Magazine article The Spectator

Savouring the Mystique

Magazine article The Spectator

Savouring the Mystique

Article excerpt

I DRINK THEREFORE I AM:

A PHILSOPHER'S GUIDE

by Roger Scruton

Continuum, £16.99, pp. 212,

ISBN 9781847065087 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

I have never met Roger Scruton, though I would like to; wine fans are slightly obsessional and enjoy clustering together, like trainspotters, though tasting rooms are more welcoming than the end of a platform at Crewe. We're also very different. Shortly after I, working for the left-of-centre Guardian, became the wine writer for this conservative magazine, Scruton, a right-wing philosopher, took the same job at the New Statesman.

Given the rivalry between these two organs, I took a keen interest in what he wrote. For instance, round about the same time that he pointed out that 'it is almost impossible to find a decent Burgundy these days for less than £30' we were selling El Vino's own-brand Velvin for £3.95.

As it happened, Velvin was Burgundy, overproduction from a good year which could not be sold under its real name. I suspected then that Scruton's appointment was a joke, a riposte by the Staggers' editor to readers who believed that John Pilger was God. As Pilger raged in the front of the magazine, Scruton sat at the back, clad in a quilted smoking jacket, sipping a Corton-Charlemagne from a good year. Costing much more than £30.

His book is very different from mine, which is principally a gift book, for people who enjoy wine, even love it, and yearn to spread out from supermarkets and chain stores.

Scruton's book (the title comes from Monty Python's Australian philosopher's song: 'And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart / I drink, therefore I am') is for people who are already wine lovers and want to link their pleasure to a greater world outside. They are, perhaps, people who want what Eliot called an 'objective correlative' for wine, a means of expressing in words something crafted with great skill, capable of great age, often sold at a great price, and yet liable to be consumed within an hour or so.

Scruton faces on a much grander scale the problem all wine writers must address:

how do you use words to evoke a flavour, an aroma, an evanescent scent? Do you simply say, 'this is delicious, you should try it'? …

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