Under the careful supervision of my father, I began drinking wine with meals at the age of five. Although mixed with water, it was unmistakably wine and we would discuss the taste and bouquet while my father would explain where and how it was made. At the same age, with the warm encouragement of my mother, I began a lifelong love-affair with books.
My earliest memories involve Christopher Robin, with Pooh and Tigger and then Rat and Mole from the Wind in the Willows. Weekends were spent lying on the floor in the local library, lost in the worlds of Kipling and Dickens and, above all, my beloved John Buchan. Another early memory concerns Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and asking my mother to explain ''But did thee feel the earth move?''
Shakespeare of course became an early love of mine and I still thrill to hear Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV , boldly proclaiming the joys and wonders of a glass, or two, of sherry. Likewise, in Richard III, I still feel a chill when the two murderers arrive at the Tower of London with orders to drown the Duke of Clarence in a barrel of wine. When the unsuspecting Duke asks the men for a glass of wine, the ‘second murderer’ calms him with a reassuring, “You shall have wine enough my lord, anon.”
And it is not just the English who associate wine with books. The twelfth-century Persian poet, Omar Kayan, famously wrote:
"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"