I read a lot of what other winey people write, and I obviously think that I could do all of it better. There are some exceptions. I’m still trying to put together a rather lengthy piece on the investment side of things (and here there really is no shortage of tosh written, much of it by people who really should know better) and it was this that led me to one of the most intelligent, considered and – to put it simply – “right” pieces I’d read (it has sadly now disappeared from the internet). Mr Jefford wrote it (or rather spoke it). I’ve been a fan ever since, and that he is a thoroughly good bloke to boot is simply gravy.
Herewith his answers, with the questions repeated for new players:
1) What was the first wine that got you into it? (my answer is a couple of grand cru Chablis from Fevre tasted in 1996)
I think it would be ‘unidentified Beaujolais, circa 1977’. I got into wine early but chiefly for effect — Colman’s ‘Charbonnier’ was pretty repellent, and my home-made wines weren’t much better. The `71 Lafite I bought with almost my first pay packet as a gap-year nursing assistant at what was then called ‘Little Plumstead Hospital for the Mentally Subnormal’ was frankly a disappointment. But between 1976 and 1979 I lodged (while at the University of Reading) with Brian Brindley, vicar then of Holy Trinity, Reading, and later the subject of Damian Thompson’s biographical book Loose Canon. (The flamboyant ‘Father Brindley’ came to grief after a News of the World set-up.) Brindley was a true gourmand, and meals at The Presbytery, for a very large and very loose ‘family’ of eccentrics and misfits like myself, were often elaborate affairs: course after course made with heart-stopping ingredients, and served on baroque china in the thickly carpeted, womb-like dining room. (I used to do the washing up.) In fact, though, Brindley wasn’t a great drinker; wine was there because it ought to be, but no one took much interest in it … except me. And I particularly recall a Beaujolais which was so harmonious, so delicious, so magnificently balanced that it was very hard to stop drinking it. I remember doing a silent double-take; and I never thought about wine in the same way afterwards. But I don’t have any more detail than that. (Brindley, by the way, had a most fitting end, dying of a heart attack between the dressed crab and the boeuf en daube at his own 70th birthday party at the Athenaeum.)
2) What was the first wine that took you closer to your maker? (2002 La Romanee, Liger-Belair)
The first one that I can remember was 1990 Cheval Blanc, tasted at Bibendum in Primrose Hill in 1994. I had just come out of the Northern Line, with its scents of blown soot and urine, and the wine stunned me with its contrastive force. I hadn’t realised ‘claret’ could be as good as that. I would have loved to have been able to wolf the bottle.
3) What’s the best wine you’ve had this year? (93 Charmes-Chambertin, Bachelet or 96 Clos de la Barre Lafon)
Since you have an ‘or’ I’m going to claim one too. Either the 2005 Remelluri Gran Reserva Rioja, or the 2009 Gigondas Le Claux from Louis Barruol at St Cosme. In each case, I thought ‘this really couldn’t be any better than it is’, and both were very lovely, inspiring rapture in the drinker.