Wine - Roger Scruton

Sam, our horse, took to the Green Veltliner; he isn't bothered by screwcaps

After a few days of sunshine, a cold northwester sweeps in from the Atlantic, stripping leaves, snapping branches and drowning fields with roars of savage laughter like a horde of Vikings. The nascent vegetables are torn by wind, washed away by water or eaten by slugs. The horses crowd at the gate, and soon the dreadful truth is apparent: the year has to begin again. Feed must be ordered, new vegetables must be planted, the horses must come in and the cows must be kept on silage for another week.

Sam is happy to be indoors and eager to resume his diet. And as luck would have it, the wine arrives from Bibendum while he is still drying out. The very bottle that he needs comes first from the box: a Green Veltliner from Austria, with the propitious name of "Sophie" and described on the label as "friendly". Fortunately, horses are colour-blind at the red end of the spectrum, so Sam is not put off by the appalling roadworks-orange hue in which the bottle has been decorated; nor is he bothered by screwcaps. Soon he is pushing the wine-soaked barley around his bucket with every mark of approval, ears back and an angry scowl at inquisitive heads that get too close.

Those who have spent time in the old lands of the Habsburg empire will have a soft spot for the Grüner Veltliner grape, which produces the fresh, green, candid, girlish glassful that cuts the grease from the goose and the slime from the sausage in a way that no other wine quite manages. Whether it travels is a moot point over which Sam and Sophie (the other Sophie) disagreed. But try this wine with your next fry-up and you won't be disappointed. The Pinot Blanc from Alsace is a straightforward wine-bar glassful that would cause no woman to look suspiciously at the guy who bought it for her, while the Soave is a delicious, summery mouthful that went well with a demanding dish of herring roe.

Bouchard's standard red Burgundy never disappoints, though Burgundy lovers might be advised to wait for the summer sales, now that the big merchants seem to be offloading serious old Burgundies at ridiculous prices. The wine from the Veneto is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with the local Corvina, the same mixture that produces the famed Amarone. A somewhat ill-mannered contadino of a wine, it nevertheless went well with Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements, coming up from the stomach in time to those inimitable gulping chords.

The best of the reds, however, is the Argento. Lovers of the wines of Cahors should look kindly on Argentina, where the Malbec grape, grown at high altitudes, produces the same black concentrate, with a smiling head of fruit on huge shoulders of tannin. With no bottle age as yet, this is a wine to keep.

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 05 June 2006 issue of the New Statesman, False dawn for democracy