There has been little activity here for a while. Most of which is down to 2009 Bordeaux or, more accurately, the holiday needed afterwards. Insanity. I’ve since been scratching my head about what to write, having made a promise to write no more about the vintage that shall not be mentioned. Waiting for inspiration, if you like.
It came at Wilton’s in Jermyn Street. In the world of shameless shite that is so often British food and English service, this is an exceptional place. Not cheap by any means, but it’s clear why they can get away with it – it all just WORKS in a country where, increasingly, nothing does. Hurrah.
So: the wine list. I am a guest of a generous customer. I’m not trying to sell him anything, and vice versa. My point being that there are no angles. As is often the case, I am asked to choose the wine. And if you think the fish and chips at Wilton’s is a little pricey, the wine list is something else.
Wine lists can be a problem like this, especially if there is love, politics or face involved. Asking your host for some sort of price guidance is a little like the girl at the pharmacy asking what size of condom one would like. I am not prepared to spunk a few hundred quid of my host’s cash on a bottle that he could buy for fifty round the corner at either BBR or Fortnums, neither of them discount houses themselves. Nor do I want us to drink something average. So I look off-piste. The Rhone is generally a good bet, and there are some winners, but the real star catches my eye in the next section – “Languedoc & South West”: 1999 Domaine de Trevallon.
I first tasted Trevallon at the home of one of Macon’s very best producers: Olivier Merlin. It was offered blind, and I was initially lost, as is so often the case. After some rational thought I decided that I was either in the Rhone or I was in Bordeaux, though neither made complete sense. As it happens, both sort of did (it’s half Cabernet/half Syrah), and I felt half relieved-half cocky that I’d sort of called something very quirky, and something I’d never tasted before.
I’ll leave the education to the domaine itself: plenty to read here. And you can buy this wine on release from the usual suspects. And it did the trick and more. Not only was it excellent in terms of measurable, or quantifiable quality (let’s say 91/100 for those that need points), it was interesting. Drink a bottle of fifty quid claret and even a well-chosen bottle is, well, just a fifty quid claret. The expense generally commensurate with the pleasure, though entirely predictable. Nothing is learned. It’s a bit like getting a taxi when you don’t really need one: the pleasure is both tangible and rewarding, but it’s hardly living on the edge. Going off-piste is more fun – maybe because of the danger. 1995 Ch. Giscours is a cab from St James’s to Waterloo; 1999 Trevallon is a tuk-tuk in Delhi from and to, well, it doesn’t matter. Both get you to your destination; the latter gives you an experience on the way…
To finish – a note on my host. A money man, and a serious one. I had just read Robert Peston’s “Who Runs Britain?”, and this guy was one of the guys that did, albeit one probably too sharp to get a mention. This guy was serious. And he has no shortage of peers in terms of his wealth. Forget China, forget the new markets – before you even get that far there is a new class amongst us, similar to the aristocracy when they had some money, whose wealth is not far off immeasurable. Guys that could probably scratch up the cash to buy an entire vintage (I mean the entire yearly production) of a first growth claret, even in a silly vintage like 2009. These guys are not going to go away and, perhaps sadly, your claret is going to get more expensive. But this is not a loss, or at least needn’t be. Scratch the cabs, ignore the limos. Catch the tuk-tuks. Or walk – enjoy the journey.