Last month, I had the good fortune to sit next to my old bachelor flatmate at a small party to celebrate his 75th birthday. Nothing particularly remarkable about that, except that my old flatmate happened to be the 'World’s greatest living explorer', Sir Ranulph Fiennes Bt.
We shared a flat in South Kensington and then in Chelsea. When I say 'shared', I don't really mean shared as such, because Ran was always away on expeditions and did not have an allocated bed, but this was his London base.
Unconventional maybe, but there is little conventional about the world’s greatest living explorer.
Ran is still the most engaging, the most self-effacing companion you could wish for at such an occasion. He is, of course, brilliant as a writer and lecturer. I talked about my latest book and he commented:
'Sherry is not normally available during my expeditions, but when I return home to Exmoor, I much look forward to a glass of fino for something light and dry, or oloroso – because it’s warming in the winter, nutty and full-bodied – before lunch at the weekends.’
Ran's pioneering has taken him up Everest and to both Poles, but there is nothing like sherry, or champagne, to break the ice and to be on-hand for home-coming celebrations.
Ran is a leader in every respect and it is good to know that sherry features in his select repertoire.
I am constantly amazed and delighted that when I ask friends of all ages about sherry. They admit to liking the occasional glass but seem a little guilty, as though admitting to a weakness that has not yet been prescribed as OK.
My rejoinder is that they are in the forefront of a major trend. In taste terms, quality fino or manzanilla sherry is on a par with champagne. In trend terms, sherry is hot on the heels of gin.
Look at how fast gin has sprinted in the past few years. Sherry is just warming up – or chilling down – to join this exciting race.
My own preference this week is still for the summer favourites, manzanilla and fino.