Labour politician and Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Roy Jenkins, 1970

A toast to Le Roi Jen Quinze

26 April 2014

There ought to be a new literary award: the antisocial book of the year. A dozen years ago, Claire Tomalin’s Pepys would have won the laurels by a country mile.… Read more


It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at Bordeaux's misfortune

12 April 2014

The en primeur tastings have been taking place in Bordeaux, and the mood has oscillated from despair to defiance. It is like Boxer’s trip to the knackers’ in Animal Farm:… Read more


What Quique Dacosta knows that Picasso didn’t

29 March 2014

Chefs have a problem. Think of much of the best food you have ever eaten. Caviar, English native oysters, sashimi, foie gras, truffles, jamon iberico, grouse, golden plover, properly hung… Read more

It's hard not to feel sorry for a country like Armenia

The tragedy of Armenia (and its brandy)

15 March 2014

It is impossible not to sympathise with Armenia. It has spent much of its history between the hammer and the anvil, trying to fend off imperial predators and usually failing.… Read more


Toast to a young gun

1 March 2014

Three of us, old friends, were meeting to arrange a marriage. The young couple have never actually met. Indeed, they are still unaware of one other’s existence. But it is… Read more

The Hunters in the Snow, 1565, by Pieter Brueghel Photo: De Agostini/Getty

A spirit to warm Bruegel’s ‘Hunters in the Snow’

15 February 2014

The ostensible subject matter is misleading, as is any conflation with his lesser relatives’ wassailing peasants and roistering village squares. But Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s work is profoundly serious. It… Read more


Our daily haggis

1 February 2014

Give us this day our daily bread: those are also words of great culinary significance. Even if the ‘bread’ takes different forms — rice, pasta, potatoes — billions of people all… Read more

British Railways poster commemorating the Bi-Centenary of the Birth of Scotland's National Poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) surrounded by characters and places from his poems Photo: SSPL via Getty Images

Is there a clean joke for Burns Night? I asked Cecil Parkinson...

18 January 2014

As a life, it was a scintillating spectrum of the human condition. There was hardship and suffering, as well as laughter and fun, plus a great deal of sex, mostly… Read more


Drink: The great white Burgundy disaster

4 January 2014

We agreed that it was the gravest crisis facing mankind. It has led to dashed hopes, widespread grief and a universal loss of confidence in the future. As the scientists… Read more


Bruce Anderson: Bordeaux's negociants deserve to suffer - and they will

14 December 2013

Our sweet enemy, France, is not always that sweet. It is tempting to respond to France’s current degringolade with cynicism and indeed schadenfreude. For a start, it should keep down… Read more

When the Rothschilds waged a claret class war

7 December 2013

Claret has a commercial advantage over Burgundy. Thanks to the grandes lignes of châteaux and vintages, you know where you are. A mature and well-kept claret from a good year… Read more

Mineral reserves

23 November 2013

St James’s Street is a repository of urban comfort. It contains majestic clubs, a gunsmith, a boot-maker, a barber, a cigar shop and a hatter. There are also restaurants, although… Read more


House sherry

9 November 2013

The Speaker was in trouble. I do not refer to Michael Martin or John Bercow, the two worst Speakers in living memory, who have fallen well beneath mere trouble, into… Read more

(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Drink: the romance of fall

26 October 2013

The fall: one of the few instances where American English is superior to English English. ‘Autumn’ has a comfortable charm, but ‘fall’ captures the pathos of evanescence. This might seem… Read more


Treasures from a lost domaine

12 October 2013

René Engel must have been a wonderful man. He studied wine-making before fighting in the trenches during the first world war, and spending some time in German captivity. He then… Read more


Life — and death — of a Tokay

28 September 2013

I was praying for a miracle, but it seemed unlikely. There had been one already: the bottle’s very survival. A second would qualify it for sainthood. It was an extraordinary… Read more


What it's like to drink a 118-year-old wine

14 September 2013

Marcher country, the Jura lies to the east of Burgundy and the contrast is marked. Burgundy: the very name is redolent of opulence. The architecture, the courtliness, the great wines:… Read more

Dining in style at David Cameron’s favourite Italian

31 August 2013

It is impossible to think about any Italian region without wondering ‘What if?’ Sardinia lacks the glamour, grandeur and menace of Sicily, but it is still a fascinating exemplar of… Read more

Enjoying South Africa's secret French connection

17 August 2013

One aspect of the old South Africa’s racial policies cannot be faulted. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Huguenot refugees arrived at the Cape. Within a few decades,… Read more

When Glyndebourne is the most perfect place on earth

3 August 2013

Glyndebourne. There is no single quintessential example of English scenery, but this is one of the finest. The landscape is  old, and verdant. There has been tillage and pasturage here… Read more

The greatest novel in English – and how to drink it

20 July 2013

Which is the greatest novel in the English language? Let us review the candidates: Clarissa, Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, The Bostonians. The other night, someone tried to make a case… Read more

Mourning Julia Gillard with the greatest wine ever to come out of Australia

6 July 2013

My Australian friend was in mourning over the removal of Julia Gillard, the country’s first female prime minister. She had been everything a leftist politician ought to be: ineffectual and… Read more

When an economist turns into a winemaker

22 June 2013

My friend Mitch Feierstein is a jolly, cheerful, life-enhancing fellow. He is emphatically not one of those economists whose purse-lipped response to any new phenomenon is ‘no good will come… Read more


Taste Ranald Macdonald’s wines, and you can forgive his ancestors for allying with the Vikings

8 June 2013

The Macdonalds of Clanranald are one of the oldest families in the world. Their lineage comfortably predates the Scotland of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Descended from the Macdonald Lords of the Isles… Read more

The lesson of France and Italy - the worse the country, the better the wine

25 May 2013

Although I promise to move on to drink, forgive me for beginning with a less interesting but even more complex subject: government. It is easy to patronise the Italians. The… Read more