Last night we celebrated the launch of Waugh on Wine by Auberon Waugh at a ceremony taking place courtesy of Daunt Books158-164 Fulham Road, Chelsea SW10 9PR.
I made a short address to mark the occasion and here what I said:
I have always appreciated fine wines, but my real interest in acquiring a decent cellar and learning the ways of the masters of wine began in 1982, when I acquired a seventy-five-per-cent share in a legendary wine merchant’s, Howells of Bristol. I truly enjoyed my involvement in the wine business and learnt a great deal about the trade, and as a result of the acquisition I also became a wine collector myself.
Though I was to lose the greater part of my investment in Howells of Bristol and eventually sell the company back to two of its working directors, the firm continued to manage my wine portfolio. And it was my wine portfolio that so impressed Auberon Waugh.
I will never forget his reaction when I gave him a bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947 to celebrate his birthday. The joy on his face as he held the bottle in his hand, caressing it as if it were a beautiful woman, is still etched in my memory.
Bron was a true connoisseur, not only of wine but also of the art of fine living. His daughter, Sophia, remembered ‘the tastings he held for the Spectator Wine Club, which he ran for some years. My father had a very unsnobbish approach to wine and understood that the cost mattered a great deal. Part of the questioning about any bottle that took his fancy was whether it was worth its price. “Yes, but is it actually £5 good?” he would ask. Whether he was recommending a cheaper wine the younger generation could afford or something grand, he did not want anyone diddled. His lack of wine snobbery also meant that he discovered and promoted some surprising wines; the Lebanese Château Musar became famous in England thanks to him, and indeed when he died the producer sent my mother a magnum in a cedar box in thanks…’
Waugh on Wine was first published in 1986: the pieces printed were mostly straight reprints of the numerous articles he wrote for Tatler (his first assignment as a wine critic), Harper’s and Queen and the Spectator. This edition has not updated any of the information as listed then. Various addresses are no longer valid and a few of the companies mentioned are no longer in existence. A quick check on Google however will provide the correct details for the more intrepid reader. Our intention was simply to allow a new audience the chance to catch a glimpse of this remarkable bon viveur and literary stylist who wrote such wonderful prose.
Without further ado, Bron remains for me a figure who brightened my life in so many ways and gave me comfort by his sheer presence. At my age now I really miss him and wish he was still around to keep me company when his friendship was above all the most entertaining one could have.
I hope you will buy his book if only to read of a character whose humour and contrariness was uniquely without equal.