don't whine, spit it out

Life IS full of disappointments but one event never palls: our local Summer Wine Fair, where, for a small subscription, one can swig champagne, port, claret, sherry and vintages of every hue, and not have to buy a drop. Last year the organisers seemed to put every obstacle possible in the way of anyone wanting to buy. We finally managed to order a case of crisp New World Fume Blanc and six bottles of a wonderful toffee muscat, but it took perserverance to do it.

HARMONY ON THE TERRACES

Unspoilt, quiet, visitor-friendly, with spectacularly rugged scenery, the Douro Valley is Portugal's port wine- making centre. But you don't have to be a drinker to relax into a lazy, hazy summer retreat down on the `quinta'

GRAPEVINE: KATHRYN McWHIRTER ON NEW REDS FROM PORTUGAL

GROWING grapes for port is the main occupation of the isolated farmers up in the wild and beautiful Douro mountains in the north of Portugal. Apart from the port, they have always made some tough red wine to drink themselves. They need to be self-sufficient here. Many farms are up tortuous, precipitous dirt tracks among the massive hills that roll out for miles on either side of the Douro River. But it is only recently that a few big firms, and a very few individual estates, have begun making more approachable, quality red wines intended for the outside world. And the most exciting of these so far is the estate of Quinta do Crasto.

The Bacchae: The Library Theatre, Manchester and on tour

Euripides' The Bacchae is strong meat, literally. Its dominant image is of dismemberment, animal and then human flesh seized alive and devoured in the furthest reach of frenzy available to human kind.

Xavier's list ... peerless pin-ups ... Jagger nominates Queen

Captain Moonlight\

There's never a dull moment, I find, at the Ministry of Fun

THIS IS the column that likes to please. And, with the Tory conference about to start, I thought it might be helpful to show you what Virginia Bottomley has been up to recently. So just look up at my top bit, if you will. Virginia, they tell me, is now Secretary of State for National Heritage; my pictures will give you some idea of the range of her activities. Good outdoor stuff, although many people thought it a tad ambitious to go in for the Tour de France so soon after Wimbledon. There was also a rumour she was on the bench for England in the Rugby League World Cup, but I'd take that with a pinch of salt, if I were you. I thought Geoffrey Howe had retired, too. And who's the guy in the pink? But, yes, you're right, that one does show her being wired up for the Internet.

faces to watch in the art world 3. Catherine Yass

Catherine Yass uses photography to scrutinise power and institutions. By interacting with her subjects she turns their smiles into cries for help, and their vanity becomes their downfall.

Brown study ... port in a storm ... Major's favourite read guide

YOU had your own concerns last week: would Imran Khan and Jemima Goldsmith be able to find true happiness; would those poor people in that soap opera be freed on appeal; what, quite, is the point of Sebastian Coe? I, for my part, have been pondering a more intriguing story which is the talk of the highest salons in the land. Sir Steven Runciman, the great historian, given access to the archives at Balmoral, opens up a book, and out flutters a document confirming the marriage of Queen Victoria and her faithful Scots servant, John Brown. Sir Steven takes said document to Queen Mother, who examines it, declares it most interesting and throws it on the fire in front of them. Well. I telephone Sir Steven, 91, who finds it most interesting, even if he has never seen the Balmoral archives. But did I know about the missing diary of the Marchioness of Ely which records Brown's father offering her champagne outside his cottage after the visit within of the Queen, John Brown and a minister? Or the woman called Brown in New York who told a great-great-grandson of Victoria that they were closely related? Fascinating, but unproved, says Sir Steven, genially. I replace the receiver, reflecting that there's more to this history business than you might think.

Down to the sea in Schiffen

REAR WINDOW: THE LAUNCHING OF LINERS

Postcard from Brittany: When you're honeymooning in France, you have to make a meal of it

France is so romantic: Abelard and Helose, Sartre and de Beauvoir, Seberg and Belmondo, Robert Doisneau, champagne at dawn, the language of lurve. We got engaged in Paris, so what better place to spend our honeymoon than the lush hills and wild coast of Brittany?

When a tattoo gets under your skin: Carole wanted a butterfly on her back, like a 'Vogue' model, but she soon regretted it. Now it's the laser gun treatment. Rosie Millard reports

Carole Carter sits in a GP's surgery in Bradford, dressed only in a bra and trousers. Dr Tim Callaghan is leaning over her naked back, directing a thin red beam which flashes out from a laser gun every few seconds on to her skin. A knocking sound rings round the surgery from the machine, and Mrs Carter winces with discomfort every time the beam pulses. Mrs Carter is having a tattoo removed from her back at the Laserase centre in Bradford.

FOOD & DRINK / New preservation orders: Nobody has to make their own jam or pickles any more. But grandmother's forgotten skills can be a real pleasure to acquire, writes Michael Bateman

WHEN John Major urged us Back to Basics, he didn't mean Old Testament basics. He didn't intend to unseat every morally weak, yet otherwise excellent, constituency MP in the land. But he was right to sense the mood of the Nineties, even if it's a spirit of conservation not Conservatism that's in the air. As is conserving: in the kitchen there is a new enthusiasm about getting back to basics.

Food & Drink: Learning the score about wine: Sir Harrison Birtwistle finds richer pickings for his cellar in rural France than he did on his remote Scottish isle, says Anthony Rose

Ten years ago, Sir Harrison Birtwistle and his wife, Lady Sheila, exchanged their remote crofter's cottage on the island of Raasay, near Skye, for a farmhouse near Gramat

FOOD & DRINK / Grapevine: Kathryn McWhirter selects some best buys for Spring

'WHAT a job - you can't really call it a job]' exclaim the other mothers at the school gate on hearing that I've spent the afternoon tasting 60 wines. It's not always as much fun as they think, spitting your way through a table full of wines costing less than pounds 3.50 a bottle. Of the handful of star wines that made it all worthwhile, only one inexpensive wine this week was white: *1992 Rueda, Hermanos Lurton ( pounds 3.49 selected Sainsbury's), made by French gurus in central Spain, is very attractive and easy-drinking, crisp, grassy and slightly tropical-fruity.

Obituary: Max Schubert

Max Schubert, winemaker: born Moculta, South Australia 9 February 1915; Assistant Winemaker, Penfolds 1940-48, Production Manager (Chief Winemaker) 1948-75; married (one son, one daughter); died Adelaide 6 March 1994.
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