Some years ago, around this pre-Christmas period, I was asked to contribute to a Yuletide programme on BBC Radio Norfolk.

With unrestrained vanity I agreed long before I had weighed up potential problems.

The day arrived and I travelled to the studios in Norwich having had the producer offer a firm but polite reminder 24 hours earlier. I had developed cold feet and was seeking an excuse to cancel, but I did as I was told and set off in good time, having been reassured that they were in awe of my “anticipated contribution”, and they were convinced that I was “the best choice available”.

Upon arrival I entered the hub of radio communications and was, with a calm urgency common to media activity, thrust into the green room (a sofa in reception) for a briefing. The reason for my increased alarm, were those three spine- chilling words – The Phone-In.

My task was to sit alongside the resident DJ during his hour-long programme, and field questions about wines that were most appropriate over the Christmas period. I was introduced as “The Wine Connoisseur”, another term I have come to loathe, whilst questions were invited from the expectant audience. The programme was broadcast live, so I was hoping the telephone calls would be simple and infrequent. They turned out to be elaborate and numerous.

As if the questions were not daunting enough, a nearby monitor illuminated the next caller’s enquiry whilst I was still battling with the immediate topic. It made the Radio 4 interrogations by John Humphries, sound like a walk in the park.

I had undertaken some Yuletide homework and I felt I knew my subject reasonably well. The first fifty minutes flew past. I had advised a household, who had grown some comedy vegetables for their Christmas lunch, that the various wines of the Beaujolais region with their sweet-fruited Gamay grape, offered succour to a vegetarian household. A couple, newly resident in Norfolk and overwhelmed by our bounty, had invested in their first Black turkey and wanted a risk free but stylish red with which to entertain their urban in-laws. I recommended an earthy but delicate red Burgundy, which would perfectly express the capricious nature of the Pinot Noir grape. I advised those with goose to look at the rich peachy fruits of a dry Alsace Riesling, whilst benign white turkey meat may well find that a sensitively oaked Chardonnay elevated the whole meal to celebratory status. Rioja completed the picture for a roasted duck enthusiast, whilst Sauternes, Muscats and Pedro Ximenes, fitted the bill for mince pies and plum puddings.

I had to deal with topics as varied as Mateus Rosé, Glühwein, hangover cures, Shiraz defects, acid indigestion and the Bulgarian wine industry. I thought I had survived the whole demanding occasion and with barely minutes to go, feeling that my contribution to the success of a hundred Christmas dinners was assured, the final call came through.

The listener, in deepest Norfolk drawl, had suspiciously chosen to describe a bottle rather than name it. It was a 1951 Vintage and as far as he could tell, the faded label showed a couple of ladies dressed in blue frocks. He wondered whether the wine, which he added was a yellowish colour, would compliment his rib of beef or should he send it to Sotherbys to be valued? I listened, re-read the question on the monitor, and managed an answer, which I hoped would avoid the blindingly obvious and not cause offence. My silent opinion was that you wouldn’t even strip paint with it.

As it happens, my schedule was overrunning and having finished the broadcast, I had to rush down to a meeting in Suffolk with the director of a notable wine company. We met, and on my arrival briefly discussed the BBC broadcast. He pointed out in his cut glass English accent, doubtlessly polished at Eton, that he thought I had “faired well under the plebeian onslaught”. He produced two benchmark Bordeaux reds, a rare Chateau Palmer and an even rarer Chateau Margaux. He described them effortlessly in both Sorbonne French and Oxbridge English, and we tasted them together.

As we mellowed, along with the clarets, he mischievously produced a bottle of ‘51 Blue Nun from beneath his desk whilst slipping into a Norfolk accent worthy Allan Smethurst, aka The Singing Postman. He apologised for calling the BBC earlier but just wanted to see how I coped with a random Liebfraumilch question under pressure.

Although he sent a bottle of Blue Nun every Christmas until his retirement, he remains unforgiven to this day!