Wine - Roger Scruton wants to pump wine into Iraq

An expensive bottle is the best defence against the war bore

There are those who believe American hostility to Iraq has oil as its cause. Wishful thinking, surely: nevertheless, oil is the kind of thing that people fight over. They fight over minerals just as they fought over Helen of Troy, since minerals, like women, are non-renewable. But they do not fight over wine, since wine is a renewable resource. Invade the producer, and you lose the product; trade with him peacefully and you are supplied from year to year.

Wine-growing is both the effect of peace and its cause. Search the world for belligerence and you will also find the wine-haters. Ayatollah Khomeini's first act on returning to stir up hatred in Iran was to smash the wine cellars; the Taliban, Bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood are similarly minded. The Hezbollah don't occupy the Beqaa because of Chateau Musar - if they did, peace would quickly come to southern Lebanon. And the best way to destroy Saddam would be to pump Europe's wine lake into the Iraqi water supply; for wine is a weapon of mass instruction, which teaches us all to relax.

On the other hand, to appreciate the peace-producing qualities of wine, it is probably best not to swallow the stuff inadvertently. Wine fulfils its moral function when framed by ceremony, animated by dialogue and consumed in a condition of solemn judgement. That is why there have to be all those rococo phrases about noses, palates, after-burps and tasting notes - which Moliere would surely have included, had he known about them, in Les Precieuses ridicules. For wine demands conversation. And since the art of conversation is dying, the only thing that most people can do, when presented with an expensive bottle, is to talk about it. This has given rise to the wine bore. But who would not prefer the wine bore, with his head stuffed full of harmless knowledge, to the war bore, with his dangerous and unfounded opinions?

Here, then, is what you should do the next time one of your guests begins to address the topic of the day - about which he is sure to know nothing (unless, that is, he is a member of the government, with access to the information that the rest of us in any case ought not to have). Open a bottle of peace-perpetrating vino, and ask the war bore what he thinks of it. Indicate that you went to great trouble and expense in securing this precious sample, and that you really want him to enjoy it while he can - for who knows how long we will be able to live as we do, now that the storm clouds are gathering, etc. Four glasses, as a rule, will be enough to bring home the truth, that we elect our governments so that they, not us, should make the crucial decisions. Let's hope only that they drink them over first.

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 03 March 2003 issue of the New Statesman, What has America ever done for us?