Next weekend we shall all set fire to large heaps of leaves. It’s a strange tradition when you think about it, firing decorative missiles into the chilly sky as Guy Fawkes once again feels his conkers roasting in the annual immolation of his effigy.
But before we ignite the night, the burning question is, surely, what should you be drinking?
Cognac is as close as you can get to liquid fire: its colour glimmers in the glass like the very core of a bonfire, the flavours are warm as no other. Pick a really great one and you feel a glow rather than burn as it slides down and insulates from the dank November mizzle.
Made from distilled wine from the Charentais’ western vineyard, the most prestigious come from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne sub-districts near the town of Cognac.
At this time of year, there’s nothing finer for your hip flask. But if it’s wine you’re after, you need the hearty warming red stuff – or better yet, Port. My top pick is Tawny – matured in barrels to make it feel as slinky as silk.
Fortification is what gives power to these bottles and for a bargain beauty in a similar style, the island of Madeira has bottles galore.
For a wine with sweetness and deep echoes of nuts, dried fruit and spice, Malmsey is beautifully rich with thrilling zest, like balancing on a high wire of lemon peel over a river of molten toffee.
Or try Bual, which makes me think of a deluge of maple syrup meeting an uprising of scorch-dried figs.
As for unfortified reds, Portugal’s Douro Valley is my pick, with bottles crafted from blends of port grapes including Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca that give stacks of welly, supple spice and hearty warming character, perfect to reflect the glow of Guy Fawkes as he once again tumbles into ashes, only to rise again next year.