Wine club - Roger Scruton imagines drinking an archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury would taste like this, were you to drink him

The wines of the southern Rhone present a vast variety of styles, some, such as Chateauneuf- du-Pape, as seamlessly harmonious as a Palestrina Mass and others, such as the rougher Bouches-du-Rhone, as raucous as the Marseillaise sung by a choir of dogs. All of them, however, have their virtues, and it would be chary of me, having caroused in my youth from Vienne to Aix, to deny either their eminent drinkworthiness, or their yet more eminent drunkworthiness, which for most of them is all that I remember.

Whites must be broached with care, as the parboiled hillsides often produce white grapes like watery pustules, whose syrup turns into a kind of flavourless industrial alcohol, good for the wounds of the body, as I discovered after a rough-up in Orange, but with no power to heal the wounds of the soul. Stick to the reds, however, and you will rarely go wrong. Corney & Barrow's offer is proof of what I mean.

The Cotes du Ventoux appellation stretches over 51 communes, situated at the foot of the Massif du Ventoux. The region is distinctly cooler than the Rhone Valley itself, and the wines are lighter and less proud than those to the west, such as the estimable Vacqueyras and the noble Chateauneuf-du-Pape. C&B's Cotes du Ventoux is a well-made, forward wine, with an earnest face, which trails a curious aftertaste, like a beard full of leftovers. I suspect that were you to drink the Archbishop of Canterbury, he would taste like this.

The Chateauneuf-du-Pape is in a different class, and a different price range. This is a superb example of an utterly distinctive wine, product of centuries of thought, prayer and intrigue. Each Chateauneuf is an individual blend of the many permitted grape varietals, and each reflects a particular aspect of this sun-drenched climate. Chateau Gigognan, whose name evokes the gigot d'agneau with which it should be drunk, is a Syrah-Grenache mix, fruity, smooth and bulbous like the Pope's confessor, and so eminently drinkable that the whole bottle was gone before we could say Benedictus benedicat.

Less sublime, but in its way more interesting, is the Becs Fins from the respected house of Tardieu-Laurent, which looks for its wines among stingy, prune-faced vignerons with old and withered vines, on the assumption that the trickle of juice that will emerge from them will contain the very essence of sunlight. Although entitled to nothing better than Cotes du Rhone by way of an appellation, this rich, inky blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache has the power of a Chateauneuf, but with a date-and-almond spiciness that might have been carried by the mistral from the shores of Tunisia. This wine almost brought our pig Singer back to life, as it rained on him in his tomb.

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 22 March 2004 issue of the New Statesman, After Madrid, does urban life have a future?