A Toast to Plonk and Roman Plonkers

02/10/2013 12:53 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

I have never been one to underestimate the value of wine.

In years to come, museums will undoubtedly exhibit my liver - they won't need to preserve it, since painstaking years of pickling will have saved them the bother - as a testament to Mankind's love affair with the amber nectar.

However, this does not mean I know chuff all about it, aside from the fact that Cheese and Onion crisps are rather pleasing with a beaker of Pinot Noir and that white wine and my dignity are rarely chums.

So I determined to nerd up on vino and give old Bacchus a run for his money, ahead of our wedding, because nobody would be wrapping ties around heads or knee-sliding across the dancefloor without a few, potent grapes in their tums. And I had to select nifty wines, because many of our guests are civilised types, who would write strongly-worded letters and cast withering looks throughout the reception, if undesirable plonk was foisted before them.

Half of my dad's brain is reserved specifically for the knowledge and appreciation of wine - he's the sort who doesn't feel like a massive arse when the waiter asks him to taste it, unselfconsciously sloshing it around the glass and presenting an assertive nostril for a savvy sniff.

So when he suggested Naked Wines as the supplier of our table wines and sparkling arrivals drinks, I was all over it like a powerful moss.

They support top quality, independent wine makers around the world, with a little help from winos like me. So we set up an Angels account shortly before buying our wedding booze, paying as little as £20 a month towards our next order and instantly getting wholesale prices, saving us silly amounts of money and making us feel like giant, Bob Geldof-esque philanthropists, supporting independent winemakers. It also enabled us to interact with the winemakers themselves - as well as other plonk-quaffers - to help us make our decision.


I chose six wines, including the Liz Richardson Cabernet Sauvignon. I felt it was jolly important to include a female grape-botherer because - as my boffing-up has taught me - there are few female wine-makers around, which is a jolly poor show, since it was a WOMAN who discovered wine: a member of Persian King Jamsheed's harem tried to bump herself off by drinking fermented grapes, which were thought to be poisonous, but found herself to be "rejuvenated and lively" rather than dead, afterwards. Women are also better tasters, because we have a superior sense of smell. On the down-side, the fairer sex are more susceptible to the crying-in-the-doorway-with-vomit-down-a-blouse effects of wine than men, because we have less of the stomach lining enzyme required to metabolize booze effectively. Swings and roundabouts.

For the arrivals drinks, we nabbed a heroic amount of the frighteningly easy to glug Sacchetto Prosecco NV and our guests showed their appreciation verbally, or by stripping naked and performing a willy-copter in the photo booth or falling into the wheelbarrow of ice and beers after the meal.

We turned to Knightor, a boutique winery, which was a mere biscuit-throw away from our Eden Project venue, for the all-important toasting drinks. It's a delicious, 18th Century farmstead built on the site of the Medieval Knightor Manor, and was hosting a wedding in its pretty courtyard the day our own rabble of wedding ne'er-do-wells descended for a wine tasting.


It's possible that they regretted booking us in for their Winemakers Tour, when it became horribly apparent that all of my bridesmaids had a very special place in their collective trousers for the dashing young chap who guided us through their display vines and provided a tutored tasting of their wines.

Nonetheless, they filled the English Wine section of my brain - previously a gaping void, untroubled by anything bar the occasional, passing tumbleweed - with information about Blighty's very own vino. Knightor's wines are made from grapes grown on their own vineyards at nearby Portscatho and Seaton, as well as grapes from other selected English growers.

We sampled their lovely Knightor NV sparkling wine, which I chose for our wedding toasts, because it made my tongue chuffed to be of service to me. And I learned that celebratory toasts began with the ancient Romans, who dropped toasted bread into their wine to buffer unsavoury tastes and acidity. I was beginning to raise my hand for a high-five across the ages to the Romans, when I was told that any husbands who found their wives drinking wine, were at liberty to kill them, because early Roman women were forbidden from knocking back plonk. While my husband may want to kill me after I've enjoyed a tipple, I chest-bump our law-makers for denying him this relief.

It's fortunate that Roman ladies were having Blue Nun bottles prised from their mitts, because foolish chaps of the Empire added lead to wine to give it a sweet flavour and succulent texture, and the chronic lead poisoning that resulted from this is one of the main causes of Rome's decline. That'll learn them.

Apparently, my hooter wasn't seeking out a bouquet at the tasting, because that's reserved for mature wines. The smell of Knightor's "young wines" is referred to as an "aroma." And I was floating along their aromas like a squiffy Bisto Kid, as we sampled their flagship Knightor Pinot Gris 2011, followed by a gaggle of bottles including their UKVA-winning First Vintage Rosé 2010, which we were lucky to sup, because they only made a special run of 1000 bottles. All of the wines had a strong after taste, which is apparently a massive wow, because rubbish wines have short aftertastes.

And - as well as the fact that a cork from a shaken champagne bottle can reach 100MPH - I learnt that it's the knees of the most buzzy bees, in terms of health. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, stroke, and gum disease and the Tanin in red wine is a deeply ace antioxidant. Even that old lush of medicine, Hippocrates, included wine in almost every one of his remedies.

So I've concluded that my new-found wine knowledge and talent for drinking will surely result in my invincibility.

And I raise a glass (or twelve) to that.