Monday, 2 February 2015

Wine Without Fears

Fanny tends to leave the wine choices to Johnnie, he's the vino expert. Well, they are both experts of course, but Fanny concedes that Johnnie is more expert than her. Well, what she actually says is that he's more 'decorated' that her with wine qualifications. She is by contrast more 'decorated' with culinary awards, so it balances out, right? So, Fanny always defers to Johnnie for wine choices, handing him the meal plan when entertaining and letting him work his magic. Besides, he needs to have a leading role - they work so closely together in every other aspect of life and always divide their tasks. When travelling, Johnnie does the planning. When filming, he's the cameraman. Fanny is always the centrepiece, naturellement.


Fanny and Johnnie have written about wine almost as much as they have about food. In the beginnings of their Bon Viveur days the wines they drank were of as much interest as the meals they ate and the places the visited. They published a book in 1954, 'An ABC of Wine Drinking' to share their knowledge. Subtitled 'Wine Without Fears', their aim was not to inform the informed, but for those who knew nothing but desired to know more, protecting readers from exploitation, and protecting wines from misuse. Quite. Some of the illustrations suggest otherwise though. I'd say by the time the 1970's came along most readers were still novices where wine was concerned, or was that just my house? Blue Nun? Black Tower? Lambrusco? Not a mention by these two. They do however start with a word about the Italian Asti Spumanti. Don't.


In 1975, when Fanny was busy writing again herself, Johnnie updated their wine bible with a much expanded edition, Wine for Today. Fanny wrote the foreword, and indeed admits that she had little to do with the original book, it was all Johnnies own work she proudly tells us. For Fanny, wine is one of the only 'pleasures of the table' which a man (or woman) may indulge in three times a day every day of their lives. I've got a lot of catching up to do. Three times a day! No mention of units, or calories, or taking it easy, the Cradock way is to go for it full tilt. Fanny says that wine 'irons out the creases in our daily lives' and I have to say I agree. I love ironing.


In the partworks, different wines are considered each week, neatly matched to the foods Fanny is preparing and urging us to prepare. Johnnie has been handed the plan, and has the best selection to hand. Best not to get too excited about Italian wines though as Johnnie is quick to point out that they hang on to the best stuff, rarely exporting their best reds. How inconvenient. Johnnie says best not to 'ask too much' of any Italian Red really, but does have a few recommendations for the brave.


If you do travel regularly to Italy, like the Cradocks themselves, you'll already know to resist the local delicacy of Barolo served with Quinine, I can only imagine, but instead to look up a Sparkly Red called Lombardo which does not travel well. Even with cheese. Chianti is a safe Italian choice, although Johnnie feels it's a rough, claret-like quaff in comparison to other continents. And there is so much Government interference. French is best. If you do buy it, purchase only from a reputable seller and remember basic Chianti comes in whicker bottles, while Reserva is best.


Barolo should be the top Italian choice, with its floral bouquet lacking in nearly all the others, unless you can source the super Sicilian Corvo Rossi. So, it sounds like Fanny has done the right thing leaving the wine advice to Johnnie - his choices still stack up today among the over-crowded supermarket shelves. We all love wine now, although we may not be 'decorated' with qualifications on it, and don't all indulge in it three times a day. I'm working on it, plenty of 'ironing' to do. Can the Cradocks take the credit? Fanny certainly would, but Johnnie is slightly more modest. He reckons that you should take or leave his thoughts... After all, what he likes, or does not like, is of 'no importance' when what 'pleases you is the right choice, for you.' So, if you enjoy it, drink it, even if you are wrong. Maybe they are not so different old Johnnie and Fanny?

6 comments:

  1. The picture of the baby with the wine bottle seriously disturbs me! Funny to think wine used to be an unknown quantity here - I think red wine flows in my veins hic! ;)

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    1. It's so disturbing I may have to have a drink...

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  2. Three timers a day? Does Fanny say which wine is suitable for breakfast? (Champagne in a Buck's Fizz?)

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    1. No specific mention of breakfast, just that its all about clever matching with food... So depends what you have for brekkie I suppose!

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    2. "Dear Fanny, what wine do you recommend with a tin of Special Brew?" ;-)

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    3. She'd suggest a capful of Creme De Cacao (from a miniature bottle) just to give it a lift... :-)

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