The Spanish language newspaper Diario de Jerez has published a feature story on the wine merchants Saccone & Speed. The firm was founded and located in nearby Gibraltar and imported wine from, inter alia, the province of Jerez. A portion of the article is devoted to Evelyn Waugh’s brief connection to the firm:
The famous English writer, Evelyn Waugh, considered that Gibraltar enjoyed a unique position in this part of Andalusia: “A piece of Spain, linked by the narrow neck of neutral territory to the historic vineyards of Jerez”.
The Russian prince Vsévolod (1914-1973), was a director of the firm in London, and a friend of the acclaimed English writer Evelyn Waugh, whom he asked to write something about the wines in order to give it to a select group of his distinguished clientele .
On March 18, 1946, Waugh recorded in his diary the meeting he had with the Russian aristocrat in his office to deal with this matter, but not before obtaining in advance a box of Jerez and two burgundies. The agreement established a payment in kind: two dozen 1928 Roederer champagne, the result was one hundred copies, a beautiful booklet with illustrations by the artist Rex Whistler: Wine in Peace and War (London 1947). Currently in high demand by collectors and bibliophiles.
A year earlier, his novel, Brideshead Revisted, had been chosen as Book of the Month in the United States, which meant a significant amount of money. Waugh had a substantial gross income and anything else he earned would be taxed at 80%. Hence the suggestion that Waugh receive his remuneration in bubbles.
Of our wines, he writes: “Sherry is a very poorly used name, and even in the strictest sense, applicable to a wide variety of wines, from Manzanilla, as pale and dry as the color of noble wood, to heavy wine, sweet and dark that is sold under a variety of names, often like ‘East India’ or Solera … Nothing can be more delicious than a glass of pale Fino, very dry, cold, mid-day mid-summer. admirable before and at the beginning of the meals.
Like all good wine, it is best enjoyed in tranquility. The Sherry Party that has become fashionable recently is an abomination to me. However, as long as people continue to have fun between six and eight in the afternoon, they will find that Amontillados and Amorosos are a useful resource, less damaging and less expensive than cocktails.
The first and essential thing to keep in mind about wine is that it is something made to be enjoyed. The pleasure it provides is the only definitive measure of any harvest.
The corollary of this is that, like all good works of man, its pleasure is greatly enhanced by knowledge and experience.
The translation is by Google with minor edits. The language quoted from the book has with one exception (in the opening paragraph) been retranslated into English from a Spanish version of the text. The last five lines in the excerpt seem to be from Waugh’s text but I have been unable to account for them. The text of the book has never been reprinted in full but will, in good time no doubt, be included in volume 28 of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh: Essays, Articles and Reviews 1946-1955.