I recently read Brideshead Revisited for the first time. I adore the Granada Television serial from 1981 and (now it's available on DVD) you can see what a large proportion of Evelyn Waugh's deliciously detailed observations were included in the 11 episodes. However, certain little nuggets slipped through the net. An example is this passage from the fourth chapter of the novel (in book one, Et in Arcadia Ego) when narrator, Charles Ryder, visits Sebastian Flyte at Brideshead during the long summer break at the end of their first year at Oxford.
"One day we went down to the cellars with Wilcox and saw the empty bays which had once held a vast store of wine; one transept only was used now; there the bins were well stocked some of them with vintages fifty years old.
'There's been nothing added since his Lordship went abroad,' said Wilcox. 'A lot of the old wine wants drinking up. We ought to have laid down the eighteens and twenties. I've had several letters about it from the wine merchants, but her Ladyship says to ask Lord Brideshead, and he says to ask the lawyers. That's how we get low. There's enough here for ten years at the rate it's going, but how shall we be then?'
Wilcox welcomed our interest; we had bottles brought up from every bin, and it was during those tranquil evenings with Sebastian that I first made a serious acquaintance with wine and sowed the seed of a rich harvest which was to be my stay in many barren years. We would sit, he and I, in the Painted Parlour with three bottles open on the table and three glasses before each of us; Sebastian had found a book on wine-tasting, and we followed its instructions in detail. We warmed the glass slightly at a candle, filled it a third high, swirled the wine round, nursed it in our hands, held it to the light, breathed it, sipped it, filled our mouths with it, and rolled it over the tongue, ringing it on the palate like a coin on a counter, tilted our heads back and let it trickle down the throat. Then we talked of it and nibbled Bath Oliver biscuits, and passed on to another wine; then back to the first then on to another, until all three were in circulation and the order of the glasses got confused, and we fell out over which was which, and passed the glasses to and fro between us until there were six glasses, some of them with mixed wines in them which we had filled from the wrong bottle, till we were obliged to start again with three clean glasses each, and the bottles were empty and our praise of them wilder and more exotic.
'...It is a little, shy wine like a gazelle.'
'Like a leprechaun.'
'Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.'
'Like a flute by still water.'
'...And this is a wise old wine.'
'A prophet in a cave.'
'...And this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck.'
'Like a swan.'
'Like the last unicorn.'
And we would leave the golden candlelight of the dining-room for the starlight outside and sit on the edge of the fountain, cooling our hands in the water and listening drunkenly to its splash and gurgle over the rocks.
'Ought we to be drunk every night?' Sebastian asked one morning.
'Yes, I think so.'
'I think so too.'"
Another example is when Charles Ryder's growing enthusiasm for wine is revealed in the first chapter of book two (Brideshead Deserted). While living in Paris, Ryder is taken out for dinner by Rex Mottram, Sebastian Flyte's future brother-in-law.
"I was there twenty minutes before Rex. If I had to spend an evening with him, it should, at any rate, be in my own way. I remember the dinner well – soup of oseille, a sole quite simply cooked in a white-wine sauce, a caneton à la presse, a lemon soufflé. At the last minute, fearing that the whole thing was too simple for Rex, I added caviar aux blinis. And for wine I let him give me a bottle of 1906 Montrachet, then in its prime, and, with the duck, a Clos de Bèze of 1904."
A little later Ryder observes:
"I rejoiced in the Burgundy. It seemed a reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in its long passion had learned another wisdom than his. By chance I met this same wine again, lunching with my wine merchant in St James's Street, in the first autumn of the war; it had softened and faded in the intervening years, but it still spoke in the pure, authentic accent of its prime, the same words of hope."