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The true France in a bottle

4 July 2015

‘There lies the dearest freshness deep down things’ — and also the dearest Frenchness. It is easy to be rude about the French governing elite; indeed, it is impossible to… Read more

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Lunch with a claret fit for gods, heroes and David Cameron

20 June 2015

I cannot remember a jollier lunch. There are two brothers, Sebastian and Nicholas Payne, both practical epicureans. They have made a profession out of their pleasures. For many years, Sebastian… Read more

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The secret heart of London conservatism…

6 June 2015

There is a dive near St James’s which could claim to be the epicentre of international reaction. It is also a temple of pseudo–anti-intellectuality: the only club in London where… Read more

Cheers! (Photo: Getty)

What to drink when you're on a cloud of post-election euphoria

23 May 2015

Most of my friends are still on a cloud of post-election euphoria. There is one exception: those involved with opinion-polling. They have all the conversational self-confidence of a director of… Read more

Just deserts

Could any cook help me overcome my terror of tapioca?

9 May 2015

There are those who claim that this column is idiosyncratic. They have seen nothing yet. I am about to mention a subject which has never previously appeared in any drink… Read more

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The greatest wine I’ve ever drunk

25 April 2015

The supermarket chains are not always blameworthy. Their missionary efforts have helped to ensure that wine drinking in Britain is much less bedevilled by social anxiety than it used to… Read more

Ernest Bevin Photo: Getty

The triumph of Guatemalan rum (and a disaster for a Guatemalan ambassador)

11 April 2015

For many years, the Central American republic of Guatemala had a grievance against the United Kingdom. It claimed sovereignty over British Honduras, then a colony of ours. Eventually, all that… Read more

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Wines to toast a warrior saint

28 March 2015

Towards the chimes at midnight, a few of us left a — respectable — establishment near Leicester Square. Eight or nine youngsters were brawling vigorously, boots and fists. 999 was… Read more

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A dog to remember (and the wine he inspired)

14 March 2015

Meeting to taste wine, we started by talking about dogs. Roy Hattersley is good on the subject, which ought to be impossible. For he is opposed to shooting, and the… Read more

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Photo: Getty

France, England and the tragedy of DSK

28 February 2015

When we consider poets who perished before their day, thoughts turn to the Romantics or the war victims: Burns, Keats, Shelley: Owen, Keith Douglas. (Had both lived, Douglas would have… Read more

British soldiers share a joke Photo: Getty

Why soldiers are the funniest people

14 February 2015

We were discussing wit. I uttered a self-evident truth which proved gratifyingly controversial. Of all the people I encounter, the soldiers are much the funniest. I took no prisoners among… Read more

Burns night dinner, at Boisdale of Bishopsgate Photo: Felix Clay

The spirit of Prohibition lives (if you’re a haggis)

31 January 2015

It is an old adage, but still pertinent. ‘Every generalisation about India is true, and so is the opposite.’ The other night, some of us were discussing the US and… Read more

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The battling brilliance of Burgundy

17 January 2015

There is only one answer to the question ‘Burgundy or claret?’ ‘Yes, but never in the same glass.’ Yet I am about to make an observation which cannot be true.… Read more

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When a forgotten bottle turns out to be a treasure

3 January 2015

I had not drunk the wine for 20 years, and nearly all the information which I thought that I had remembered turned out to be wrong. It was a Californian… Read more

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Cognac and the Viking connection in la France profonde

13 December 2014

The chestnut trees were still resplendent in yellow leaf along the banks of a misty autumn river on its glide through woodlands, pasture, comfortable towns — and vineyards. This was… Read more

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The great lunchtime wine showdown

6 December 2014

This is a tale of two lunches, sort of. The first was a classically English affair. We started with native oysters, my first of the season: everything that they should… Read more

The real French embassy is a restaurant

22 November 2014

Semper eadem. There is some basement in a Mayfair street that is forever France. It is not far from the American embassy, a strong candidate for the all-time monstrous carbuncle… Read more

Yorkshireman and umpire Emmott Robinson Photo: Getty

Wine merchants might just be the happiest people in the world

8 November 2014

A delightful girl came to see me this morning. She is helping with the research for a biography of David Cameron. Someone had told her that he was not comfortable… Read more

West Indies players Shannon Gabriel, Kirk Edward, Leon Johnson, Darren Bravo and Kraigg Brathwaite Photo: Getty

The secret kinship of good wine and good cricket

25 October 2014

A high proportion of wine-lovers also enjoy cricket, and vice versa. This might seem natural. Anyone with an aesthetic temperament will surely find his way to two of life’s greatest… Read more

Proof that the Japanese know how to make great Bordeaux

11 October 2014

Château Lagrange, a St Julien third growth, has the largest acreage of any Bordeaux classed growth. For much of the 20th century, this was its sole claim to distinction. Under… Read more

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In praise of the Loire - cradle of civilisation, and wonderful wines

27 September 2014

Rivers are the cradles of civilisation and the Loire is an outstanding example. It is one of the head-waters of modern France. By the 7th century, the region had emerged… Read more

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The Society of Odd Bottles and the Sisterhood of the Black Pudding

13 September 2014

The Honourable Society of Odd Bottles has been mentioned in this column before. I can report that the membership is growing. We are now comfortably into low single figures. The… Read more

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Horse racing, Sancerre and escaped lobsters

30 August 2014

A stint in dry dock — the ‘dry’ literally — has one advantage. There is time for lots of long reading. After many decades since the last opening of Middlemarch,… Read more

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Visiting Burgundy from my hospital bed

16 August 2014

There have been some splendid rumours about my health. According to the most exotic, I was cas-evacked from a hill in Scotland, flown to St Thomas’s by private plane and… Read more

Glyndebourne Festival, Don Giovanni Photo: Robert Workman

From Glyndebourne to St Thomas's Hospital

2 August 2014

‘Don’t you think you’re drinking too much?’ said the nurse, contemplating the array of bottles. ‘But I feel so thirsty,’ I replied. A doctor arrived and concluded that powerful intravenous… Read more