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 un-electable. I concurred; sacking Labour leaders just because they could not win an election sets a very bad example to the rest of the world.
For solace, he had decanted a bottle. Something in the nonchalance with which the glass was poured aroused my suspicions, which were strengthened when the nose reached halfway across the room (he is, shall we say, well off). I sipped, savoured splendour, and speculated. ‘I think I’ve had this before, to celebrate when a girl called Mary Wakefield joined The Spectator. It wasn’t quite ready then. It is now.’ Robert Parker said that once mature, the ’76 Grange Hermitage would rival the ’61 Pétrus, which I have never tasted. It is possible to question Mr Parker’s judgment on Cab Sauvs grown in gravelly soil, but he is at ease with more instantly accessible wines. The King of Shiraz and the Queen of Merlot: a happy comparison.
That said, there is a caveat for any squillionaire tempted to arrange such a courtship. At a plutocratic dinner party in Manhattan, another friend of mine was recently served a ’69 Le Montrachet and the ’61 Pétrus. What, apart from envy, did I think? ‘The Pétrus ought to have been beyond praise while the Montrachet had an excuse for showing its age. But I’m obviously meant to be counter-intuitive, so presumably it was vice-versa.’ ‘Bang on. The Montrachet tasted as if it would last for ever, but even the Yanks could tell that the Pétrus was disappointing.’ Equally, another friend of mine, Robin Bomer, whose cellar rivals his palate, says that he has occasionally run a Grange Hermitage against a Hermitage la Chapelle from a good but not great vintage. The northern hemisphere has always -prevailed.
Even so, that ’76 was the finest Rhone-ish wine that I have ever tasted: apart from soldiery in time of war and need, the finest thing to come out of Australia not wearing a baggy green cap and carrying a cricket bat. I was feeling sufficiently generous to commiserate with my chum about this year’s Ashes vintage. We moved on to philosophy. Two rugger matches, each fought like an excerpt from the Battle of the Somme: each decided by a missed kick. What if the third game went the same way? Like the Huns in 1918, neither side would accept that it had lost. We agreed that a draw might be preferable to a one-point win — and that a try should earn seven points.
Still on sport, and in consolation for La Gillard, we discussed Wimbledon and solved the problem of sexism. Some Neanderthals are still arguing that it is wrong to pay women as much as men. What nonsense — but it is time to push the feminist agenda further. In this era of equality, what possible justification is there for two competitions? Let us sweep away this segregation, and create a truly enormous prize. I do not know why Harriet Harman has not proposed this already.
A small percentage of the monies could be kept back, to create a spectacle for the spectators’ idle amusement. While their sisters were slaughtering the men on Centre Court, any lesser girls who were eliminated early could play each other over three sets. But in this minor event, the tennis would not be the sole factor. There would have to be a looks test as well. The aim would be to ensure that pretty girls in frilly dresses were scampering around the court: a perfect accompaniment to a glass of Pimm’s. Feminine squealing would be permitted, but only up to a certain decibelage, falling well short of sounding like Molly Bloom on LSD. Grunting would, of course, be banned. Now that she is désouvrée, Julia Gillard might like to present the trophy. As we finished the last drops of Grange, we sought a name for the new competition, firmly rejecting the Frilly Fillies’ Stakes — and arrived at the obvious solution: the Gillard/Harman Cup.