Tuesday, June 7, 2011

News flash: Spiders can get drunk!

I amused some friends over dim sum with this story and they thought others might get a chuckle. Also, I need something to encourage you to read my Wine Review Online column this month about Luxembourg wines. So here goes ...

I was in Luxembourg visiting wineries along with a French journalist who had the annoying habit many bloggers have of wanting to talk more about herself than the interview subject. At our last winery, we had spent nearly an hour tasting only 4 wines, while my colleague gave her opinions at great length on the grape varieties, how those varieties do in different parts of France, what the future for them is, how her husband disagrees with her about something, blah blah blah.

I noticed a bug crawling up my spit bucket. It was maybe 2/3 the size of my pinky nail and had an interesting color scheme: all black except for tiny bright yellow mandibles. I couldn't figure out the advantage of those: if it was black for camouflage, why give itself away with the yellow? Bored to tears, I paid it close attention.

It crawled over the edge to the inside lip of the spit bucket and I got an even better look (sorry, it was too small for my camera.) It had a large abdomen, all black, so I wondered if it had concealed wings and could fly. I poked it with the point of my pen a couple of times, and inadvertently knocked it into the previously-tasted wine. Sorry, bug! It paddled furiously, trying to get to the side, but when it got there it couldn't get purchase. It still beat at the wine, so I tore off a piece of napkin and pulled it out. But I appeared to be too late; its limbs had stretched out to their fullest and were still. This is how I learned it was a spider, as it had 8.

I felt guilty for drowning it in wine, but fortunately there wasn't a trashcan nearby so I just left it on the table and tried to see if the conversation had gotten more interesting. It hadn't. I pretended to pay attention for a couple minutes and then looked back at my friend and noticed one leg twitch, then another. Not dead!

Slowly the spider came to; the first time that it turned itself rightside-up, it took one step and fell over, still drunk. It staggered to its feet again and slowly walked in a not-so-straight line to the edge of the table. There, it looked over, as if wanting to get away from this painful place, but decided, "Nope, can't do it," and backed away. But after about a minute it changed its mind, and spun a short thread -- maybe 3 times its body length -- and hung upside down off the table, limbs fully extended, looking pretty much like I look when I'm too drunk and sprawled on the sofa. What a great hangover cure! Don't you wish you could hang upside down to clear your head? I wonder if they can work this into the next Spider-Man movie.

After a few minutes in this posture, the spider was apparently cured. It crawled back up to the table and immediately went for the spit bucket again -- also an easy act to anthropromorphize. But I realized it was following an instinct, and the yellow mandibles suddenly made sense. It must have been a vineyard spider, adapted to waiting in the grapevine for its prey, with its mandibles the color of grapes (Luxembourg grows 97% white grapes.)

So that's my tale. We eventually tasted a couple more wines, and I'll write more about Luxembourg in the near future, but today I had to release the news flash. No, not that some French writer's husband prefers Pinot Noir to Pinot Blanc with onion tart, depending on how much pepper is used, but also depending on the ripeness of the Pinot Noir, because from some areas it can be too fruity, and it's really grown all over the place these days, which means it's not Burgundy's anymore, but Burgundy is still the standard, although Burgundy has many challenges such as the laws about dividing property ...

Spiders can get drunk: who knew?

(If you want to read more about Luxembourg wines today, here's the WRO column.)


wine news said...

Thanks for sharing!

Chris said...

So, what producers should I look for in Luxembourg?

W. Blake Gray said...

Chris: Aby Duhr, foremost. Also, read the WRO column: I personally bought Domaine et Tradition Riesling from a producer I hadn't tried.

Anonymous said...

They dont only get drunk!

W. Blake Gray said...

Anon: Great link! Relevant, fascinating, visual, with a savage beauty. I highly recommend that everyone visit it: Spiders on Drugs.


Lisa said...

A great tale of one of our arachnoid cousins. I'm glad he lived for another day of spit bucket tasting.

The whole of life can be found in its minutiae; as your namesake said, "To see a world in a grain of sand ..."

A great sci-fi flick is in the making: the spider, in an anthropomorphic turn, adopts the less savory traits of the tasters via imbibing their spit + alcohol, and he goes home to become a perfect bore, like the woman wine tester. Every day, a new dominant trait is adopted ...