Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rumpole of the Bailey and a Good (ordinary) Claret

After everything I said about wine (as opposed to spirits, fortified, or sweet wine) last night there is an exception coming up. I'm seeing a friend from Oddbins days later so a bottle of something good had to be dug out of the wardrobe and whilst on my hands and knees poking gingerly at the wine rack for fear of spiders (I know they're in there dammit, and spotting one at the wrong moment could lead to a serious wine casualty) Rumpole came to mind.

Well he sort of came to mind, mostly I was mourning the expense of really good claret (the British name for red wine from Bordeaux - which probably everybody knows, but just in case...) and my current lack of it. It takes a princely sum these days to get the sort of bottle that requires (and deserves) the carefull cellaring, years of happy anticipation, and scrutiny of vintage charts, that I used to so enjoy. Given that my 'cellar' is a lone wine rack in a wardrobe it's clear that princely sums are not at my disposal, but I do miss those wines.

Fortunately the wine world doesn't begin and end in the confines of Bordeaux and very good things indeed are still within the reach of even lowly wine saleswomen like myself. However if anyone could sympathise with my plight I'm sure it would be Rumpole. A man forced to take solace in the Very ordinary claret of Pommery's wine bar knows what it is to suffer.

Happily there are some very good Good Ordinary Claret's about which do excellent service for anyone looking for something traditional as well as reasonable (particularly if roast lamb is on the menu and it's not all about the wine). It's also just the kind of wine I'd buy to cook with, knowing that I'd be happy enough to drink the left overs (never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink). More importantly it's the kind of wine that venerable looking gentleman with neatly folded editions of the telegraph, impressive eyebrows (and joy of joys, in one case a monocle), and a natty line in coloured cords, will take me aside to confide about how decent it is.

I was tempted to make a sweeping statement about reading Rumpole, but I find something new to appreciate in him every time, as well as familiar refrains (often the way in a long collection of short stories) and in this the experience is very like drinking a familiar wine. Reading him with a really exciting wine would do both a disservice, it's the book that deserves the lions share of the attention with the wine providing a background whiff of atmosphere and self indulgent comfort.


  1. I've been tempted by that lovely Penguin Collected Rumpole (I seem to be seeing it everywhere) but as I'm not buying books at the moment, I've just popped it into my wishlist. I read all the stories years ago & have some of the individual volumes but... I'm enjoying your drinks & books posts very much, even though I hardly ever have a drink. I find it all fascinating & obviously the product of a great deal of thought on your part! You're lucky to have a job that makes use of your interests & expertise even though it seems more trouble than pleasure at this time of year.

    1. I don't drink much myself these days, though I do taste a bit (subtle difference!) but I've been working in wine for long enough to have learnt a bit. These posts have been fun to write, a nice way of unwinding from work and a slightly different way for me to think about wine. I'm so pleased you're enjoying them.

  2. I've got the collected Rumpole, and I find something new in it every time too. A sip of claret with it does no harm, it just means that sometimes I've got to read the book twice :-)

  3. I do love Rumpole, and miss the tv series which visualised it beautifully. I agree that a dip of wine with him does no harm at all :)