The price is right

If you're thinking of spending a fiver on wine, it's time to grow up

Having failed to keep Lent, I know it is hard to argue that I deserve to celebrate the season of resurrection. I certainly don't deserve to drink, free of charge, four 2003 clarets of the quality exhibited by those in Corney & Barrow's offer.

However, I comfort myself with the thought that I am drinking them for you, dear reader, and that there is an element of public spirit in my greed. For make no mistake about it, 2003 was an excellent year for Bordeaux, and you will probably not have another opportunity to acquire wines of this quality at these prices.

First, though, a word about prices. Long research has led me to think that you should be prepared to pay £10 for a bottle of claret and £15 for a bottle of Burgundy if you are to enjoy the real taste of either. Thereafter, quality increases with price right up to the £25 mark. Those who spend more than that are either ignorant or super-rich: or maybe just unable to appreciate that even if quality is important, quantity is more so.

The four wines on offer come from regions with very different soils and microclimates. Yet the hot summer of 2003 had a concentrating effect on all of them. Each wine fills the mouth with its own distinctive fruit, and each of them lingers on the palate after a proper olfactory prelude and with a long coda of after-burps. Modern vinification means that these wines are already drinkable, none of them having that closed, stingy quality, like a tight-lipped civil servant, which is the sign of unmanaged tannin.

The summer heat boosted the Château de Carles from the undervalued Côtes de Fronsac to the positively Australian strength of 14 per cent - but without destroying delicacy, balance, or the gentle leafy aroma distinctive of the region. The Château La Courolle from Montagne-Saint-Émilion is a more traditional claret, soft and harmonious, with a firm mineral background. It proved to be a perfect accompaniment to stuffed breast of lamb - one of those dishes that the urgent middle classes of today would never dream of eating, still less of cooking, but which ought to be on every household menu. Indeed, if you were intending to eat leg of lamb and spend a fiver on the wine, here is your chance to grow up. Buy a decent bottle and stuff the lamb.

The Château Armens has all the allure and complexity that you would expect from a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. This is a wine which, with a few more years in the bottle, will give the full claret experience - that indescribable upswell of Bacchic laughter, from a dark pool of mysterious thought.

As for the Château Carignan, this is a wine that belies its modest appellation - a truly joyous and full-throated companion that needs no food to temper its good humour, and which danced us up to bed.

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and countryside campaigner as well as an author and broadcaster. Widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading right wing thinkers, his publications include the Meaning of Conservatism. He has also written on fox hunting.

This article first appeared in the 16 April 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Iran

Show Hide image

SRSLY #13: Take Two

On the pop culture podcast this week, we discuss Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the recent BBC adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie, and reminisce about teen movie Shakespeare retelling She’s the Man.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

Listen to our new episode now:

...or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on Audioboom, Stitcher, RSS and  SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s web editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The podcast is also on Twitter @srslypod if you’d like to @ us with your appreciation. More info and previous episodes on

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we'd love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

The Links

On Macbeth

Ryan Gilbey’s review of Macbeth.

The trailer for the film.

The details about the 2005 Macbeth from the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold series.


On Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie

Rachel Cooke’s review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Sarah Hughes on Cider with Rosie, and the BBC’s attempt to create “heritage television for the Downton Abbey age”.


On She’s the Man (and other teen movie Shakespeare retellings)

The trailer for She’s the Man.

The 27 best moments from the film.

Bim Adewunmi’s great piece remembering 10 Things I Hate About You.


Next week:

Anna is reading Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.


Your questions:

We loved talking about your recommendations and feedback this week. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we've discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at], or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.



The music featured this week, in order of appearance, is:


Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 



See you next week!

PS If you missed #12, check it out here.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.