Drunk on words

Raymond thought we should drink too much of it at least twice a year, just on principle. Truman used it to get through the writing of one of his most challenging novels. While Jack, a Catholic, planned to employ it as a suicide aid.

Me? I just thought it’d make for a good creative writing workshop. A lubricant for writers. Something to oil the cogs and get the imagination whirring.

So I did it. With Carlo Lupori and Anne Vidal at Beyond Retro last Thursday. Probably London’s first creative writing workshop focused on booze. More specifically, the taste and language of the finest wines Carlo could source.

Carlo is a wine expert – a buyer, taster and all-round enthusiast. He’s Italian, from Puglia (‘a region near Naaaapoli’). Anne is Beyond Retro’s café owner. She’s French and bubbles with joie de vivre.

This all started a few months before Christmas. Anne had just secured a licence to sell alcohol at the café and invited Carlo her supplier to host a wine tasting event. It looked like free fun, so I put my name down and popped along. It was a sell-out, so Anne lined up the sequel.

At the second tasting I leant in to my hosts and made a suggestion. ‘Anne,’ I hiccoughed. ‘Anne, what about making the next tasting a writing workshop too? We can… drink wine and… write stuff. I’ll run it. It’ll… be good.’

Who could resist such persuasion?

Helping words flow

I went away and planned ‘Tasting Notes’. The idea was simple: invite punters to drink wine and write creatively. Inspire them with the language of wine (and language of two non-native speakers). While Carlo was waxing lyrical about grapes, soil, sunshine and more, I’d challenge our guests to write.

The wine would also help the words flow, I hoped.

After a storytelling ice-breaker, we had people imagining the smell of their voice, the sound of the colour orange, and the taste of moon dust. We made sentence structure fun, grammar a game, and writing as pleasant as supping and savouring.

By the end of the evening, everyone had created their own wine in words. They’d described its taste, aromas, texture and origin. To finish things off, our guests copied up their words to designed labels (created by Alex Lowe) and spray-mounted them on to empty wine bottles.

From Pomme Bella to 341, we had new wines of every description, from every continent, with every hint of every aroma you can imagine. I’m pretty sure messrs Chandler, Capote and Kerouac would have approved.

Read more: How to deal with writer’s block 


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