An academic approach to acquiring fine wine

Tony Harries owns up to a sneaky student scheme he used to snap up some serious wine. His big bag, it turns out, was not full of books.

I’m going to start with a confession; a youthful indiscretion and I know that when you first read this you’ll be shocked. Hopefully by the time you get to the end you might actually wish that I’d done worse. I want to talk about something I invented, called ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’!

Now before you get your undies in a lather, I’m not talking about the fine institution that performs such sterling work combating alcohol addiction. I’m talking about a game I invented when I was a poor Oxford student.

In those days, I thought it was important to look well-trousered in the cash department, because back then, well-off Oxford students would have rather talked to a communist than somebody with the stench of poverty clinging to their clothing.

I was quite a social chap in those days and would go to the opening of an envelope if there was a whiff of booze attached. Now let me add that at quite a few of the parties I attended, it was de rigueur to take a bottle of something, and my bottle of Mateus Rosé always rested sulkily untouched on many a table. Don’t forget that these were the days when my wine aspirations far exceeded the stretch of my wallet. It was after one of these embarrassing sessions that my version of Alcoholics Anonymous came into being.

I planned my venture with a purpose akin to stealing the Crown Jewels. Firstly, I only started attending those events where I knew there would be quite a crowd, because deceit loves a gang.

The next thing I did was to arrive with a big heavy bag, as though I’d just arrived from a laborious studying session on Pliny the Elder (it is amazing how many people still walk away if his name comes up at a party).

I then plonked my cheap wine proudly among the exhibits on the heaving drinks table as I loudly wondered what on earth a bottle of Chateau Margaux was. The pride that I showed in my bottle of Hungarian Bull’s Blood would be sure to allay suspicion in my nefarious activities, as those in attendance would assume I knew little about the world of fine wine.

It was now time to clear the room and send them rushing out of the kitchen and on to the dance floor, or a heavy necking session on the nearest sofa. It’s amazing how people in those days preferred dancing to Black Lace than hearing about the works of some dead Roman writer. I am sure that this is still the case!

I’m not sure if my fellow students noticed the odd bottle of First Growth leaving the party in my big, but empty, bag. I wasn’t bad at acting in those days and the way I carried it implied an awful lot of books were contained within.

If you’re feeling a little shocked by all of this, please don’t be. I did comfort myself by previous observations that most of the time the well-heeled who attended often preferred beer and had only brought the top-notch vino to show-off to friends or to try and impress a young lady who had not succumbed to their epic moves when dancing to ‘Agadoo’.

Let’s not forget that if my stratagem ever failed, there was always a bottle of Hungarian Bull’s Blood waiting for me if my effort to take ‘alcohol anonymously’ didn’t work.

I told you at the start that you might be shocked by this confession. I also said that at the end of this tale you might even wish I’d have done worse, and this is because at a number of these functions one or two people who provided me with a better class of wine have since become well-known senior politicians.

Just call it revenge with foresight!