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Tales of the Unexpected

Tales of the Unexpected

Titel: Tales of the Unexpected
Autoren: Roald Dahl
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landing right in the middle of the vineyard of my choice. But this time – I must move cautiously this time, must I not?’ He looked up at Mike and smiled, a thick-lipped, wet-lipped smile. Mike did not smile back.
    ‘First, then, which district in Bordeaux does this wine come from? That’s not too difficult to guess. It is far too light in the body to be from either St Emilion or Graves. It is obviously a Médoc. There’s no doubt about
    ‘Now – from which commune in Médoc does it come? That also, by elimination, should not be too difficult to decide. Margaux? No. It cannot be Margaux. It has not the violent bouquet of a Margaux. Pauillac? It cannot be Pauillac, either. It is too tender, too gentle and wistful for Pauillac. The wine of Pauillac has a character that is almost imperious in its taste. And also, to me, a Pauillac contains just a little pith, a curious dusty, pithy flavour that the grape acquires from the soil of the district. No, no. This – this is a very gentle wine, demure and bashful in the first taste, emerging shyly but quite graciously in the second. A little arch, perhaps, in the second taste, and a little naughty also, teasing the tongue with a trace, just a trace of tannin. Then, in the after-taste, delightful – consoling and feminine, with a certain blithely generous quality that one associates only with the wines of the commune of St Julien. Unmistakably this is a St Julien.’
    He leaned back in his chair, held his hands up level with his chest, and placed the fingertips carefully together. He was becoming ridiculously pompous, but I thought that some of it was deliberate, simply to mock his host. I found myself waiting rather tensely for him to go on. The girl Louise was lighting a cigarette. Pratt heard the match strike and he turned to her, flaring suddenly with real anger. ‘Please!’ he said. ‘Please don’t do that! It’s a disgusting habit, to smoke at table!’
    She looked up at him, still holding the burning match in one hand, the big slow eyes settling on his face, resting there a moment, moving away again, slow and contemptuous. She bent her head and blew out the match, but continued to hold the unlighted cigarette in her fingers.
    ‘I’m sorry, my dear,’ Pratt said, ‘but I simply cannot have smoking at table.’
    She didn’t look at him again.
    ‘Now, let me see – where were we?’ he said. ‘Ah, yes. This wine is from Bordeaux, from the commune of St Julien, in the district of Médoc. So far, so good. But now we come to the more difficult part – the name of the vineyard itself. For in St Julien there are many vineyards, and as our host so rightly remarked earlier on, there is often not much difference between the wine of one and the wine of another. But we shall see.’
    He paused again, closing his eyes. ‘I am trying to establish the “growth”,’ he said. ‘If I can do that, it will be half the battle. Now, let me see. This wine is obviously not from a first-growth vineyard – nor even a second. It is not a great wine. The quality, the – the – what do you call it? – the radiance, the power, is lacking. But a third growth – that it could be. And yet I doubt it. We know it is a good year – our host has said so – and this is probably flattering it a little bit. I must be careful. I must be very careful here.’
    He picked up his glass and took another small sip.
    ‘Yes,’ he said, sucking his lips, ‘I was right. It is a fourth growth. Now I am sure of it. A fourth growth from a very good year – from a great year, in fact. And that’s what made it taste for a moment like a third – or even a second-growth wine. Good! That’s better! Now we are closing in! What are the fourth-growth vineyards in the commune of St Julien?’
    Again he paused, took up his glass, and held the rim against that sagging, pendulous lower lip of his. Then I saw the tongue shoot out, pink and narrow, the tip of it dipping into the wine, withdrawing swiftly again – a repulsive sight. When he lowered the glass, his eyes remained closed, the face concentrated, only the lips moving, sliding over each other like two pieces of wet, spongy rubber.
    ‘There it is again!’ he cried. ‘Tannin in the middle taste, and the quick astringent squeeze upon the tongue. Yes, yes, of course! Now I have it! The wine comes from one of those small vineyards around Beychevelle. I remember now. The Beychevelle district, and the river and the little harbour that
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