Boris Johnson, the alcohol fridge and the lockdown celebrations

Two weeks ago, when public interest in the Downing Street lockdown parties was at its height, BBC Radio 4’s satirical News quiz began with a game designed to help participants determine whether they were “at work or not at work”. Host Andy Zaltzman urged them to “check to see if everyone you usually work with has come in with a bottle of wine and is now getting hammered. . . If so, ask yourself, “Am I a professional wine taster?” “Yes !” I shouted at the radio. Yet wine’s small share in eroding public trust in government is no joke.

For me, it has been impossible to ignore the role wine has played in the recent pantomime of British politics. Bottles pictured at a rally in the Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020 have been taken as proof it was not a ‘work event’, as Boris Johnson claims, but a a party. And each new leak produced new accusations about the wine.

The Mirror newspaper unearthed a photograph of a special wine fridge delivered to the back door of 10 Downing Street so that staff could keep their bottles cool in the summer for ‘Wine Hour Friday’ meetings, which the Prime Minister would have encouraged.

Until very recently, wine was perceived as an elitist drink, a symbol of luxury. Johnson’s apparent advocacy could be seen as a reckless disregard for the mood and sacrifices of the electorate. That a member of staff was sent to the Co-op on the Strand (open 24 hours) to fill a suitcase with wine towards the end of not one but two going away parties held on April 16, 2021, the day before of Prince Philip’s funeral, is for some, the ultimate proof that Downing Street was run as an après-ski bar during the pandemic.

By contrast, the only misstep the Tories have pinned on Labor leader Keir Starmer is that he was spotted with a beer and a takeaway at a constituency office in northern England in 2021 No wine was involved, just the ferment of the worker. When it comes to breaking Covid rules, even Johnson’s most ardent supporters have struggled to compare Starmer’s beer to the multiple wine-fueled revels held at and around 10 Downing Street over the past two last years.

No less disturbing, perhaps, is what has been going on inside the Houses of Parliament for decades. Its generous supply of bars, with their liberal opening hours, may make Westminster more of a cozy club than an efficient place to work. A friend of mine, who ran a successful political lobbying business from an office on the corner of Downing Street, had a winning formula for combining her own distaste for daytime drink with the need to satisfy her thirst and ego. guest. She ordered half a bottle of champagne for the two of them and sipped cautiously.

Wine also appears to be playing a major role in the campaign of a possible candidate to replace Boris Johnson, Liz Truss. The Foreign Secretary is said to have courted his fellow MPs with invitations to events called “Fizz with Liz”. Wine also played a role in his widely reported ‘trade negotiations’ with US and EU officials, respectively, at the glamorous 5 Hertford Street members’ club, according to correspondence leaked by The Sunday Times, and his official Chevening country residence in Kent.

(In contrast, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, another favorite to replace Johnson, should he be ousted, is a self-proclaimed abstainer who, contrary to longstanding tradition, did not present his budget to the shipping box. with a glass of beer or British whiskey. In the current climate of popular opinion, guaranteed sobriety is likely a premium.)

For months, when millions of ordinary people were deprived of a convivial afterwork with friends, the staff of 10 Downing Street continued to celebrate. It might seem, especially because of the late-night shopping at the supermarket, that the main goal was to drink as much as possible. Know-how seems to have played little role.

I’m really ashamed of how this excessive drinking looks like the rest of the world. As James Lawther, a British Master of Wine who has lived in Bordeaux for decades, put it somewhat dismissively in an email, “wine drinking in France still happens around the table with food. appropriate (not a bag of crisps)”.

Thomas De Waen, an oenophile friend from Brussels who works in private equity, is equally dismissive. “Losing Downing Street for La Tâche [one of the world’s rarest burgundies] would be a shame but at least understandable. Losing it for a case of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is negligent at best.

When it comes to drinking at work, he underlines the difference between the British political world and the real go-getters in the business world. For him and his peers, “being drunk at a professional event, whatever the occasion, is really frowned upon. A career-limiting move is pretty bad. He adds: “I don’t think someone like BoJo, whose whole career is built around not being particularly serious, can climb that high in France or Germany.”

Personally, I am delighted that wine has become a fully democratic drink in the UK. But I never imagined that he would find himself implicated in the weakening of our entire democratic system.

Superior Party Wines

Careful planning rather than a late night dash is recommended for these. Several styles of wine lend themselves particularly well to drinking without overeating. Some particularly useful examples are given below.


This is a grape whose unoaked wines are a bit like Goldilocks’ favorite mush: not too heavy, not too light, with lots of fruit, but not a strong flavor for anyone to notice. opposite. Some of the best values ​​are those of one of the most ambitious Alsatian cooperatives such as Turckheim or Hunawihr.

  • Cave de Turckheim Pinot Blanc 2020 Alsace 13%
    £8.25 The Wine Society, £10 Wine Poole of Warwick, £10.45 D’Arcy of Cheltenham, £10.50 Woodwinters of Stirling

  • Cave de Hunawihr, Klevner Reserve Pinot Blanc 2019 Alsace 13%
    £14.50 Moreton Wine Merchants, £14.90 Shekleton of Stamford, £15 Harvey Nichols

  • Domaine Weinbach Pinot Blanc 2020 Alsace 13.8%
    €19.98 Justerini & Brooks


A grand Chablis is arguably too serious for evening drinking, but an early drinkable example like a Petit Chablis from one of the ripest recent vintages would be appetizing, satisfying, not too alcoholic and approachable.


Low in tannin, fruity, refreshing, relatively light.

  • Domaine de la Grosse Pierre 2019 Chiroubles 13%
    14 €

  • Domaine de la Grosse Pierre, Claudius 2019 Chiroubles 13%
    €19.95 Haynes Hanson & Clark

  • Grappin 2019 St-Amour 13%
    £26.99 Banstead Winemakers, £28 Highbury Winemakers

Tasting notes on the Violet Pages of More resellers of

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