I am feeling a little bit Ausonius today, probably as it’s the first day of Augustus Caesar the eighth month in our Gregorian calendar (and 30 more days to go) but more likely it is to do with my falling back in-love with those glorious wines of Saint-Emilion (Bdx). Well, let’s just say two of them for now, very polymorious!

2005 Ch.Ausone (2nd wine) La Chapelle d’Ausone, St.Emilion
I never got to drink my 2005 Ausone but with all the luck in the world I still have/had a whole case of the second wine, La Chapelle. I opened a bottle, 2005, and the darkness of the red just showed quality in the glass. Big stuff! Lightly roasted coffee bean and red currant, with graphite limestone mouth filling grip. Long long punchy finish and I cannot wait to drink more of this wine one day.

2005 Ch.Tertre Rôteboeuf, St.Emilion
Decanted. Dense ruby colour with whiffs of licorice, spice, black currant & cherries. Stunning velvety tannins and a silky finish that just left me stunned for a few minutes after each sip. Outstanding wine and a perfect one for us imaginative wine drinkers. A small note for you here. The meaning of Tertre Rôteboeuf is roughly ‘the hill of the belching bullock!’

I found a more accurate tasting note from Michael Schuster for the 2005 vintage of Tertre Rôteboeuf that also sums up the wine very well, and not just in that vintage when even the less talented producers had to be seriously incompetent not to succeed.
“…complex, refined, ripe and subtle nose; very rich and concentrated, but exceptionally silky in texture – nothing to “get in the way” of the drinker’s pleasure. Long, sweetly ripe, intensely flavoured, all the while remaining graceful and fresh; a wine of great purity, racy complexity, mouth-coating scent and splendid length. For all its intensity and presence, this impresses with a feeling of being absolutely “natural”. Wonderful. First Growth quality.”

Now that we are entering that famous holiday month-off a la Francia and a climate of, apparently, horrific global inflation. It’s that time for our dear wine trade, traditionally done on a ten year cycle, to not succumb to the highs and lows of Wall Street/Square Mile and bad political economic decisions. It is time to offer a safe and a pleasurable haven for both wine investment, I will now call Dollar Vino indecies, which also means it’s time to reach for those bottles at the back of the cupboard to quantitively ease some of those vinous treasures that you have stashed away there, and put them onto the dining room or kitchen table, for enjoying over the holidays.

“What an amazing, uplifting, cerebral, creative and above all life-affirming drink wine can be”. Michael Hill Smith (Oz)

Whether I am in London or Buenos Aires, not a day goes by without popping a cork or enjoying a glass or two of wine with lunch and dinner. If I went back to live in France I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that the country runs, or ran on wine. Well it used to back then. From the cellars of the aristocracy to the daily draught of the manual workers, virtually everybody there drinks and drank wine.

In the pre-French revolutionary era, the price of a barrel of wine effectively trebled as it passed through the toll-barriers on it’s way to the Parisian markets.

If a fundamental instrument of popular pleasure such as wine is taxed beyond the capacity of ordinary people to afford it, the latent fury that builds up must find an expression. Among these provisions, wine enjoys a unique dual status as both a staple commodity and means of sensuous release. How else would the forcible abolition of the tax system on wine be celebrated, other than by drinking wine?

It took until the spring of 1791 for the Jacobin chiefs of staff to abolish the principle of taxing consumer goods, wine was no longer subject to the toll.
Extended, fully lubricated celebrations naturally accompanied the enactment of the new legislation. There is a concrete difference between the demand for constitutional liberties and the equally urgent imperative for reasonable access to material goods. I am understanding that the principle of taxation, excise duty in particular, rests on the notion that governments have a right to impose a levy on citizens for the consumption of commodities that are not, strictly speaking, a vital necessity of their survival.

Since many commodities that are even more indispensable, such as fuel for heating and cooking, are also taxed, the mildewed concept of the luxury item, the indulgence, has been rendered inoperative.

In England, the so far successful resistance to the idea of taxing books and other publications has rested on the idea that such an impost would be a tax on knowledge, which ought to be a sacrosanct right of the free citizen. The tax on wine and other drinks is a tax on pleasure, on recreation, on those increasingly circumscribed periods of escape from the common round that people are still just about permitted by extended working hours.

Taxing intoxicants is, in any case, an ambivalent instrument at best. Is it, as with tobacco, intended in the spirit of dissuasion, of making a lethal habit unaffordable? Or is it, as with wine, a means of coercively inviting consumers to pay again for the blameless activity of enjoying themselves?

These last paragraph-notes are taken from the other day’s conversation I had, over a glass of Beaujolais, with a French economist friend. When I got home afterwards, I needed a good stiff drink and then one more before dinner.

‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well’ V.Woolf