A Bacchanalian Life
Ahhhh wine……. One of life’s greatest and most indulgent of pleasures…
The first picture I have of myself sitting independently, I’m possessively clutching a bottle of sherry. I’m about nine months old, and it’s pretty much holding me up. Wine is and always has been the fluid in the river of my life. My father was in the wine trade, his offices were above the Ivy in West Street and he moved on from dipping his finger in glasses of Kummel liqueur and popping them into my mouth, to taking me to wine tastings. I was the wine child equivalent of Jodie Foster, my time spent in the back of Brian Barnet’s car, of Bottoms Up and Augustus Barnett fame, or perched on a stool at the end of a booth in Bentley’s Oyster Bar while my father or Parry de Winton explained the difference between tawny and vintage port while they played spoof. My holiday job was always typing up invoices in exchange for lunch somewhere marvellous and in the 1970s there was a lot of German wine in every order. Even now, I only have to see the name Trockenbeerenauslese to be transported back to 140 Sloane Street and the sandwiches we used to buy from Partridges to mop up the ullages from tastings.
I loved everything about wine, it smelt of glamour, it looked like glamour and seemed to be poured only in glamorous places. The combination of clinking glasses, men in suits, spitting, the smells and a thousand variations of colour must have imprinted on my frontal cortex and if my life has a colour chart it starts at the flintiest neutrality of a pale Muscadet and finishes somewhere in Oporto or the blackest Californian Zinfandel with the thousands of permutations in between. I put it to you that it is the greatest of life’s gifts, it is a practical substance that can make you a fortune, while making you feel better and you don’t even have to pay tax on it. You can leave it to your children, use it to avoid capital gains tax (whisper it softly in case the Hammond is reading this), and if you are dying of thirst it can save you then too. Miserable, it will make you happier, when you are lacking in energy, Champagne will inject you with vim and vigour, and Sauternes is known for its aphrodisiac qualities.
Our love affair in terms of taste, wine and I, began properly when I was 12. I was spending all my school holidays in Burgundy, in a Chateau in Pommard, and the first thing my godfather, Michel Jaboulet-Vercherre did, apart from leave me with a lifelong soft spot for Frenchmen in Lanvin trousers, was to kiss me gently and lead me to a fridge, which he opened and pointed out the different wines on the shelves. Chassagne Montrachet, Bourgogne Aligote for Kir, Montrachet, Krug, these were the wines of the everyday, what a lucky girl I was and my mornings would consist of breakfast on a tray in my room, and then I would go out to the pool, conveniently situated a few steps from the wine fridge, and I would drink away the morning. It sounds dreadful as I write it down, and I’m lucky I don’t have an addictive bone in my body, or I’d be six feet under by now.
Over the next months I will be giving you hints on the loveliest wines to drink now, those you should put in your cellar as a pension pot, and those you should put away for your children. There are cellar plans which seem to me brilliant as inheritance planning vehicles, and I will be sharing my personal experiences of them, as well as the wonders of a new members’ club in St. James’s, where you can have your own personal bin to drink from, and my favourite drinking restaurants where noble restaurant owners limit their mark up on wines to ten percent just so that you can drink something lovely with your dinner. Wine is not just for Saturday nights, it’s the bedrock of a life well lived and financial success if you treat it right.