Calne is the quintessential British hamlet, full of ancient stone buildings, pubs, clock towers, and winding streets. There are churches galore, each one older than the next, some with graveyards for lawns, and with the sort of architecture that draws people like me over the Atlantic. The people of this peaceful town are friendly without exception, and if you’re as lucky as I was, you might find a room to let above the town’s very old brewery, where below your rented digs you could enjoy a pint of local pub ale. A little creek runs through the town, and in the summer the village’s lucky children ride their bicycles to its banks and swim in its clear water. I know this because I saw them. It made me want to move there.
With all possible respect to the Noble Rot Wine Bar, where I had some really amazing things a few days back, I’ll say briefly here that the best glass of wine I had on this entire trip, between Bosnia, Turkey, England and beyond, was here in this little town. It was just last night, when my new friend Safet and I struck out to grab dinner. After walking around a bit, we decided on the Italian place right next to the pub our rooms were rented in, and got a little excited when they had to squeeze us in. The place was packed, and rightfully so. An waiter with a strong Italian accent led us a tight staircase to a table for two with a nice view. As I surveyed the menu, I noted for Sonja’s next trip over that they had gluten free pasta. Great ambiance and great pizza awaited Safet and I, though, in truth, the wine was utterly forgettable. That being said, it was still the best I’ve had in a long while, and I’ll tell you why.
The wine was a rosso, Italian, and cost thirteen quid for a bottle, maybe a little under twenty dollars. It was boring, nondescript aside from its obvious color — so much so that I didn’t give it a single thought after it touched my palate for the first time. And yet it went down easily, Safet pouring for me, me for him, as together over more than two hours we drank it, ate our pizzas, and talked at length about our common interests related to Bosnia, education, and more. At one point in the night, when Safet went to the bathroom, I glanced at the bottle and was thankful that it wasn’t any better. A grand cru left banker would have demanded my attention, but this smooth, 11% ABV red wine with no vintage on the label was unoffensive yet required not a second thought. It was almost as if it knew I had something more important to do than to think about it, and it played the role of quiet accompanist quite nicely. I don’t suggest you go looking for this bottle. Instead, I suggest you keep some boring, affordable wines around, and that you go looking for people to have meaningful conversations with. Maybe you already know them, in which case I encourage you to invite them over for your most boring bottle of wine tonight. From experience, I’ll tell you that it makes any wine infinitely more easy to appreciate.
In just a few hours I’ll get up and head to London Heathrow, early enough to catch a 4:10AM bus and a 6:45AM flight. After eighteen hours of flights plus layovers, I should be home to see my wife and kids, whom I have missed greatly for much time now. Thanks for reading my musings from abroad, my friends. I’ve appreciated having you to write to while I was away from my family. Take care, have some great conversations, and pair them with a simple wine tonight.
Cheers to great conversations and, so much more so, the people we have them with,