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Saturday, January 10, 2004


Paying homage to the "Len Evans Principle"

We subscribe to the "Len Evans" principle. Len Evans has been described as "Australia's leading ambassador of wine," and his complex of two restaurants and a shop in Sydney's Bulletin Place was the center of Australia's wine universe for 20 years, from 1969 to 1989. In one of his books I recall he calculated how many bottles of wine he would be able to drink in the rest of his life, and concluded that there simply were not enough left to waste drinking any plonk. Try this calculation yourself, it can be scary.

It was a pleasure to visit the Len Evans Steak House when I was in Sydney. At dinner Evans hosted vertical wine tastings, but mostly I went there for lunch. Walking in, one first approached the wine shelf. There was a high kind of breakfront on which one could lean while tasting and discussing the wines with the staff and other patrons. In true slow-food style, this could take some time, and was treated very seriously.

Having tasted, evaluated, analyzed, praised, criticized and discussed the various wines, one would then review them against the lunch menu, with the help of staff and other patrons again -- and choose what to eat based on the wine you had settled on. Not the other way around. As I recall, there was also a table with different breads, knives, cuttingboards, probably some cheeses and other things, to fuel the process of deliberation. No need to starve while figuring out what to have for lunch.

This is so civilized!  Think of it -- when making a pilgrimage to the Mecca of Australian wine, isn't it sensible to pick your wine first, then the meal? We occasionally still do that at home. Thinking of a wine we've enjoyed and which we have on hand, we might choose the dinner that best goes with the wine.

Len Evan's steaks were impeccable, of course. I don't remember much of the menu, though. Since I was visiting, I wasn't driving -- a taxi would take me safely back to the hotel along with my purchases from the wine cellars below the restaurant -- and so I could indulge. Now that I drive to restaurants I need to skip the wine when we eat out. So we do the Len Evans thing when we are home.


The Len Evans Principle, better known as his Theory of Capacity, paraphrased and abridged (with apologies):
  • There is an awful lot of wine in the world, but there is also a lot of awful wine in the world.
  • One person can only drink a certain amount in a lifetime.
  • There are countless flavors, nuances, shades of wine; endless varieties, regions, styles. You have neither the time nor the capacity to try them all.
  • To make the most of the time left to you, you must start by calculating your total future capacity....there are only so many bottles ahead of you.
  • People who say: 'You can't drink the good stuff all the time' are talking rubbish. You must drink good stuff all the time. Every time you drink a bottle of inferior wine, it's like smashing a superior bottle against the wall. The pleasure is lost forever - you can't get that bottle back.
  • There are people who don't want to drink good wine, and are happy with the cheapies. I forgive them. There are others who are content with beer and spirits; I can't worry about everybody.
  • Wine is not meant to be enjoyed for its own sake; it is the key to love and laughter with friends, to the enjoyment of food, beauty and humor and art and music. Its rewards are far beyond its cost.
  • What part is wine of your life? Ten percentum: Ergo, 10 per cent of your income should be spent on wine.
  • The principle should be applied to other phases of life. A disciple kissed a beautiful young lady and she demurred. He was aghast, and said: "Don't get the wrong idea. I've worked out I can only make love another 1343 times. I'm bloody sure I'm not wasting one on you!"


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