Who will be the next Robert Parker?

Photograph by Christopher Barker

Searching around for a sequel to Empire of Booze, my book about the British and alcohol, the obvious choice is to look at other countries and their influence on what we drink. A friend suggested Khanates of Booze. There’s potential for dozens of books: Duchies of Booze, Republics, Sultanates, Oligarchies, Kleptocracies of Booze! First though, here’s a look at America’s influence on wine, the Republic of Booze:

It’s easy to see the American influence as solely about homogenisation. When we think of Americanisation it’s Budweiser that springs to mind, drinks made simpler, blander for the big broad American palate. Yet the American influence is far more complex than that.

American wine hit the headlines in 1976 for the first time with the so-called Judgement of Paris. This was arranged by English wine merchant Steven Spurrier. He pitted the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy against the best Cabernets and Chardonnays from California. The wines were tasted blind by a mainly French judging panel. The winners were both Californian. The outcry was immediate. Many of the judges thought they had been somehow duped. It is the tasting that inspired a thousand articles and put Californian wine on the map as well as making Spurrier’s career.

Perhaps even more influential was the American wine critic, Robert Parker. Parker deliberately styled himself as the anti-British critic, not that he was anti-British, well maybe a little, but that he was the antithesis of the clubbable British wine critic. Parker saw this type as being far too close to the trade to give an objective assessment of the wines. He had in his sights someone like Hugh Johnson who, as well as producing innumerable books, is also the chairman of the Sunday Times Wine Club, makes his own wine and used to own a shop on St James’s selling wine paraphernalia. Parker saw himself as the champion of the consumer. His newsletter (now a subscription website) takes no advertising and he doesn’t accept hospitality from producers or merchants. He instituted a system for scoring wines out of 100 (well out of 50 really as the score starts at 50.) Wines that scored more than 90 sold out quickly.

Parker championed wines made by growers. All over the world, but in France especially, growers were bypassing the power of merchants and bottling their own wine. The adulteration scandals in Bordeaux and Burgundy made wine lovers think that the only way to guarantee quality was to go directly to the grower. Wines were increasingly bottled at the châteaux, rather than in London. Whereas previously most Rhône and burgundy would have been sold under the name of a négociant, now it was the producer. Parker and other American wine critics enabled customers to cut out the middlemen and some of these growers became very wealthy indeed.

You can see Parker as he sees himself as a true American maverick who shook up the wine trade, but I see continuity in his approach. The wines that he was most confident with were ones that would have been familiar to a Victorian drinker: claret and claret-style wines (Napa Cabernets), port, and wines from the northern Rhône. Like port shippers and British wine writers before him, he was simplifying wine for English-speaking people who didn’t know that much about it. His scoring system was a master stroke. Now there was a seemingly objective way of measuring how good a wine was. I don’t like this wine, Parker gave it 93, I’ll take two cases. Most controversially, Parker actually changed how wine was made. It was noted that he often gave the highest scores to the biggest, most alcoholic and oaky wines and some producers began to make wines in this style. They cut yields drastically, left grapes to ripen longer, extracted heavily and then lavishly matured it all in new oak. Whether this was a deliberate attempt to curry his favour or just the way that fashions in wine were going anyway isn’t always easy to judge, but wines did get bigger when Parker was in his pomp. We can criticise these wines, but this is how the new wine drinkers of America and the world liked them. The analogy is with the change of port from a dry to sweet wines or the sort of burly adulterated clarets sold in London. It was a very British attitude to wine: we won’t learn to appreciate the difficult wine, make it bigger, sweeter, stronger and more oaky to suit us. Many British wine writers held their noses, preferring a more classic style of wine, not realising that Parker was merely following in the footsteps of the British market. Parker, and he would probably hate me for saying this, has very British tastes.

The Judgement of Paris, too, was also more evolutionary than revolutionary. You can see this as a victory for California and evidence of the decline of France, but you can also see this as a continuation and affirmation of British tastes. The Californians were comparing themselves against wines created for the British market. They won because they tasted like claret and white burgundy. Both Parker and Spurrier played a part in the revival of Bordeaux which had been in doldrums since the late 19th century. The 1980s, 90s and 2000s were a period of astonishing prosperity for the top châteaux.

Driven partly by consumer champion’s such as Parker and by advances in technology, wine at all levels is now of a quality that would amaze the 19th century British drinker. It is very rare to have a bad bottle these days (though quite easy to have a dull one.) Much wine is now sold by big brands such as Penfolds in Australia or Casillero del Diablo in Chile. In 2004 a film was released called Mondovino about the globalisation of wine. It claimed that producers all over the world were creating wine in an international style. There was even a word for this “Parkerization” – wines made to appeal to Parker’s palate. The film was a cri de coeur arguing that if we didn’t act soon then the local, unusual or difficult styles would disappear under a wave of oaky Cabernet. It never happened. At my local Marks and Spencers supermarket in far from fashionable Lewisham, south-east London, I can now buy Greek, Croatian, Turkish and Georgian wines made from indigenous grape varieties. In the 1990s southern Europe was alive with the sound of chainsaws grafting Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot onto rootstocks, now there is interest in previously neglected grapes such as Cinsault, Fiano and Xinomavro.

Now no one country, style or man can be said to dominate. Parker has been unseated or rather stepped down, he sold his website in 2012 and is now in semi-retirement, and his place taken by a thousand bloggers, writers, sommeliers, importers, winemakers and enthusiasts. It’s worth reading this article by Simon Woolf on Jancisrobinson.com on where the next Robert Parker might come from.

This is a very heavily edited version of the afterword from my book, Empire of Booze

The heyday of wine publishing

I have a bit of thing about old wine books. I can’t resist picking them up no matter how rubbish they might look. My latest acquisition from  Oxfam is called Supernosh by Anthony Worrall-Thompson and Malcolm Gluck. It features the authors on the front cover resplendent in brash 80s clothing (though it was published in 1993 – the 80s carried on well into the 90s in some parts of the wine trade) both looking a bit tipsy with looks on their faces as if to say: “I can’t believe we’re being paid to write this shit”. Inside there’s some spiel about how the book was cooked up by their agents over a boozy lunch. Unbelievably it’s published by the house of TS Eliot, Faber & Faber. Looking back now, the 80s and 90s were a golden age to be a wine writer. Newspapers were expanding their wine coverage, there were regular wine slots on television including lavish BBC series and wine publishing was booming. It was the age of Oz Clarke’s New Classic wines – proper well-researched wine writing, written for a mainstream audience, and the Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson seemed to have a book out every year (plus ca change one might say). Faber’s wine list headed up by Julian Jeffs had off-beat personal books such as Patrick Matthews’ the Wild Bunch and Mitchell Beazley were in their pomp. Wine writing was the new food writing.

It all seems a long time ago. Faber sold off their wine list to Mitchell Beazley in 2002.  I spoke with a mole at Mitchell Beazley who wished to remain anonymous. He (or perhaps she) told me that when he started at Mitchell Beazley in the late 90s, he pretty much only worked on wine books.  Now it was mainly food books. According to him, Mitchell Beazley published too many wine books including some that were too specialist – trying to sell a book devoted to Canadian wine in 2005 seems particularly optimistic. Having a full time specialist editor was expensive for the rare successes such as their New series including Andrew Jefford’s the New France (still one of my favourites). In some ways the decline in wine books just reflects the decline in publishing in general, the decline of bookshops, of newspapers, but this isn’t the whole answer because food books currently buck this trend. The Mitchell Beazley wine list is now principally Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson with a few specialist books including, of course, Jamie Goode’s Wine Science. Their last attempt at building a new mainstream wine writer was Matt Skinner who they thought was going to be the Jamie Oliver of wine. He wasn’t.

Nowadays the idea of a Gluck/ Worrall-Thompson type affair being cooked up over a long lunch belongs to another age. In fact the idea of having anything cooked up over a boozy lunch is unlikely as most publishing lunches these days are dry. When I was trying to shop my history of modern Britain told through wine around, my agent was adamant that we mustn’t let anyone think it was a wine book. He positioned it as a sort of Giles Milton-esque narrative history thing with added alcohol. Even so, despite a lot of positive noises, no publisher picked it up.

I’m now doing my book, Empire of Booze, through Unbound, a crowd-sourcing publisher. The future of wine books is now outside the mainstream publishing. You can self-publish like Neal Martin did with Pomerol or Benjamim Lewin with Wine Myths and Reality, you can crowd source like I’m trying to do with my book and Wink Lorch did with her book on the Jura, or you can do it with the help of Berry Bros like Jasper Morris did with his recent Burgundy book. Publishers are finding it increasingly hard to connect with readers, but wine writers know their readers and can find them. At least I hope they can.

The one problem with this new world is that the big mainstream books, the sort that need lavish funding, will not be written (unless they’re by Jancis Robinson and/ or Hugh Johnson). There is no new Jancis, Oz or Hugh. I’m dying to read books such as New New Classic Wines – perhaps looking at Eastern Europe, the Levant and South America, or the New New France, but these are the kind of projects that only a big publisher can bankroll.

Bordeaux: dad wine

Every new generation rebels by rubbishing its parents tastes. Apart from me, that is. My only rebellious act was to not play golf. My grandmother once said to me after my grandfather’s death ‘he (my grandfather) always worried about you not playing golf.’ It was as if ‘not playing golf’ was symptomatic of other great failings.

‘How’s your grandson Henry?’ one could imagine someone asking him at his golf club.

‘He doesn’t play golf, if you know what I mean.’

‘Oh dear, oh dear, a non-golfer in the family. Very rum.’

Anyway Bordeaux. This region is much disparaged by the Young Turks of the wine world. It’s seen as out-of-touch, expensive, elitist etc. Most wine writers define themselves against the great Robert Parker Jnr (not the composer of the Ghostbusters theme tune but the world’s most influential wine writer.) He made his reputation on Bordeaux and made a lot of Bordelais very rich. He’s the daddy of wine so it’s little wonder that people want to rebel by having nothing to do with his favourite region. There’s been some debate about this on the world wide wine web recently. I’m not going to paraphrase the arguments, you can read Jancis Robinson & Jamie Goode on the subject.

I don’t have much to add except to say that I really really like Bordeaux. It was the wine that I was brought up on and the first wine that I learnt to appreciate. The main criticism of this region is that it is now, thanks to Ray Parker Jnr, too expensive for ordinary drinkers. And indeed for the famous names this is true but every so often I come across a really delicious sub £10 claret.  Here’s one:

Chateau Puy Garance 09 – if you’re looking for good value Bordeaux, Cotes-de-Castillon is the place to go. This is amazing stuff with very ripe fruit but then lots of leather and pencil shavings. All this for £6.95 a bottle from the Wine Society. I really cannot think of a better wine for the money. Also pretty good is the Chateau Meaume. I had the 09 recently but I think Majestic are now onto the 10. 

We always drank the house claret when my grandfather took us  for Sunday lunch at the golf club (known as The Club.) It usually consisted of over-cooked roast beef with prawn cocktail to start. The wine wasn’t that good either being thin, underripe stuff of the sort that sent thousands of British drinkers into the arms of Australia and Chile. How much better it would have been if we’d had the Puy Garance. I might have even stayed for a round of golf.

Booze book round-up for the Guardian

This is the uncut version of an article that appeared in the Guardian on Saturday:

Oddbins stocked a wine in the late 90s called Kiwi Cuvee. It was a Sauvignon Blanc from the South France designed to taste as if it came from New Zealand. This summed up the direction wine was going at the time. For supermarkets flying wine-makers made products around the world to a formula and at the top end highly-paid consultants created lush ‘iconic’ wines for collectors. There were still plenty of interesting wines out there but the received opinion, not least from the European Union, was that unfashionable vines such a Carignan should be ripped out to be replaced with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. This homogenising trend is over. Variety is now everything. Whereas before the concept of terroir – a sense of place – was mocked by Anglos as a marketing device invented by the French to sell wine without any fruit character, nowadays it’s a term used even by Australians. It’s telling that it is no longer italicised (though my spellcheck still tries to change it to terrier).

It couldn’t be a better time, therefore, for Jancis Robinson & Hugh Johnson to publish the latest edition of their World Atlas of Wine Atlas. It’s a very different book to the last edition in 2007 and now includes small scale maps of some of the most exciting emerging regions such as Croatia, around  Mount Etna in Sicily and Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne which is rivalling Burgundy for its elegant Pinot Noirs. The book is a celebration of terroir and a logical companion to Robinson’s Wine Grapes (2012) – an expensive and exhaustive encyclopaedia of every grape variety in the world. More than just being thorough, there’s an infectious sense of glee about this new Atlas. One gets the impression that Johnson and, in particular, Robinson with her humorous pedantry, really enjoyed writing it. The other new edition of a classic that is well worth buying is Alex Liddell’s Madeira, the Mid-Atlantic Wine. Madeira is a wine whose long and colourful history you can actually taste – 19th century wines from this island are still good to drink. Berry Bros & Rudd stock an 1875 D’Oliveira Malvazia for £689 a bottle.

It’s not only wine in which variety is being rediscovered. Fifteen years ago it wasn’t easy to find a of decent pint of bitter in London but recently a new wave of pubs have opened dedicated to craft products. Cider, for a long time a joke drunk by teenagers in bus shelters and the Wurzels, is now attracting serious attention. Best known for his beer writing, Pete Brown, has produced World’s Best Cider with Bill Bradshaw. Although it looks like a coffee table book with lots of, often stunning, photos it’s also written with wit, knowledge and passion. You might even go as far as describe Brown and Bradsaw as the Johnson and Robinson of cider. I had no idea that cider was so widespread outside the three cider superpowers of England, France and Spain. The Germans make cider and express surprise that anyone else does, the Irish drink the most cider per head and in Quebec they make a super sweet ice cider. It’s not all good news though, it’s shocking how few actual apples go into some commercial brands. Nevertheless, one gets the impression that cider is currently the most exciting drink in Britain and it will improve as growers match the best apple varieties to the right land just as the French did in Bordeaux and Burgundy generations ago.

It’s a great time to be drinking but it’s not necessarily a great time to be reading about drink. I saw far too many books along the lines of ‘200 Wines to Impress your Father-in-law’ or a ‘Beginner’s Guide to Craft Beer’. Most were illustrated and designed to be easily marketed to English language readers worldwide. They’re all starting to look alike when the products they celebrate are increasingly diverse. Drink books are now either for gifts or reference. What is lacking is the sort of book that you want to read in bed; an Elizabeth David or Jeffrey Steingarten of wine, perhaps, to make you smile, think and, rather than trying to educate, assumes a certain knowledge and interest on behalf of the reader.  There are lots of people writing about drink in an interesting way on the internet. There are even some Americans trying to combine comedy with wine albeit not very successfully. None of these writers however, are producing engaging books for the general reader.

The two books that I enjoyed most this year didn’t come from traditional publishers. Don’t be put off by the rather exclusive title of the first, “Reds, Whites & Varsity Blues: 60 Years of the Oxford & Cambridge Blind Wine-Tasting Competition” shows how  wine writers can entertain when they’re given a bit of space to breath. It features noted wine types letting their hair down or at least giving their toupees a good airing. I particularly enjoyed Oz Clarke on sticking it to the toffs as a grammar school boy at Oxford and Will Lyons on claret and the Auld Alliance. The second is an ebook only thing called the Sediment Guide to Wining and Dining. It brings a mixture of seriousness and silliness to the strange ritual of the dinner party. In the right hands wine and laughter can go together. Maybe next year a publisher will have the nerve to commission a full-length book in a similar spirit.

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Reading and boozing

I’ve been sent a lot of books about booze this year so I thought it would be fun to drink as much as I could and then read them. Here are my thoughts:

The Champagne Guide 2014/2015 – Tyson Stelzer

There are many things to like about this book: the author sounds like a character from Money by Martin Amis; it looks beautiful with its understated art deco cover; but most of all Stelzer clearly knows a terrifying amount about champagne. I imagine he thinks of little else. My only quibble with this book is that you will think twice before buying another bottle because it reveals a shocking lack of consistency in this very expensive wine. Not only do bottles from the same producer with the same label vary wildly in age and quality but a large minority will actually be flawed.  If Stelzer is to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt him, then there could be disaster on the horizon for champagne. Once it loses the sheen of quality, then champagne could go the way of sherry with collapsing sales and prices. His solution seems to be to drink Bollinger, which is fine by me. Oh sorry one more quibble, at one point he refers to ‘the Queen of England.’ As an Australian he really should know better.

500 Wines for 100 Occasions – David Williams

I think the author struggled to think up 100 occasions so along with the classics, 50th birthdays, weddings and Valentine’s Day, there are others that are a little over-specific such as wine to go with a difficult neighbour, wine to drink on a cruise and what to drink when your colleagues come over. They reminded me of that Fry & Laurie sketch with the condolence cards: ‘I’m right sorry to learn yer, that’s you’ve succumbed to another nasty hernia.’ Still Williams is a good writer and his recommendations are hard to disagree with.

Complete Wine Selector – Katherine Cole

Every year, someone produces a book like this that attempts to sum up wine for beginners. This one succeeds better than most. It’s clearly laid out, simply written and does a good job of demystifying the subject. It’s not really for me as I’m more into the mystifying but if you like simplicity, then you’ll like this. What gave it a little more personality than its rivals were the short interviews and quotes from well-known restaurateurs, cooks and sommeliers (though to my shame, I’d not heard of any of them.)

The World Atlas of Wine – Jancis Robinson & Hugh Johnson

Wonderfully thorough updated guide to the wine world. It’s also a beautiful-looking thing. If you’re interested in wine, you should have a copy of this. I’ve reviewed this and the one below for the Guardian so will put a link in when it’s up.

World’s Best Cider – Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw

In contrast this one is a bit of mess from the photo-shopped cover to the typographical chaos that reigns inside. The words though, are all top quality. Brown, author of some great beer books, writes in the sort of robust Anglo Saxon that would have made Orwell happy. It’s not only a guide to ciders from around the world, and it really is a global product, but a history of and implicit manifesto for this much-abused drink.

Boutique Beer – Ben MacFarland

Again this is not a pretty book (it’s from the same publisher.) As someone who doesn’t know a lot about beer beyond drinking the stuff, I found the layout confusing with beers labelled by seemingly arbitrary categories. The author writes distinctively, I think you’ll either find him funny or wish he’d just stick to the point. His discursive style reminded me of a 1990s music journalist. You can read him here getting worked up over the Imperial pint glass. Still the author has been voted best beer writer in the world many times so clearly knows his stuff and it did make me want to be a more adventurous in my beer drinking.

Pocket Beer Book 2014 – Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb

Does almost everything that Boutique Beer does but with a more logical layout and more relaxing prose. Also fits in your pocket if you’ve got very big pockets.

And then it all got too much. . . .

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Hugh Johnson: A Life Uncorked

51RF055N6ELLast year I was briefly a wine merchant. I imported a few cases of Hungarian wine to sell to friends. One of my worries about this business venture was how  it would look  for a wine writer to be involved with selling wine. Obviously I wasn’t going to review my own wine, oh hang, actually I did review my own wine but I promise that was before I’d decided to import it though perhaps it was at the back of my mind to import it when I wrote the review so at a subconscious level my words could not be trusted. You see the problem? Once you become involved in other aspects of the business, you have to be very careful. One not only has to do the right thing but be seen to do it.

I was reminded of my own brush with disgrace whilst rereading Hugh Johnson’s A Life Uncorked recently. This is a memoir of Johnson’s life in the wine business. Memoir isn’t quite the right word as we learn very little about Johnson’s personal life, sadly there’s nothing about his Studio 54 days with Bianca Jagger*, but we do learn a lot about wine and about Johnson’s take on it. It works in a way that some other attempts to weave wine and biography don’t as Johnson’s life has been so inextricably linked with his subject. Not only is he a writer and editor but he’s also involved with the Sunday Times Wine Club, helped draw up the British Airways first class wine list, owned a shop specialising in wine accessories, been a director at Chateau Latour and started the Royal Tokaji Company as well as owning his own vineyard in the Loire. In short, we should trust him about as far as we can throw him.

Johnson is just the kind of clubbable British writer that Robert Parker warned us about. Parker explicitly set himself up in opposition to the Johnsons of the world. Parker is the Eliot Ness of wine writing. His newsletter the Wine Advocate does not accept advertising. He has never worked in the wine trade, he does not accept trips at other people’s expense, his reviews are entirely disinterested. To quote Parker: ‘It is imperative for a wine critic to pay his own way.”

I should add that I trust Johnson implicitly. He has his reputation to consider and any hint of impropriety would be the end of him. But you do have to make that leap of trust, with Parker his scrupulousness is his calling card. Comparing Johnson, and Parker, however, is to miss the point because they are doing very different things. Ironically for someone who only makes a small part of his livelihood from writing, Johnson is the writer whereas Parker provides consumer advice. Parker’s rise coincided with the arrival in Bordeaux of new money from America and elsewhere. These people needed advice and it had to be utterly impartial and easy to understand. It was a the case of cometh the hour, cometh the man.

In contrast, you read Johnson for the language, the stories and because he makes you think. For someone who seems such a natural establishment figure, Johnson can be quietly subversive. He doesn’t layout a manifesto, instead he questions the importance of certain aspects of the wine world such as the wines of Etienne Guigal, the importance of Riedel glasses and giving wine a score out of 100. He has little time for fashion and received opinions. Whereas most writers chase novelty, Johnson sees things sub specie aeternitatis (with eternity’s gaze – a little Latin doesn’t seem too pretentious when writing about Johnson.) Johnson has managed the difficult job of keeping his various wine ventures separate from his job as a critic. I doubt I could.

Overt corruption in the sense of money changing hands for a good review is unusual but the issue of soft corruption in the wine world is a perennial one. Writers worry about whether they should accept flights from marketing bodies, attend often very lavish dinners and some even think that samples might be a step too far, forgetting or perhaps not realising that this is how literary pages function and nobody thinks that book reviewers are corrupt (though in Britain they’re rarely disinterested.)  Coming from bloggers and journalists with columns in low-circulation magazines this probity is rather touching but it makes the mistake of assuming that people are reading for impartial consumer advice rather than for amusement. In fact all this worrying assumes that people are reading full stop. Luckily you can normally tell when a writer has become a little too cosy with his subject as the resulting article will be boring. Johnson is never boring.

* This is a joke, as far as I am aware Hugh Johnson never went to Studio 54 with or without Bianca Jagger.  

Old wines

About ten years ago a friend of mine inherited a country pile from a misanthropic great uncle. The place was a bit neglected so he planned to sell off some of the accumulated loot in order to pay for renovations. Sadly the chap from Christie’s was not impressed: the paintings were minor works and all the good wine had been drunk.

This weekend we decided to prove Christie’s wrong. The collection reminded me a little of my grandfather’s cellar (see post on Frasier’s sherry): there was a magnum of Liebfraumilch 1985, two bottles of Manzanilla sherry too dirty to read the label and a bottle of supermarket non-vintage Soave. There was also a few bottles of Chateau Lascombes 1963, a bottle of Chateau La Grand Maye, Cotes de Castillon, 1975 , four bottles of Malartic-Lagravière 1961 bottled by Herbert Fender of London W1 and a wine with no label in a Moselle green flute.

Seeing as 1961 is a famous vintage we decided to open the Malartic first. First signs were promising. The level in the bottle was high and the cork came out whole. I poured the wine through some cheesecloth into a jug. There was surprisingly little deposit. Gingerly I took a little sniff expecting a waft of vinegar or worse. Instead I got wine. ‘It’s still wine’ I cried ‘and look at the colour!’ It was a deep dark red only slightly browning at the edges. I poured a little into a glass and inhaled: the nose was earthy, a little vegetal with a bit of damp wood. Next a little sip. Initially the tannins were unyielding; this was still a muscular wine. What must it have been like when young? After about 20 minutes it relaxed and became savoury, refreshing and extremely moreish. It wasn’t hedonistic or particularly long. Instead it reminded me of a quote from Hugh Johnson ‘freshness is the touchstone of any great Bordeaux.’ This 49 year old wine tasted young and alive.

After such a treat the other two clarets were inevitably a disappointment. The Cotes de Castillon was orange with a vague watery sweetness. The Lascombes though well past its best had some charm and complexity. Later in the spirit of drunken experimentation, I mixed half a glass of the Lascombes with a little Bodegas Palacio Rioja Reserva 2005 from Morrison’s. It may have been the late hour or my inebriated state, but the two seemed to meld seamlessly together to become greater than the sum of their parts. I felt like the master blender at Gonzalez-Byass.

Finally the Moselle. I was hoping that it might be an auslese from a top vintage like 1976. Sadly the stench of rot and vinegar on opening it suggested that it must have been something closer to Liebfraumilch.

Bodegas Palacio Rioja Reserva 2005 available from Morrison’s It was reduced to £7.49. Excellent as it is or even better mixed with an old Lascombes.

1961 Malartic-Lagravière will be harder to get hold of. If you can find any, I imagine that it would cost about £250 a bottle. My friend’s are not for sale.