Rupert Croft-Cooke on Wine

From The Life for Me by Rupert Croft-Cooke (London, 1953), pp. 93-94:

Having presumed to use the phrase ‘a civilized way of living’ as my ambition in setting up house in the country and planning existence here, I should perhaps have come sooner to the vital subject of wine; for without wine, I am convinced, there would be for occidental men no civilized living and eventually no civilization.  Wine is the very life-blood of our culture and has been since the darkest ages.  It is wholly good and almost supernaturally healthy.  Of all our benefits is most certainly God’s kindest gift, with God’s smile in it, a little parental present with no conditions attached, no retribution, no reserve.  It was not chance which made the First Miracle the turning of water into wine, and wine of a particularly heady quality, as we are authoritatively told.  Moreover, the greatness of our race has declined as we have drunk less of it, just as it rose with its increase, and this is no coincidence.
To those who rule us, and to those who have done so for the past thirty-five years, it has been an Import, a frivolous luxury to which a few rich men indulge, which may be taxed with impunity or barred rigorously from entrance to the country if that helps some artificial balance of trade.  It has become considered by successive Budget-makers the most superfluous of extravagances, a foreign fal-de-lal about which reactionaries like Chesterton and Belloc had a bee in their bonnets, a liquid of less consequence than eau-de-Cologne because instead of being sold by that earnest and useful chap the chemist it is retailed by out-moded and unpatriotic tradesmen called wine-merchants.  Necessary?  Perhaps ‘medicinal’ wines, as prescribed by the less conscientious doctors operating beyond the National Health Act might at times be thought necessary to patients who were prepared to pay for them privately, but wines, as such, are politically rated as the very antithesis of necessity, and no man with a social conscience, we are told, should want to purchase them.
Wine drinking except in the home and restaurant has been reduced to such an unhappy nadir in this country that a modern publican, asked what wines he has, will say promptly ‘Port or Sherry’, and offer you a thimbleful of a sweet cochineal-coloured chemical or a microscopic measure of a brown beverage which the Spanish call vino dulce and sell at a farthing a glass to any strong man who can stomach its liverish acerbity.  For these you will be charged two shillings a time.  I never see in fading letters on old inns the word[s] ‘Wines and Spirits’[,] or ‘Finest Quality Wines’, without regret for the days, not more than four decades back, when such advertisements spoke truth.  I remember in defence of Victorian England that a poor man might drink wine then, as Dickens shows us, while no prosperous household was without its cellar.  In promoting its restoration in the only ways we can, by drinking wine and offering it to our friends, by studying a little of the vast lore which has come to surround it in the seventy centuries or more of its existence, by encouraging those who speak for it, we are carrying out a conspicuous moral obligation.
So even if I have to sell a picture or write an unwelcome article, or keep one or two opulent creditors waiting in order to achieve it, I shall manage to have a few bottles of wine in hand, to choose them with care, to drink them with pleasure.


From Sherry by Rupert Croft-Cooke (London, 1955), p. 16:

[U]ntil some barbarian realizes that only by destroying wine can he destroy civilization we shall continue to drink Sherry.