Introducing a new occasional series – interviews with writers about their drinking habits. For my first guest I am honoured to have philosopher Roger Scruton. For many years Scruton wrote a column for the New Statesman. It was ostensibly about wine but in reality it smuggled subversive views about the family, religion and hunting into a left wing magazine. This makes him sounds like merely a mischief maker whereas his unselfconscious love of nature imbued the writing with a rare beauty. The columns are worth reading whatever your political persuasion.
When did you first realise that wine was something special and can you remember the wine that triggered this feeling?
When my mother was given a bottle of Burgundy by her step-father. She opened it, took a sip, and then put the cork back in. For several weeks it stood in the larder and from time to time I would sneak an egg-cup full, amazed by the thrilling sensation as it settled inside me, and largely unconcerned when, after a week or so, it turned to vinegar.
From reading your New Statesman column, I imagined that you used to drink most of your wine in the stable with your horse Sam. Is this the case and if so do you think this is the perfect way to drink wine?
I only would call on Sam’s help when tasting the second class wines judged appropriate to middle-income socialists. If anything good came my way it would be reserved for the dining table. Unfortunately Sam is now dead, but his help is no longer needed, since I gave up the column for the New Statesman.
What was Sam’s favourite wine?
Amethystos Rosé, from Oddbins. (nice to see that someone else appreciated Oddbins Greek range.)
From which region do you buy most of your wine from and why?
White from Burgundy, Red from Bordeaux. These are, in my view, simply the best crafted wines of their kind at the prices I can afford. But I say a lot more in my book, I Drink Therefore I Am.
Are there any wines/ regions/ countries that you avoid and if so why?
I tend to avoid Australian Shiraz, which I think is designed for the use of football hooligans.
What is the most that you have ever spent on a bottle of wine, what was the wine and was it worth it?
I usually arrange things so that someone else is paying. But I have, in my time, spent £35 on a bottle of Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru and of course it was worth every penny. But what after all is one comparing it with?
What are you most looking forward to drinking from your cellar?
There is a bottle of Chateau Palmer 1975 on which I have my eye.
What’s the most memorable wine you have ever had?
Ch. Lafite 1945, described in my book.
This is a terribly vague question but in general do you think that wine is getting better or worse?
Wine is one of the few things that are getting better in a world where everything worthwhile is in steep decline.
Which writers in your opinion write well about wine?
Evelyn Waugh, especially in Brideshead Revisited, Thomas Mann in Felix Krull.
Finally at the moment what is the current Scruton house wine?
Ch. Grivière 2001, Medoc, from Majestic Wine.
I have just ordered a copy of I Drink Therefore I am which I will review in my next round-up of wine books. I should also mention that the above Medoc is currently on offer at Majestic for £8.99. I’m going to buy a few bottles.