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Aussie Osborne?

Guest Column:  Malcolm Gluck

We wine parasites, as writers on booze are familiarly known on the continent (though the Aussies continue, for some quaint reason, to refer to us as mates), are conditioned to receive, to accept or reject as we will, all manner of bribes, but however blatant they may be there is always a degree of subtlety involved, euphemistic, civilised, coyly seductive, which makes you feel misanthropic when you say no.

Now Iet us be clear here. A bribe is not an air ticket to take you to a vineyard area you would be unable to fund the research for otherwise. A bribe is not all the free samples which arrive at your door, many unheralded, many, indeed, so mysterious in provenance, price and distribution, that they never get tasted or, as I have done in the past, get given away to rest homes, funeral parlours, and charity bonfire parties in order to assist others in their progress through this vale of tears called Life. A bribe is not a lunch with a wine producer whose wines you admire or are anxious to discover more about. A bribe is a blandishment which has only a marginal relationship with wine.

In the recent past I have been offered tickets to Wimbledon, the Cup Final, the Rugby World Cup Final, test cricket, Glyndebourne and the Albert Hall, to mention only a few, and I have felt constrained to refuse them all.

Those wine scribes who feel differently, some of whom, for instance, spectated at live Euro-2000 football matches in France under the guise of making vineyard research trips to the Midi, are to be congratulated on their chutzpah. My problem in accepting such hospitality, which has absolutely nothing to do with wine, is that the obligation I would feel under would render me a less than objective judge of the products of whatever wine producer, retailer or national wine board initiated the invitation in the first place.
Sometimes the bribe is an invitation so crass, so deliciously adolescent, that in refusing it one feels one has lost an opportunity to see just who would be witless enough among one’s colleagues to take it up.

I have been minded to pass this remark, indeed have been inspired to write along the lines I have thus far, by a most hilarious e-mail which clunked into my mailbox in September.

It began by asking me “Which Emu Are You?”. It then went on to enquire “Are You Most Like Eddie, Elsie, Ella or Ernie?”

But what’s in it for me? The e-mail went on to provide the answer: “I believe we sent you an invitation last week to attend the exclusive launch event for a new range of wines from South Australia called the Four Emus. I just wanted to drop you a line to see if you would be interested in attending the event (full details below). As expected there will be lots of free wine to drink, goodie bags, interactive entertainment, and a bottle to take home. The event will be a lot of fun, feel free to bring a colleague, or if you are unable to attend please pass this on to anyone you may wish to send in your place. Please find below your invitation. Feel free to call if you have any queries or require directions or travel arrangements. At the event, you will be able to discover your Emu personality and your inner Emu aura read by psychic entertainers as well as an interactive wine tasting.”

The venue for this  gruesome-sounding event was a bar at a PR company in Soho Square. Presumably I could have got the PR who contacted me to organise a taxi there and a taxi home (I could hardly be expected to struggle back on my bike burdened with my goodie bag, my free Emu wine, my psychic aura printout, and with an impressive hangover building up, could I?).

It did not dawn on me until after this event that I had missed a great opportunity to see several wine writers at play and, further, that whatever else it might have been, the launch party would also have proven to be a trip down memory lane. I am surely not the only reader of this magazine to remember Emu Australian sherry. Fifteen shillings and sixpence the bottle, all of 29 degrees ABV, Emu was to be found in off-licences the length and breadth of Britain in the Sixties. My mum used to keep a bottle under the sink in case of emergencies (neither blocked drain nor burglar intimidated my spirited ma).

If the new Emu range is equally as alcoholic it won’t just be the EU import bureaucrats in which it will induce a serious headache. It has, of course, already given me one: just what horrors, I wonder, lay in those goodie bags?  db January 2006

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