How much? Nested digressions around Aussie wine .
Penfold's Grange Bin 95, as it used to be called, is red wine made from the shiraz or
syrah grape - in the past usually with variable though generally small amounts of caber-
net sauvignon added - from southern Australia, specifically from near Adelaide. This is
my favourite wine, and trust me I've tried a few. Ann's favourite is the even more gulp-
ingly expensive Pétrus from Bordeaux, but I just don't get it with Pétrus, or any of the
other fine French wines I've sampled over the years in my valiant attempts to find one
that surpasses Grange. They may well all be great, but Grange is, for me, just in another
league; I am simply in love with its fruitily unplumbable depths. That subjectivity thing,
Ann and I first tasted the stuff in a brilliant little restaurant called Floodlite in
Masham, Yorkshire. Masham is the spiritual home of Theakston's Old Peculier, the lun-
atic broth of Yorkshire, the famed and - at the time - idiotically strong real ale of sweet,
chewy darkness and sudsy strength. Ann and I's first date, back in London in 1980, in-
volved Old Peculier. We went after work from Denton Hall and Burgin's offices on High
Holborn to the Sun on Lamb's Conduit Street. I'd heard it was a good real-ale pub and
had wanted to check it out for a while. I was confident this attractive blonde secretary I'd
invited for a drink would be on the Bacardi and Cokes, but at least I could have a decent
'Oh, they do Old Peculier,' I said as we approached the bar and I saw the sign on the
tap. 'I know what I'm having.'
'So do I,' said Ann.
'So, what'll it be?'
'A pint of Old Peculier,' she said, indignant at not having been understood.
It was not brilliant, it was embarrassing. We drank and drank and I ran out of money
and had to borrow a fiver off Ann, which has never been a cool thing to do on a first date.
Plus she drank me under the table. We had a pint of Sam Smith's down on the Strand and
I saw her onto a bus home, then I somehow got myself back to McCartney's flat, where I
was staying while I looked for a place of my own. I lay on the floor and told a bemused
Dave I had just met this wonderful girl who liked a drink as much as me! Hurrah!
Some of this was Les McFarlane's fault (I imagine you'd already guessed that). He'd
been to Tadcaster in Yorkshire on a field trip with his Economics class from Paisley Col-
lege. some years earlier and had come back enthusing about this wonderful beer called
Theakston's Old Peculier. We discovered that you could buy this strange, darkly powerful
ale of insanity in Glasgow, and became its apostles. A bunch of us had gone on a pil-