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Screwcaps to the rescue

Published:  18 January, 2007

I swear the following anecdote is true; only certain personal details have been changed.

They sold up (for around 9 million I estimate) in 2006, because Patroclus wanted to downsize now the boys are grown up. He is a lawyer. She is a Chinese expert. Their new house is littered with rare artefacts, and on a recent evening, I was invited to dinner.

The food was awful, of course, as it always is with the upper classes, but it started decently, with smoked oysters on Poilane rye accompanied by a Champagne. Things went spectacularly downhill afterwards.

Luckily, sensing what was to follow, I over-dosed on the bivalve amuses-bouches, but the other guests, unprepared for the watery Gulag-style stew - purporting to be a lamb tagine - were silently aghast. What I did not sense coming, however, was the red wine. Not some rebarbative Burgundy but Waitrose's Chateau Segonzac 2005 Ctes de Blaye. It kept all our spirits up, and as multi-millionaire Patroclus triumphantly remarked, at 7.99 it is a bargain.

Most of all, though, he revelled in its screwcap. And so did the two major TV stars present, the New York opera producer, the crime novelist, the lesbian couple (one in fine arts, the other a holidaying Oxford don), and the official from a far eastern embassy (with gorgeous wife).

It was wonderful to sit there and see a hugely influential individual confidently whipping the screwcaps off a thoroughly charming claret and his guests lapping it up. Patroclus and Cassandra will never learn to cook, or to appreciate fine food, but they like their wine and they want it always to be in good health.

As the crime novelist remarked: "Imagine appearing on Dragon's Den, flourishing a cork and saying I've come up with this superbly unreliable and messy way of sealing a bottle of wine'." You'd be laughed off the show.

Malcolm Gluck is wine critic of The Oldie magazine