In early middle age I became something of a wine buff, not a connoisseur, never that, but a reasonably well-informed "wino".
With a good head for quality red wines (not spirits) I deemed it wiser to opt for frequent opportunities (private tastings via wine club membership) to try whatever was considered the best available wine currently on offer - wine merchants, supermarkets, wine retailers - and gradually began to acquire what I thought was a reasonably fine-tuned palate.
In the early 80's shortly after moving to this town, I entered a competition to win free membership for one year of a newly formed wine club run by a local brewery. When to my amazement I won first prize I happily accepted my free 6 bottles of red and free membership of the wine club. This resulted in many happy tastings of wines I would never ordinarily be able to afford and a continuing education into what was and was not considered good wine.
It also led to my late husband and I buying far more wine than we would ever be able (without becoming alcoholics) to drink in the average year.
We then started to have rather more parties than ever previously, and slowly led to the consumption - mainly on my part - of vats of the red stuff.
When I found on one of our rare dining-out occasions that John, who would never drink and drive, was confining his consumption to one small glass and I was drinking the rest of the bottle in perhaps an hour and a half, I suddenly realised where this might wind up.
The lesson was a salutory one and I stopped drinking overnight, not even accepting the odd glass at an office party for about ten years. However extreme a reaction this might seem, it worked and over the next few years I drank about the equivalent of 1 bottle of wine and perhaps a glass of whisky or two in every 12 months.
Since John's death I have drunk very little until this Christmas, when, struck down by the fly virus and beset with miserable self-pity over my Christmas loneliness, I opened first of all a very good burgundy I had been keeping for some 10 years or so, and tonight a really lovely Pinotage. Since my head is now swimming and my eyes are becoming increasingly unfocused, it seems like a good time to wind up this "confession hour" and wait to see what it looks like in the sober light of day, tomorrow!