Sir Kingsley Amis was right on countless counts, I'm sure. But on two things in particular: the German wine label is one of them (the other is English grammar).
German wines seem to me to be under-loved generally (blame this wee maiden), but among their genuine lovers they are nonpareil. I know of one such soul whom, prompted with that canard about a deserted island and three items, chose a cork-screw and two bottles of Egon Muller.
The classic Rieslings are indeed peerless. But nothing vexed me so much during my wine exams than the sight of a German label. Entire German words can last longer than many sentences. The classification system is easy enough with enough familiarity, but to the wet-behind-the-ears naif it is as accessible as Stalag Luft.
Thank heavens then for the 'new wave' of German wines, which we hope will open up that great country's wines to a whole new contemporary market. And thank heavens too forGerman Wine Agencies, who are bringing those wines to these shores.
Their portfolio tasting last week, housed in a trendy Earl's Court hotel, was serene and efficient, quiet and contemplative. No fussiness, just letting the wines (and their labels) do the talking.
We have a bit of a thing for labels at Red Squirrel Wine (hang around us long enough and you'll notice we also have a bit of a thing for "a bit"). And there aren't many finer than the likes of Markus Schneider, Oliver Zeter, Matthias Runkel and Langenwalter (see images to the right).
They were only the prettiest of the bunch too. Just about every wine there tasted very, very good indeed.
Schneider's Riesling develops on you out of nowhere. His Ursprung (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Portugieser & Cabernet Mitos) is sweetly perfumed and superbly balanced. While the show-stopping Black Print (St Laurent, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Mitos & Cabernet Dorsa) is as much of a mouthful in tasting as it is in speaking: smooth, supple and very impressive.
The 'Z' Cuvee by Oliver Zeter (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah) has stunning precision, with herbs, mint and green pepper bouncing around as playfully as the teddy bears on his other labels - such as the pronounced, ripe Sauvignon Blanc.
Thorsten Langenwalter makes a mean Gewurztraminer: classic aromas and on the palate as elegant as the bottle. We also loved the leathery, strawberry wildness of Holger Koch's organic Pinot Noir Kaiserstuhl 2011. His Herrenstuck is if anything even earthier and more of a wine to pair with foods.
Georg Fogt surprised and delighted us with his 2011 Dornfelder & Potugieser: meaty and spicy yet still light and easy to drink. Lisa Bunn doesn't go in for the modern labelling but even so, her vintage approach is endearing rather than dated. And her 2010 Pinot Noir is just lovely: perfumed and plummy, even figgy.
Matthias Runkel's Pinot Noir 2009 was perhaps even better still. It shows a bit more ageing, more 'animal' complexity (smoked bacon anyone?) and just wants to go on and on and on.
Binz + Bratt are one of the more forward-thinking and radical producers (yes, even among this gang). Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon isn't a commonly seen combination, the two grapes thought to be at the opposite ends of most spectra. Yet it looked like a Pinot and smelled like a Cab, it had good acidity, and all things considered the experiment worked.
The whole lot taken together though are far from a trendy experiment. This is German viticulture and - crucially - marketing brought into the twenty-first century. The wines look great, and they taste greater.
And considering the amount of screw-caps on show, my old friend could take a third bottle to their deserted island and forget the corkscrew altogether.