Hunting for tigers

Roger Scruton celebrates a Chardonnay that reminds him of Tony Blair

Daniel Defoe's heroine, found guilty of prostitution, was sent as a punishment to Rappahannock - which then comprised most of northern and western Virginia. Today, this beautiful Indian name applies only to the Rappahannock River and to a small county in the Blue Ridge foothills. Like Moll Flanders, the Scrutons were banished to Rappahannock by puritanism. Not that the puritans had arrested us; but, by making our favourite pastime into a crime, they have made us into criminals. And fox-hunting, as we have seen, is as offensive to the puritans of today as prostitution was to their 18th-century forebears.

Labour MPs, who condone every kind of sexual excess and seem to rejoice in the breakdown of family values, become pale with horror at the thought that someone somewhere might be enjoying "the sport of kings". Well, here we are doing just that, and as for that collection of resentful Scots who are temporarily oppressing the English, let's hope that they keep well away from Rappahannock.

No sooner had I written that sentence than the morning paper arrived with the news that Tony Blair, himself now the victim of resentful Scots, is to take a job at Georgetown University - only 70 miles from where we live, and a stone's throw from where I work. I can't believe it! What's wrong with American universities that they should think that you earn the right to teach in them merely by being a prime minister?

After some reflection, however, I concluded that, as a fellow victim, Tony deserves our compassion. Maybe, if he comes this way, we should crack open a bottle with him. Just around the corner is the excellent vineyard of Sharp Rock, whose 2003 Chardonnay has advanced as far as you can in the direction of white Burgundy from grapes grown in Virginia. The clay soil, short on nutrients, is friendly to the grape; so are the winter frosts and the hot summers. But in most years the humidity prevents the grapes from developing those hard skins and armoured tannins which make for longevity.

Sharp Rock has triumphed against all odds, riding the tiger of our climate much as Tony rode the tiger of Scottish resentment all those years.

Nevertheless, and this I think Tony will enjoy, our wines have a fine political pedigree. It was Thomas Jefferson himself who began their production at Monticello, planting the indigenous Norton grape that God, in his infinite goodness, had scattered across the New World in anticipation of the future need of such people as the Scrutons. The Norton is a fierce, foxy, frumious grape with balls, and our local Norton is a real tiger of a wine. We can leave Tony riding it in the kitchen as we ride to the hounds.

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