Choo Choo Booze Cruise

Rachel Hendry gets squiffy on a train


Time loses all meaning when you’re travelling by train.

Not in a flying-through-time-zones-concord-style kind of way. In a whatever-I-do-on-this-journey-doesn’t-count kind of way. 

By travelling on a train you are already in a state of doing—you are travelling!—so whatever activity you choose to undertake whilst en route becomes inconsequential; that’s what makes it so fun. To travel by train is to award yourself the gift of time.

Travellers either know and appreciate the gift of time gained on a train, or they do not. These groups of people can be split roughly into those who use trains as a chance to catch up on emails and those who pretend to read whilst staring out the window. See also: those who insist on very loud and signal disrupted phone calls versus those who choose to listen to whole albums uninterrupted. Those who come on board with overpriced and under-extracted coffee, or those who board with wine. 

Wine on trains. Forget wedding receptions or fancy ten course dinners that leave you hungry for chips on your walk home; it is in a train carriage that I believe wine really comes into its own.

So what do you drink when you have nothing to do but revel in time?

Celebration wines seem obvious, and normally I don’t see anything wrong with that, but there’s something about a bottle of sparkling wine drunk whilst travelling that causes me some apprehension. Perhaps it’s in the pairing of movement with movement that is a little too texturally challenging for me—you may be made of stronger stuff; for that I have nothing but respect.

But say for now it’s just you and me on a train—the nature and length of our trip unimportant—and I think rosé, perhaps, is on the fold-down table. A rosé so light it could be mistaken for a white wine, and indeed the couple next to us are now cursing themselves for not indulging the Pinot Grigio purchase they contemplated earlier. It tastes like licking the sugar off of a strawberry lace and buying yourself a bouquet of peonies on the walk home. It’s refreshing, like wading into the sea on a hot summer’s day or opening your bedroom window to welcome the breeze in. It is essentially a holiday in a bottle, and I can ask from it no more.

Or maybe a red might be better? Nothing serious—although anyone who labels a wine as serious has very much misunderstood the brief—so something like a Beaujolais or a Zweigelt from Austria could work. It would be light and bright, like when you can feel your heart swell in your chest because someone has gifted you some homemade jam, or when you spot a child holding a balloon. 

A white wine that tastes like biting down on the seeds of a passionfruit would also be fitting, I think. This would be from a can so I could slowly roll the cool metal across my cheeks before opening. Drinking like —look! allotments! did you see?!—zesting lemons into risotto and the first bite of a very good pear, almond croissants and also, very specifically, the icing sugar dusted on top of a victoria sponge. 

All of these wines, I believe, are worthy of celebrating time on trains. Time, not necessarily losing all meaning, but gaining a new one instead. One where, just for a little while, all there is to do is let the world pass us by.

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