A lost opportunity

Almost anyone you speak to about the recent royal wedding will agree that the British have a gift for organising such events. Never mind that they invented this sort of ritual in the 18th century and injected a level of ceremonial and ritualistic procedure as a way of invoking a patriotic verve to what would otherwise have been rather dull and routine affairs. The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle followed the usual pattern, giving a gloss and flair to what is becoming the obligatory democratisation of European monarchies.

The wedding breakfast menu is now a matter of record. Scottish langoustines, lamb from the Windsor royal estate and pork from Sandringham. And to toast the happy couple? A British sparkler, surely? Well, actually no. The old favourite of the royal household and By Appointment choice, Pol Roger Champagne. Hackles have been raised among British wine growers, and quite rightly so. What better opportunity could there have been to show the guests that internationally recognised brands such as Camel Valley, Chapel Down, Nyetimber, Harrow & Hope and Gusborne are as good as any country can produce, and indeed have scored more highly than French bubbly in blind tastings? For the official visit of Spain's king and queen in 2017, the wines choice was an English fizz, Camel Valley, a white Burgundy and a Ribera del Duero. No-one's feathers ruffled there. The organisation of many official banquets is contracted out to independent catering companies, which also have a say in what is served. So the knee-jerk reaction was to order Pol Roger with no questions asked, rather along the lines of no-one got fired for ordering IBM, as they used to say at the onset of the computer revolution in the USA.

Can you imagine any other European country turning its back on its own wines at such an important event? Rather like President Macron serving Italian wines at an official banquet, or Angela Merkel hosting a dinner at which Spanish wines were served?