A few weeks after the appearance of an article about Waugh’s Wine in Peace and War appeared in a regional Spanish paper, another article has appeared in the Canary Islands. This is by Luis M Alonso and is entitled “El genio satírico jamás ironizó sobre el vino” (“The satiric genius is never ironic about wine”). It appears in the paper El Día: La Opinion de Tenerife. The previous article was more about Waugh’s attachment to the wine merchants Saccone & Speed who commissioned the book, whereas this latest one is more about the book itself and its place in Waugh’s oeuvre. After a brief summary of Waugh’s early work, focusing primarily on Vile Bodies (Cuerpos viles in Spanish), that introductory portion concludes:
Satire, in any age, is a type of writing that draws its energy from an essentially critical and subversive view of the world. It thrives on the absurd contradictions of the human being. Waugh dismissed that qualification on the grounds that satire flourishes in a stable society and presupposes homogeneous moral standards. However, it is not a disposable wrap around a set of positive moral precepts. His early novels have an essentially satirical motivation. They are founded on an ironic, impartial and comprehensive vision of the claims and follies of each class, profession, race and even religion. They are based on the idea of decline. His great admirer, another homorous author David Lodge, once said the title of his first novel, Decline and Fall, could serve to title all of them without exception.
The remainder of the article is devoted to Wine in Peace and War and is translated by Google below (with some edits):
Waugh crowned 1948 [sic], the year that concluded a great cycle, by writing on commission an influential wine guide stripped of his characteristic sharp humor but full of knowledge and judgment. In England, his loyal fans have never stopped talking about it. Waugh was a refined drinker who started racking beer, sherry and port between hours, passionate about champagne, and ended up showing a special predisposition to the great reds of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The pleasure that wine brings was, for him, the only definitive proof of any harvest. The corollary, as for any connoisseur, was based on the fact that this pleasure was greatly improved thanks to knowledge and experience. But a connoisseur and an epicurean need not necessarily be synonymous. The first is a scholar or a specialist, the second pursues pleasure for its own sake. Learning sometimes involves pain. There are those who drink with the concern of being caught in bad judgment and do not enjoy. Waugh encouraged one to drink copiously and without complexes.
In the guide, commissioned by the historic wine merchant Saccone & Speed Ltd, of which he was a regular customer, he describes champagne as “naked beauty” and argues, as everyone would later verify, that it is an acceptable drink at all hours of the day and night and can be accompanied by any type of food. The drunkenness it causes also has, he suggested, less serious consequences than that caused by other drinks. Then he said that if he had to choose a fermented liquor as his only companion for life, he would choose the great sparkling French.
Regarding sherry, his judgment is unquestionable, “nothing can be more delicious than a glass of Fino pale, very dry, refrigerated at midday, in the middle of summer.” And that it is an admirable aperitif before and at the beginning of any dinner and it is best enjoyed in tranquility. […] Of port he wrote that it is not a drink for young people, the vain and active. […] Of Château d’Yquem, the great sauternes of all time, he says that it is a liqueur wine to drink very slowly when the thirst is completely quenched.
Burgundy. Ah, the burgundy. Waugh advances in a short thesis the characteristics of a terroir in which very different wines are entitled to the same communal title. “The Château Margaux of a given year”, he writes referring to one of the great Bordeaux houses, “is a definite, invariable wine; two bottles of authentic Chambertin of the same year, blended by different merchants, may be very different indeed”.
When Waugh was commissioned to write the Wine in Peace and War guide, Brideshead Revisited had been voted America’s Book of the Month. The characters in the novel, Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, in a heady scene drink a bottle of Château Peyraguey while eating strawberries and smoking Turkish cigars on a grassy knoll. Together they discover the castle’s cellar and test their reservations night after night. At dinner in Paris, at Paillard, with Rex Mottram, Ryder chooses a bottle of Montrachet from 1906 to accompany a sole and Clos de Bèze, from 1904, for the duck. Brideshead is one of the most oenological novels I have ever read.
Saccone & Speed Ltd’s agreement with the writer was that Waugh would get a dozen bottles of champagne from the firm for every 1,000 words he wrote. Since he was able to write 2,000 a day, he knew right away that he could soon wash his hair with it. When he finished, 192 bottles were alloted to him. It’s not bad at all.
The book is undated but is usually thought to have been published in 1947. It is listed before Scott-King’s Modern Europe in the Waugh Bibliography.