In the battle of ideas, it is sometimes necessary to make a tactical withdrawal. That is now the case over climate change. This should not be confused with a full retreat. But in the circumstances, those who insist on the need for lifestyle changes have a point, at least when it comes to wine.
Some time ago, I propounded a dictum. Rosé should only be drunk south of Lyon. One could start quite early – 10.30 perhaps, opening the first bottle while brushing away the final crumbs of croissant. Apart from a very few serious wines, it would not matter if the stuff were cooled to ice-lolly temperature.
But in this heat, there is no shame in quaffing rosé in England. Other wines can be problematic. Freedom and whisky gang thegither. So do claret and Tory leadership contests. But at present, for lunch, that would require an air-conditioned dining room.
It is funny, and may only be a quirk in my palette, but I find it possible to adjust middle-range Burgundy in a cooler, to bring it to a normal room temperature, without impairing the taste. That is not so with claret.
The other evening, before the heat set in, I was at a tasting organised by Charles Taylor. This is a well-established London house especially noted for Burgundy. They have recently formed a link with Florent Rouve, who is winning golden opinions as one of the most promising young vignerons in Burgundy. Not many of his wines are available in the UK, but this is a name to conjure with.
We drank Chablis Fourchaume, a Meursault les Narvaux, followed by a Savigny-les-Beaune, but the gold award went to a Nuits St George ’14 Domaine Bertrand Amboise. For some years, the 2014 Burgundies were overshadowed by the more opulent 2015s, but the best are developing extremely well and this was one of them.
Even when it is too hot to drink Bordeaux until after nightfall, it is possible to use Burgundy as a stimulant to political debate. Which brings me to my good friend Jacob Rees-Mogg. I have always believed that he would make an excellent prime minister, for he is a Conservative on economics, a Tory in his reverence for institutions, and a patriot in everything – though it is widely assumed that a modern democracy wouldn’t accept a man who sounds like an Augustan wit and looks like a member of Lord Salisbury’s government. Jacob has other disadvantages. He is a consummate ironist, in an age which prefers the cruder forms of satire. He is also profoundly religious and the modern English ‘don’t do God’ as Alastair Campbell put it.
At present, however, he is acting as if he has been sitting in the sun for too long without a hat. He seems determined to be the last man standing who is loyal to Boris Johnson. It would be untrue to claim that the outgoing PM never displayed loyalty. He did, once, to Owen Paterson and much good it did either of them. That apart, loyalty is not an attribute one associates with him. But Jacob has a romantic streak. He would identify with the Recusants who stood by the Old Faith even at the risk of a hideous death: the Cavaliers who went to the uttermost for Charles 1. But those were noble causes.
Now Jacob has gone to the lengths – or depths – of accusing Rishi Sunak of disloyalty. Perhaps this is another round in the regular political contest between Eton and Winchester. In those, Eton generally wins. One might hope for a different outcome this time, and – weather permitting – toasts in something more satisfying than rosé.
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