No imitations, please!.jpg

No imitations, please!


Cellar Master

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Recently I passed a pub in Luz, and asked myself, why? The doors were open, I was very hot and thirsty, and felt I needed something to help me walk the last 200 yards home. As Oscar Wilde said: “There’s only one thing I can’t resist and that’s temptation”. So after a very brief tussle with my conscience, I went in and ordered a glass of vinho branco.

While enjoying my vinho, four customers came in and ordered four brandies, and four ports. When their drinks arrived they poured the ports into the brandies. I wondered why. Surely there is already enough brandy in port.

Once upon a time, they said to drink a brandy and port if you had a “dicky” tummy. I could never figure out why they had to have the brandy but the male drinkers found a reason. In those days, port was considered a girlie drink in England, so the brandy was for the men’s macho image.

However, by mixing them in one glass they actually unbalanced the blend which had been perfected by expert port makers. Why try to improve on the masters? Adding anything to port will not improve it. Change it yes, but it won’t be a better drink. I suppose adding brandy is better than adding lemonade and a slice of lemon.

Port is always in big demand over Christmas, but why wait until Christmas? You can drink it anytime, and if you’re like me you’ll have a bottle in the room you’re sitting in, and at least one spare bottle in the next room. Port is a fortified wine and will stay in good condition for a long time after being opened, as the brandy will preserve it.

Be careful of imitations, which seem to spring up all over the world at the festive season. Any wine producing country can produce a Port type wine but port can only be produced in Portugal and only in the Douro region. The fakes are easy to recognise. By EU law, the name of the country of origin must be in at least the same size letters as the word Port on the label.

One of the best value for money is a Late Bottled Vintage and you don’t have to decant it. Other reasonably priced ports are Ruby or young Tawny. Whichever one you buy, make sure it was produced in Portugal. If you can afford a Vintage or a 20 year old Tawny, then go for one of them.

Enjoy Christmas this year by ignoring the scaremongers and killjoys. If they practice what they write, they’re going to have a more miserable time than Ebenezer Scrooge!

To cut the risk of heart attack take two drinks a day, says Julie Wheldon. Sean Poulter says it has to be new world red, but Julie says old world.

Pregnant women can safely enjoy the occasional drink. Up to four units of alcohol a week, says Fiona MacRae, quoting Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Fiona also says people could get bowel cancer by drinking just one glass of wine a day.

Does this mean that if they drink three or four glasses a day, the risk will be reduced? Dr Raja Mukherjee of St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, says no alcohol at all during pregnancy. Daniel Martin, a Health Reporter, says binge drinking will not harm the unborn baby. Which of these should expectant mothers listen to?

Jenny Hope suggests that red wine could keep lung cancer at bay, quoting the medical journal Thorax.

Carol Vorderman recommends the odd glass of red wine. She also suggests that you cut out sugar, fatty acids, alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. I wonder where she’ll spend Christmas? I would suggest a nunnery but she’d spoil the nun’s party.

Another headline was Clever girls are more likely to binge drink. How stupid is that? Clever people don’t binge drink. Only stupid people binge drink.

The Wheldons, MacRaes, Martins, Mukherjees and their like should all be put in homes for the bewildered because they obviously are. I’ve never read so much contradictory gobbledegook in my whole life.

Michael Broadbent who was described as a colossus in the wine world is my mentor. He opens his first bottle at 11am. He has drunk well in excess of 85,000 bottles. He has never had a hangover and he prefers Madeira to coffee or tea.

At the age of 75, he was a mountain-bike enthusiast. I’m going to emulate Mr Broadbent and I suggest you all do the same. Do have a wonderful Christmas.