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A rant about children’s programmes

Here’s something I wrote for the Spectator about children’s programmes. It’s not about booze though there is a mention of going to the pub at the end.

I think I might be a bad parent; whenever my wife is out, I plonk our two-year-old daughter in front of the television. The other day we watched a rainbow nation of children marching around the British countryside singing ‘Let’s make sure we recycle every day’, and I realised that something has changed in children’s programming since I was little. These young recyclers are from a show called Green Balloon Club, which is ostensibly a wildlife programme, but the song had more in common with one of those Dear Leader dirges you see in North Korea. It wasn’t education, it was propaganda.

Carry on reading 

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Why it’s better to drink wine with those you love

It’s been a long time since I last posted. I’ve been busy working on my still-nascent-but-perhaps-actually-about-to happen-book which is very exciting (potentially.) Less excitingly but more lucratively I have been writing travel guides to cities that I’ve never visited. Normally researching these cities makes me want to visit them – I had no idea that Baku had such rich Art Noveau architecture. The exception was Malmo which sounds like Middlesborough with added anti-Semitism.

So finally here are my wines of the year from 2013. An upside to being a wine writer is that I get to taste some extremely rare wines including this year some 19th century Madeira courtesy of Berry Bros. The downside is that these are normally drunk in a room surrounded by other journalists so that though one may appreciate them, you don’t actually enjoy the experience terribly much. Therefore my wines of the year, aren’t the necessarily the best wines, they are the wines I have enjoyed the most which means I drank them with people I love.

Marco de Bartoli Marsala Superiore Riserva 10 year old (Harvey Nichols £40)

Despite a bit of a marsala obsession, I had never tried anything from the most esteemed producer, the late Marco de Bartoli. I saw this on the menu at Bocca di Lupo for about £60 and as I was with my wife, we were a bit drunk and it was our wedding anniversary, I thought what the hell. I am so glad I did. It’s a wine with a story to tell. One sniff and we were in an imaginary Sicily of orange groves, Byzantine craftsman and long sultry afternoons. We had  a glass each and then drank the rest at home over the course of a week.

henry's wife is amazing

Domaine la Combe Blanche Cinsault L’Incompris 2011 (£8. 50 Leon Stolarki – pretty much everything I’ve bought from this man has been excellent and he’s not expensive)

This is my sociable wine of the year. It’s not one to think about terribly much, it’s just plain delicious like a good Beaujolais or a simple New World Pinot Noir. It goes with pretty much everything and everyone who tries it makes appreciative noises. I predict that 2014 is going to be the year of Cinsault if only in SE13.

Quinta do Noval Nacional 2011

Now I’m breaking my rule here. I drank this at a table surrounded by jostling sweating wine writers, sommeliers and freeloaders. It’s very expensive (if you can find it) and shouldn’t really be touched for 20 years, but it’s one of those rare cult wines where after one sip you understand what the fuss is all about. It’s just so concentrated, every sip there’s something new to discover, but it’s not flamboyant in the slightest. I’d kill to try this again.

That’s it. Now does anyone know five unmissable things to see in Ulan Bator?

 You can read some more of my 2014 booze predictions here.

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I stand corrected

Happy New Year! I’ll be posting something witty and thought-provoking shortly but meanwhile I thought I’d share this letter in reply to my Spectator winter drinking article. 

Sir: I thoroughly enjoyed Henry Jeffreys’s piece on the joys of seasonal drinking (7 December), but had one minor quibble: fermented yak’s milk in Mongolia? Whatever next? Fermented mare’s milk — airag — is often drunk, and is quite tasty, more so after a few bowls. Admittedly the lumps can be slightly offputting, but they are avoidable. Yak’s milk is both drunk and used to make cheeses — but in my many years in Mongolia, I’ve never known it as an alcoholic drink.
Percy Hunt
Ludlow, Shropshire