Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Semillons rise again

My eyes are on stalks and my mouth wide open. In front of me are eight middle-aged men in double-stringed red thongs. Their powder white skin paired with the red G-strings makes them look like Santa's little helpers.

With cocky, come-hither expressions, they begin thrusting and gyrating in their thongs, and 300 excited women scramble to the stage to catch a glimpse of The Semillons in action. I've never seen so much flesh.

The hotly anticipated strip tease has been five years in the making. In 2005, Decanter's Tasting Director Christelle Guibert rounded up the original Semillons troupe, made up of such wine world luminaries as The Times wine critic Tim Atkin, importer Michael Palij, the aptly-named Wines of Chile head Michael Cox and Waitrose wine buyer Andrew Shaw, who stripped down to their birthday suits to raise money for Everyman, Europe's only male cancer research centre.

Five years on, Christelle treated us to some fresh blood in the form of the (even more) aptly named Barry Dick, wine buyer for Sainsbury's, bright young sommelier Gearoid Devany, Vinopolis MD Rupert Ellwood and The Independent's wine critic Anthony Rose. As soon as the guys hit the stage, high-pitched screams bounce around the room like ping pong balls. It's a full on oestrogen fest, like some large scale, slightly terrifying hen night. The troupe, who clearly think they are gods by this point, react positively to their warm reception, throwing themselves into the routine with brio.

Michael Cox and Anthony Rose are my side of the stage. Cox is in his element, flexing his muscles and gyrating his hips like his life depended on it. A Chippendales contract surely beckons. Rose however, seems slightly more aware of his semi-naked state. Tim is a natural, and throws some impressive shapes. His facial expressions veer between agony and ecstasy. Barry Dick, with his buff, sporty body, gets the loudest screams and the most bottom pinches.

Aside from the excitement of the main event, all manner of other treats await. Ex French rugby international turned Languedoc winemaker Gerard Bertrand is auctioned off at half time. I'd interviewed design and restaurant mogul Sir Terence Conran earlier that day and told him about the auction. He responded with a raised eyebrow. 'So what do you get for your money then?' He asked. 'I'm not sure yet', I replied. Looking dashing in a charcoal grey suit, Bertrand is sent up on stage and made to wait while the auction takes place. He went for £120 to a lucky blonde. I later spotted her glued to him next to the Comte wheel.

The Semillons were the talk of the Decanter office the next morning. I don't think I can ever look at Anthony Rose and co in quite the same light again. The phone rings. It's Sir Terence Conran. 'So how did your auction go then?', he asks me. 'He went for £120', I tell him. 'And what did the winning bidder get for that then?', he asks, intrigued. 'A dance and a quick chat afterwards', I say, 'For £120 I would have wanted a lot more than that', he says, laughing, and puts the phone down.

1 comment:

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