“You rang, M’Lord?” said Jeeves as a cork flew past him and sent a portrait of Aunt Agatha crashing to the ground.
“Ah, yes, Jeeves, just practising the old sabrage, I’m getting really good, don’t you know, I can now open a Jereboam with Uncle Percy’s old dentures”.
“Anyway, thing is, I’m thinking of having a wine tasting here, with a difference!”
Jeeves’ head drooped.
“It’s going to be South African wine!” exclaimed Bertie.
Jeeves was concerned, “Is that wise? Sir, Lord Carton is nearly eighty, the shock could kill him”.
“Splendid”, cried Bertie, “ ‘bout time we had some fun around here”.
The following week, six barely living aristocrats shuffled into the drawing room. Jeeves served each a full Champagne flute.
Lord Bluff took a glug, “Ah, Dom Perignon, the ’96 I think”.
“Did you know Dom Perignon invented Champagne?” trembled the nearly deaf Lord Carton.
“Nonsense, everyone knows the English invented Champagne”, returned Baron Lyme.
Jeeves could hold it no longer, “Actually, M’Lord, no-one invented Champagne, it was probably an accident, possibly in Germany, or the London docks”.
“See”, cried Lyme, “London, English!”
Bertie intervened. “Well, this was made by a chap called Bubbles Ferreira”.
“Love his Port”, said the Duke of Wallop.
“Not that Ferreira”, said Bertie.
“Knew a fellow at Eton who used to light his own farts – called him Bubbles – owns the Aero factory now”, said Bluff.
“It’s South African”, said Bertie, waiting for it.
“Good God, man, are you trying to kill us?” growled the Duke.
“We don’t call it Champagne, exactly, it’s an MCC”, said Bertie.
“Ah, then it is English”, beamed Baron Lyme, caressing his Marylebone Cricket Club member’s tie and welling up at the vision of stumps at Lord’s. “Had ‘Beefy Botham’s’ Oz wine recently, not too bad, but it’s a bit rum, calling this ‘MCC’ after the beautiful game”.
“Football? M’Lord?” suggested Jeeves.
Lyme shot him a withering look.
Bertie gave up and suggested a toast.
The seven rose creakily, Carton making it to about 60 degrees before leaning precariously toward the consommé. “The Queen”, they sang in harmony.
“Try a Chardonnay, M’Lords”, Bertie said as Jeeves went amongst them.
“Ah, Burgundy, a Montrachet, I believe”, said Bluff, more quizzically this time.
They nodded their approval. “‘The Nine Yards’, made in South Africa by a geologist descended from a 19th century English shoemaker”, corrected Bertie.
“English!”, screamed Baron Lyme.
A red followed.
“Just look at that colour, has to be Corton”, enthused Lord Bluff.
“Another South African, Bluff, a Pinot Noir from ‘Hamilton Russell’”, smiled Bertie.
“What? That racing driver chappie made it?”
“Lewis” piped in Jeeves.
“I don’t think so, Jeeves, doesn’t ring a bell, Russell Lewis”, pondered Bluff.
“Now he is British!” added Baron Lyme.
Jeeves walked away, pleading to the heavens.
Everyone ignored Lyme.“Next, a fine Bordeaux”.
“Ah, a Lynch-Bages, is it the ’04?” enquired Bluff.
“De Compostella”, said Bertie.
The Duke of Wallop waivered, “compost?”
‘De Compostella’, a wine from Raats in the Western Cape.
“Rats! Made by Rats?” Wallop fell into an armchair without spilling a drop.
“Oh Lord”, sighed Bertie.
Jeeves refilled the Duke’s drained glass, and smirked as he poured, “try something older, ‘M’Lord, also from the Cape, a Meerlust Rubicon”.
“Meerkats?” asked a wilting Duke of Wallop, “those elongated squirrel things?”
Jeeves poured the next. “Got you this time”, said Bluff, “I know Hermitage when I see it, it’s Chapoutier!”
“Close”, answered Bertie, “descended from Hermitage vines, anyway, a ‘Diesel’ Pinotage made by Beyers”.
Wallop nearly exploded. “I’m drinking vehicle lubricant made by bears?
“Pinotage was invented by the English” added Baron Lyme. “Perold got the idea while touring England in 1903”.
Jeeves was finding it hard to live. He couldn’t resist himself, “would you prefer a Merlot made by a Springbok, M’Lord?” he poured him a 2009 Annandale ‘The Key”.
“Wallop couldn’t control himself, “a Springbok, one of those cute antelopes, are you suggesting an antelope can make wine? What kind of menagerie do they have making wine over there?”
“Hempies was a Springbok, M’Lord, a national Rugby player..”then tailed off as he realised Wallop was processing hemp in the equation.
Bertie poured the final wine, its golden colour thick and unctuous. “Sauternes” winked Bluff, not suggesting anything else this time.
“A Noble Late Harvest”, said Bertie.
At this Lyme leapt up, “Noble? Gentlemen, ‘The Queen’” and raised his glass, others followed so vociferously that even Carton woke up and three seconds after the others had sat, added, “The Queen”.
“Nederburg, ‘Eminence’ from Noble Rot” Bertie added.
“What rubbish Wallop talks” offered Lyme.
“Is this another animal?” queried the Duke, ignoring Lyme.
“Not this time, just a fungus”.
“I feel ill” said the Duke. “And you’re probably done for Carton”.
“Brandies, M’Lords?” Jeeves offered crystal balloons to all.
Bluff – whose belief in his wine knowledge had taken a beating – half uttered “Cognac” before he thought better of it.
“South African?” he stuttered.
“Correct!” said Bertie. “Van Ryn’s 20 year old”.
“I knew it, you can always tell”, beamed Bluff.
“Invented in England”, Lyme added.
“I think the Dutch, M’Lord, the clue is in the name,” hinted Jeeves, enjoying himself.
“But who taught the Dutch?” Lyme grew louder.
“The Arabs, perhaps? Or Egyptians?” teased Jeeves.
“And they learnt it from the Brits’ demanded Lyme.
The evening ended. “Look here, Bertie, these wines were all very fine and what not, but next time let us stick to real wines, the classics, something French, eh?” asked Bluff.
Bertie’s head swam with possibilities, mentally running through his cellar and already picking out ‘La Motte’, ‘Clairvaux’, ‘Bouchard Finlayson’, ‘Haute Cabrière’, ‘Plaisir de Merle’, ‘Dieu Donné’, ‘Beau Joubert’, perhaps even a ‘Goats do Roam’. He smiled at the thought.