David Blunkett is the former Home Secretary. The Blunkett Tapes, his self-portrait and reflections on the political events of the past nine years, is published by Bloomsbury.


In praise of wine and nature

To have no shape, no form, no existence other than outside your skin, is extraordinary. To have a nose, body and substance is to live.

And so it is with wine. From vine to wine, the grape exists only to be transmogrified: squozen from its skin, translating sunshine into warmth within, bottled like a prisoner, contained and held - a sentence extended by desirability, drinkability, the ability to age - and breathing again only once the cork is removed. Pulled from the bottle, it emerges with the sound that nothing else can replicate; breathing, decanted, swirling at last when poured.

And in breathing has two noses, one providing scents of hay, of fruit, of sun, of days gone by, the other, sniffing, longing, wanting to sip but waiting. The swirling, taking in the bouquet, waiting to taste, is part of the joy - to pause, only for a short while, but enough to say "gratification deferred" and then for indulgence to take its part.

And then the body and the blood combined, the edge of just decay turning instead to bursting tastes of life renewed, the first taste lingering, changing on your palate the bliss of Burgundy, the rejoicing of Rioja, the brilliance of Brunello. Give me not the common Claret, import from ancient Aquitaine, but instead the robust body, the lasting pleasure, of the taste of heaven - not of earthly things.

But too much indulgence and the senses deaden, lay heavy, awakened in the night with reprimand; the head in morning's light, half asleep and still awakening, fails to come alive at your command. The second bottle was the culprit from the night before, the tempted hand that pulled the cork, the remembered pouring, the joy of forbidden fruit taken to excess.

For if pleasure be just one degree below excess, then leave a glass, just one, for another day. Wash your glass, and put away the bottle, knowing that clear heads, lifted hearts and memories sharp enough to bring renewed desire are far, far better still than paracetamols refrained.

So, as night follows day, red and white lay together, one to be cooled for sharpness on the palate, one to be opened to breathe the air and take the oxygen of day to bring the comfort of the night.



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