered the boozy Quoad-fections, he wrote home to his mum complaining that they were enough to turn one’s stomach (“Figure out a way to feed some to that Hitler ‘n’ I betcha the war’d be over tomorrow!”) Let’s have the passage one last time. All together now:
Now once again he finds himself checking out these ruddy gelatin objects, nodding, he hopes amiably, at Mrs. Quoad. They have the names of different wines written on them in bas-relief.
“Just a touch of menthol too,” Mrs. Quoad popping one into her mouth. “Delicious.”
Slothrop finally chooses one that says Lafitte Rothschild and stuffs it on into his kisser. “Oh yeah. Yeah. Mmm. It’s great.”Gravity’s Rainbow, p. 116.
Both the Lafite and the Bernkasteler are misspelled. Should we blame Pynchon or Quoad? Maybe they aren’t made with the real wines, but with cunningly closely-spelled knock offs? More importantly, let’s note again that the whole D.E.C.D. is just such a delightful set piece. I heartily recommend re-reading (if not re-enacting) the lot. Mrs Quoad will remain a guiding light and guardian spirit of this project, though her alcoholic delicacies may be exhausted.
So how are the wine jellies? Jelly singular might be more accurate. I couldn’t bring myself to cook up all that rare liquid with gelatin, so I shared the major part and reserved a bit less than 100 mL for jellying. After a few minor disasters, I only wound up with a single small jelly. I was attempting to follow a scaled down version of the recipe I used for the Bencasteler Doctor, but this was Christmas Eve and things were a bit mad. Christmas morning I found that the jellies remained entirely liquid and realised that I’d forgotten the crucial step of heating the mixture. So I threw it belatedly on the stove then poured it back into the moulds, ready to unset Christmas night. The moulds, by the way, were silicon casts of little wine bottles with L R embossed (Quoad must have some big jellies to fit those full names) that I had 3D printed. A test run had matched the mould beautifully. The final product emerged rather rougher around the edges, sickly and somehow ancient looking, but with a bas-relief L R more or less intact.
But maybe before we address the jelly further you would like to know what a Very Expensive Wine tastes like? I am loath to admit it, but it was in this case something of a let down. It was a pretty venerable bottle, vintage 1976, but looked to be well-cellared with the liquid still to the base of the neck. I am not enough of a wine person to diagnose accurately, but it may have been a bit corked? The aroma was very underground cave, wet clay. Green earthy with a bit of dark berry. Hints of toffee apple. It tasted of dark berries, some dried fruit, a bit of dark chocolate as it opened up. A bit flat overall, not unenjoyable but not spectacular. And HEAPS of sediment. I must have done a bad job of letting it settle after turning the bottle upright.
Some of that sediment even made it though into the jelly, giving it some crusty corners that no doubt Slothrop would have just loved. I did actually find the LR jelly to be an enjoyable mouthful. A bit of sugar amped up the fruitiness that was lying low in the wine, and Mrs Quoad’s signature touch of menthol adds a note of, well, intrigue. I could have happily had another. But a whole bowlful? Mrs Quoad must have had some hefty financial backing.
See you soon for Tom Pynchon’s Liquor Cabinet drink number one-hundred, all! The wild ride continues.