Thursday, 21 April 2016

Sainsbury's Portugese Red

This week's style icon: Dan Brown

Sophie stared at Langdon for a long time, then turned to Teabing.

'It looks like a bottle of wine,' she said. 'But what is it? And why is vino spelled vinho?'

Langdon understood her confusion. It had taken him years as a symbologist to become familiar with the rules of deception which so many cryptographers practised.

'Vinho,' he said quietly, 'is the Portugese for wine. And Tinto means red.'

'Portugese,' grinned Teabing. 'A language spoken in only two countries in the entire world. Someone's been very clever.'

Uncertain, Sophie glanced up. 'But how does this tie in with the miracle of Saint Fructuosus of Braga?'

'Saint Fructuosus? One of Portugal's most revered saints.' Teabing smiled. 'A seventh-century bishop, famed for the monasteries he founded as well as for the miracle in which he was saved by divine intervention from being attacked by a peasant. He might have drunk a wine very like this, once. We know that there's some kind of association. What bothers me, though, is this inscription at the base: Winemakers' Selection. It's like nothing I've seen before.'

Langdon leaned forward and scanned the nineteen characters, noting the precise and detailed way the cryptographer had imprinted them on the paper.

'You're right,' he said, thoughtfully. 'It appears to make no sense.'

Sophie leaned forward. Her childhood uprbringing, her years of training, everything told her that this meant something. But what?

'It's an anagram,' she cried, with a gasp.

Langdon looked up. 'A what?'

'A cryptogram in which the letters of a word or message are rearranged to form another word or words, thereby disguising the original sense.' Sophie leaned back with a frown.

Langdon raised his eyebrows. Sophie was right, of course. Her intuition in these matters was faultless. An anagram. He started to recompose the nineteen letters in his mind. There was a pattern there, he was sure of it. His heartbeat quickened. It had to mean something. Then, with a cry, he sat up.

'It's obvious.'

'To you, perhaps,' said Teabing ruefully. 'But not to the likes of us.'

'Winemakers' Selection is an anagram of In Some Clan Seek, Write. Even the comma is preserved in the form of an apostrophe.'

Teabing sat up with a gasp. 'Of course! The legend that Saint Fructuosus of Braga visited Scotland at some point before his death in 665.'

Sophie gasped. 'Scotland?' she cried.

'Yes,' Teabing went on, his faced flushed with excitement, 'much as Saint Aidan founded the monastery at Lindisfarne in 634, or Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century. The story has it that Saint Fructuosus of Braga landed on the east coast of Scotland to found a monastic order which then disappeared - leaving only a handful of precious relics, preserved by pious clansmen but now scattered across the Catholic world. A story, I need hardly add, which has been the centre of much heated conjecture over the centuries.'

Sophie's eyes widened. 'And Hibernian, the Leith-based football team, is an anagram of Iberia, the ancient name of the peninsula which includes Spain and Portugal, with the addition of the letters n and h.'

'Which are the beginning and terminal letters of the word North,' added Langdon with a start. 'Making Hibernian a Northern Iberia.'

'So Scotland is really the Portugal of the North?' Sophie's head was spinning as she tried to make sense of the reality dawning on her.

'There's one other thing.' Teabing leaned forward to examined the parchment more closely. 'These numbers - twelve point five per cent over here; and seventy-five over here. What can they refer to?'

'The percentage mark is a later addition, I'm sure of it.' Langdon sat back with a sigh. 'Put there to mislead us. No, the numbers alone are what matter.' He gazed absently out of the window, feeling at a loss. What to make of it? Twelve and a half and seventy-five. What was the connection? Then he sat up with a start. 'One sixth. That's the relationship. Twelve and a half is one sixth of seventy-five. This bottle is one of six bottles, six being a numerical grouping well-known to mystics of the early church.'

Teabing's smile vanished. 'Then, my friends, we are in more deeply than I first realised. You've heard of the Sacred Order of The Brotherhood of Braga?'

Langdon shook his head, the hair on his forearms rising.

'The Sacred Order,' Teabing went on, 'is one of the most secretive in the entire hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church. Only six high-ranking priests are members, the number six - formed by multiplying the number of the Holy Trinity by the dual nature of Christ - governs all their actions, Saint Fructuosus of Braga is held to be their founder, and what we have here is nothing less than a bottle containing one-sixth of the precious blood of Saint Fructuosus himself!' He paused and looked pale for a moment. 'And I'm sure our friend His Eminence Humberto João da Serra would be most interested to know of its whereabouts.'

Sophie sat back with a gasp.



  1. Think you'd better give Sophie a glass of that Sainsbury's Portuguese Red. Sounds like she needs it. Actually, think you deserve a glass yourself...

  2. Sainsbury's Portuguese Tinto, Simon. Sangue de São Frutuoso if google translate does its' job. Must have been a a Vinho de Messiah too.

  3. Now this is a belting little read that had me grinning throughout but just one thing, CJ, is there any chance that Teabing could explain to a wide eyed Sophie and some of your regular followers just what Sainsbury's Portuguese tinto actually tastes like?

  4. Interesting point...
    I can only speak personally (Dan Brown's views may differ) but I found Sainsbury's gutbucket Portugese red virtually undrinkable. In fact I had one glass, retched a bit, and used the rest of the bottle for a stew. Oh, but hold on, it's the almost-1400-year-old blood of an obscure Portugese saint. That would explain it

  5. Fascinating. Having seen enough bits of the true cross in churches around the world to tower above the Shard in Southwark I am immediately suspicious of 1,400 year-old blood of a lesser known Portuguese saint. I have also seen St Sylvia's foot which, by the sound of it, would be a fair enough description of the aroma of this latest little treat from a leading supermarket chain. Keep up the good work.