Drink often, drink well: Len Evans’ Theory of Consumption

17 Jan
Len Evans, relaxing, wine, reading

The late Len Evans consuming wine

I picked up the vibrating iPhone, noting my sister’s face flashing up onto the screen.

Hey sis, what’s up?’

‘Liana is going to make homemade gnocchi from scratch tomorrow for all of us girls. Do you want to come?’

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Do you honestly think that I needed any form of persuasion?

‘Just make sure you bring along a wine, as always,’ she reminded me, and then hung up.

Oh of course. The wine.

That was an easy enough mission. I have an abundance of wine in my possession and relish any opportunity to be able to drink and share the bottles. The last thing I want is to end up like one of those hoarders you see on A Current Affair, where their house is piled up with useless nonsense dispersed amongst a standard quota of two dozen cats. Would you like newspapers from every day in the year 1993? How about a collection of salad spinners in varying shades from forest green to putrid pink? Oh and don’t forget the recycled bottles and cans that they were planning on taking over to South Australia one day. While I am nowhere near having those inclinations, I like to keep those examples for myself as a warning. A warning to make sure that I am continually imbibing and wearing down my stocks.

It’s not just any wine either. It’s wine that I love, that I look forward to trying, that I’ve never tasted before, that I want to share with someone in particular, and that I will appreciate. Life’s too short to be buying cases upon cases of wine. Especially when most of the time I like trying something new, whether it is a producer, grape variety or vintage. In my case, to choke myself with mountains of the same wine is actually an inhibition on my learning.

This thinking has led me to share the most logical wine consumption theory I have heard thus far. It is by none other than the late Len Evans. Written in 1979 for the Australian Wine Browser collection of short stories, ladies and gentlemen, I present:


By Len Evans

Whatever heavenly wines are available when we cross the great divide, I’m not going to risk it. I’ve got no more than 10,000 bottles to go, and I cannot afford to waste a single one.

Let me explain. I drink nearly a bottle of wine every day. About 300 bottles a year. Since I intend to be here for at least another thirty years, and I can’t expect much longer – the price of gout being what it is – that adds up to a consumption of 9000 bottles. Throw in another 1000 bottles for those special occasions (and one would indeed be lucky to have another 1000 special occasions), and that’s 10,000 bottles.

Now, talking about 10,000 bottles to a lot of people is like talking about the discovery of a new planet so many million light years away. The mind just cannot comprehend the volume of it. Yet, I remain astonished by the lack of application of the true lover of wine.

You see, our vineyards in the Hunter Valley produced more than half a million bottles this year. In one vintage. Next year it could be nearly one million and the year after it will be more than one million. And that’s only one vineyard in a small part of a small wine-producing country.

Which means that there is an awful lot of wine available throughout the world. Countless flavours, nuances, shades; endless varieties, regions, styles. Simply, I haven’t got the time or the capability to try them all. So I have to apply myself to my future wine drinking requirement. And, as I’ve said, I continue to be astonished that other wine lovers don’t do the same thing.

They go two ways. Recently, I put on for luncheon, among others, a dollar a bottle red. A pleasant wine of no distinction at all, worth the money. A dollar a bottle. A well-known city figure, dashing, ebullient, wealthy, a man who lives well and glories in it, bought several dozen. I asked him why. ‘Barbecue stuff,’ he replied, ‘you know – when friends pop in, the kids, that sort of thing. You can’t drink your good stuff all the time.’

That’s where I disagree. You’ve got to drink your best stuff all the time; there isn’t time to drink anything else. By my reckoning he’s only got 2000 bottles to go, yet he still drinks a dollar a bottle stuff. Now, don’t misunderstand me. If that’s all he’s good for, it doesn’t matter, however much money he’s got. But he likes wine, understands it, appreciates it, enjoys a good drop. Who is he going to leave his money to? Another dollar a bottler?

On the other hand, there are those people who love good wine. They love it so much they buy it by the tens of cases. Good stuff, too. They put it away, store it up, wait for it. For what? I know a man who has more than 1000 dozen waiting for him. And he still buys other wines every week. He likes the best and buys it, but he sadly overestimates his capacity. But at least he errs on the right side, for I know where I can always get a good bottle.

More thought is required. There are people who don’t want good wines. They are happy with the ordinaire at a dollar a bottle and the tres ordinaire at a dollar ten. Don’t laugh – it happens. Wine plays a very small part in their lives. At least it plays some part. Please understand that they are not part of my argument. Nor are the countless beer and spirit drinkers. That’s their business. I can’t worry about everyone.

But I do worry about the genuine lovers of wine who haven’t done their homework. Wine plays an important part in their lives. They enjoy and want to enjoy it more. After all, what more can one do?

Material possessions are all very well, but people, friends, are far more important. What can you do with friends? You can talk to them, and talk is cheap; make love to them, provided they’re of the right sex; and share with them. Share what? Experiences, life. It’s remarkable how many of these experiences include wine and food. The theatre is great, but you have to eat before. Why not make an occasion out of it? I love art galleries, but I get hungry and thirsty walking around them. So, why not?

Sharing is living. If we accept that food and wine are part of sharing, then a specific allocation of income must be set aside for such involvement. One tragedy of Australia is that many high-income earners do not enjoy their money. They enjoy having it, maybe, but they don’t enjoy spending it. They don’t know how to spend it.

Should I stay fit and healthy, I may earn anything between a half and a million dollars in the next thirty years. Many of you will do the same or even better. I want to educate my children, but I do not want to leave them dynasties. I want to care for my wife, but I don’t want to leave her a millionairess. I want to live now.

Wine is at least a tenth of my life. Therefore, I can afford at least a tenth of my income to good wine. Which equals, take my word for it, at least five dollars a bottle and perhaps even up to ten dollars a bottle. If I earn more, I can scale up. If other pleasures are denied me, I can adjust. And if, for any reason, I don’t make the thirty-year intended span, then all the more reason to drink up now. You see, I can’t afford to drink the dollar a bottle stuff. It would be such a waste of my capability.

This theory probably applies to other parts of life. I explained all this, some time ago, to a friend who had recently divorced and was leading a gay life. He took the whole thing very seriously and reported back some weeks later.

‘I’m drinking better wine,’ he said, ‘and I’ve you to thank for it. But I also improved my approach elsewhere.

‘The other day I was kissing this delightful young lady when she looked at me coyly and told me that she thought I was a dirty old man. I was horrified. “Look here,” I told her, “you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I’ve worked out that I can make love another fifteen hundred and forty-three times, and I’m bloody sure I’m not going to waste one on you.”’

7 Responses to “Drink often, drink well: Len Evans’ Theory of Consumption”

  1. Christine January 17, 2012 at 8:27 AM #

    I love this story. Great find & great to share with us from Len 33 years later .

  2. Marisa Raniolo Wilkins January 17, 2012 at 12:13 PM #

    Lots of laughs (needed). Like the conversational style.

    Interesting= “Wine is at least a tenth of my life. Therefore, I can afford at least a tenth of my income to good wine. Which equals, take my word for it, at least five dollars a bottle and perhaps even up to ten dollars a bottle.” That was then.

    • La Donna del Vino January 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM #

      He was brilliant, wasn’t he?

      Yes. If only the prices could have remained as low as they were some thirty years ago, we could all be drinking much more today!

  3. Breiflabben January 17, 2012 at 8:40 PM #

    Great blog Donna del Vino and I love the story 🙂
    I may borrow it one day I want to share it with my blog friends here in Norway.
    Yeah, there is a Neb head or two in Norway as well. I don’t blog so much about wine, just mention it every so often when food and good company is present.

    I’ll be following you. Enjoy your summer. My last summer Down Under was 95-96, not a very good one, but at least I enjoyed a lot of good Australian wine; not a “dollar a bottle” but rather fifteen to twenty I would think.


  1. Wine Reviews September | La Donna del Vino - September 10, 2013

    […] late Len Evans is an Australian wine legend and once wrote an interesting piece titled the ‘Theory of Consumption’, in which he suggested to the general public to drink wine often and drink well. I follow this theory […]

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    […] late Len Evans is an Australian wine legend and once wrote an interesting piece titled the ‘Theory of Consumption’, in which he suggested to the general public to drink wine often and drink well. I follow this theory […]

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