Wine and literature: Marcus Brigstocke’s “The Red” – and Lafite 1973…

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Marcus Brigstocke’s drama “The Red” was recently broadcast on Radio 4.

The synopsis read: “Benedict has been sober for 25 years. On the day of his father’s funeral, he learns he has left him an unsettling final request. Benedict’s father loved wine. He collected it and found sharing it with his friends and family an act of love and joy. But his son is an alcoholic. We witness how this has affected both their lives and their relationship in this drama based on Marcus Brigstocke’s own experience of recovery.

The play was recorded on location in a 400-year old wine cellar.

The “red” itself is a bottle of Lafite 1973.

I have never tasted any 1973s, which are not known for quality or longevity. Few are available now.

I came across a 1984 FT article by its then wine correspondent Edmund Penning-Rowsell, who wrote, “There were a good many claims in Bordeaux that the 1974s were better than the 1973s, but for the most part they have turned out hard and charmless, whereas a number of the 1973s have developed into light, but agreeable wines.”

He noted the ’73 Lafite as having a “Fair colour and a refined bouquet, but very light on the tongue and lacking substance and follow-through. Other comments included: nose faded fast, artificially sweet taste, distinct absence of fruit, tails off. In view of the standing of Lafite, it was unanimously agreed to be disappointing.”

Penning-Rowsell’s fellow tasters were “a Master of Wine, a woman wine-writer, a restaurant proprietor, a don and wine steward of an Oxford college, my wife and myself.”

I think that the “woman wine-writer” – he had such an elegant way with words, didn’t he? – might have been Penning-Rowsell’s successor as the FT wine correspondent.

And the “restaurant proprietor” might be her husband…






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