Eight middle-aged men in double-stringed red thongs are gyrating in front of me. 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 their hips, 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 tastings director Christelle Guibert rounded up the original Semillons troupe – luminaries such as Tim Atkin MW, Michael Palij MW, Wines of Chile’s 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, Guibert treated us to some fresh blood in the form of (the aptly named) Barry Dick, wine buyer for Sainsbury’s, sommelier Gearoid Devany, Vinopolis MD Rupert Ellwood and The Independent’s wine critic Anthony Rose.
As soon as they hit the stage, the screaming starts. It feels like I’m at a 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. Rose however, seems slightly more aware of his semi-naked state.
Tim Atkin 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.
Ex French rugby international turned Languedoc winemaker Gerard Bertrand is auctioned off at half time.
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.
Written by Lucy Shaw