Three bottles: Mr Oliver Hartley

Boy Wonder, Vinolent’s only paying subscriber, recently berated me for what he thought was a drop in the quality of the Three Bottles series.  And I’m still waiting for his answers.  And I thought I’d get back to the top of the tree in terms of candidates.  And then we’ll do Boy Wonder if he can get round to it.  And Sir Patrick, and Mr Simon, and Corky, and Clarethound.  Maybe even Big Phil.

There are very few wine trade BSDs that I either (a) haven’t worked with or for or (b) asked for a job.  And to get us back up there, a man who I worked for ten years ago, on the wrong side of St James’s Street, from late 2001 to sometime in 2003.  Mr Oliver Hartley, Sales Director at the very posh and very, very, good Corney & Barrow.

What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?

Crikey.  Well, I suppose it would have to be back in my days as a management trainee at The Savoy while doing a stint in the restaurant bar.  The wine waiters (back in the days before we got so hung up on titles and had to be sommeliers, before dustmen became refuse collection executives etc etc.), where was I, yes, the wine waiters used to bring back a half glass of decent wines in the decanters because they knew I was interested.  The one that sticks in the mind was Ch Talbot 1978, not because it was knee-tremblingly good, but I liked the old Cordier bottles…there you are!  And (if I am allowed another) Ch Leovile Lascases 1976 that I bought for my parents silver wedding anniversary dinner.  Now that was very good.

What was the first wine/bottle that took you closer to your maker?

Literally? Probably my father’s home made wine that I stole a bottle of and drank.  Back in the 1970s there existed a horror called “Three Week Wine.” Not good.  But you probably didn’t really mean that did you?  No.  OK so it would be Haut-Brion 1959.  Just fabulous.  First tasted around 1995. Still probably one of my favourite ever wines.  Remind me to tell you the one about the bottle of Cristal 1990 I shared with a very beautiful Page 3 girl some years back.  That took me closer to my maker but in an entirely different way again.  Really Joss, you must make these questions less ambiguous!

What was the best wine/bottle you have had this year? – OK, the past twelve months.

Gawd.  It’s been quite a lean year in terms of “fine wine” so far so I’ll go off-piste for this one.  Best value, most gluggable white wine that I have just taken another 5 cases of to keep ‘er indoors happy?  Terre de Lumiere Viognier, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2012 that we flog for about eight quid.  Cracking value.  Proves best doesn’t have to be grand.

I thank Mr Hartley for his answers, and look forward to my invite to the next DRC tasting and subsequent allocation.