I don’t want to give the impression that wine writing is a glamorous profession – it isn’t. But last Thursday evening I did somehow manage to find myself rubbing shoulders with Emma Thompson, Lee Mack, Michael Ball and Stephen Merchant. Actually it’s not possible to rub shoulders with Stephen Merchant unless you are seven feet tall or standing on a very high stool, but I was certainly within spitting distance and that was good enough for me.
The setting was Quaglinos restaurant in the heart of Mayfair which, even after all these years, still manages to maintain an air of glittering sophistication. The occasion was a huge charity dinner in aid of ActionAid, with a live auction and a celebrity panel game of ‘Call My Wine Bluff’ – hence the shoulder rubbing.
So what on earth was I doing there? Well I certainly hadn’t paid several thousands of pounds for a table, though anyone who had couldn’t possibly have been disappointed, it really was such a fantastic evening. No, I had been brought in as one of two Masters of Wine whose job it was to try to beat the audience at Call My Wine Bluff. Humiliation loomed large. Everyone was served a wine blind and we all had to guess which celebrity was telling a truthful story about its origins.
I won’t go into too much detail but it’s probably a good thing there were no more than 5 wines because things were getting pretty rowdy by the end. I got lucky on a couple – especially the English wine from our very own local Hampshire winery, Wickham Vineyards, which I couldn’t resist choosing and which happily turned out to be right.
The evening was a resounding success and raised a staggering £160 000 for ActionAid – the same figure as last year which is quite an achievement given the current economic climate. I’d like to think it was something to do with my contribution but I’ve a feeling that the combination of free-flowing wine and a Chelsea season ticket that was up for auction may have had slightly more to do with it.