Anyone for a legend? I knew that these three would be good: there was no question at all about that, but, like the man himself, there is that final sparkle that sets brilliance above the merely excellent.
In the same way that great wines don’t need long notes, Barry Phillips needs little introduction. Whilst it is of some regret that I never drank nor dined at the White Horse in Chilgrove whilst Barry was landlord, I know that the opportunities that I have had to taste with him, to listen to him, have been a blessing. Barry has probably tasted more wine than anyone I know. In the sunshine of his wit and charm this almost becomes secondary: you will struggle to find a nicer man in any trade, one happier to share his knowledge, or one better at doing so.
Barry: thank you.
What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?
My grandfather lived in a rather grand house at the back of Eastbourne. Although fully staffed, it was my grandmother who was in charge of the kitchen. All the traditional dishes were of course home cooked. Bollinger was consumed daily before luncheon and Krug on a Sunday. All delivered in wonderful wooden boxes and individual straws. Family entered the dining room by the right door. On the sideboard, against the right wall, were the bottles decanted and waiting to bestow pleasure that meal. Always Claret and Port. For weekdays Pauillac, Graves or Margaux and Port of 1935 or older. Sundays it would be Pomerol or St Emilion and Port from a post war 40s vintage. Ronald Avery had persuaded Grandpa of the virtues of Pomerol, but Grandpa felt that Petrus and friends were not serious enough for weekdays. Beside, Petrus was always dressed with an Avery label. I was always most delighted to see the Lafite and the Latour labels. It may have been the Lafite and Mouton whose noses seduced, but it was Latour that made me feel that there was another man in the room. The wonderful rich masculinity filled my glass although the portion was of course in keeping with my young age. And the label for which I searched was the 1926. It was that vintage of Latour that made me want to spend my life in the wine game.
What was the first wine/bottle that took you closer to your maker?
Mother and I enjoyed our birthdays two days apart in September. We had a small dinner party in 1972 at the Crown at Chiddingfold. Mother was 55, Father was paying, Dot was looking beautiful, I was 30 and our guest brought a bottle of Krug. The wine of the evening was Mouton 1955. I could not stop talking about how wonderfully this youthful and fragrant wine was showing. As we departed, my father took me aside and in a very angry tone told me how boring I was and that there were other things in life beside first growth Bordeaux. When I reminded him that Mouton was not a first growth he nearly exploded. I feared the blow he was about to deliver would take me directly to, if not closer to, my Maker.
What was the best wine/bottle you have had this year?
I was honoured to be best man to a great friend this year at his very beautiful house in Scotland. Before we crossed the garden to the chapel, we shared a very Special Cuvee of Champagne. It was the groom, his two sons and I who enjoyed a magnificent bottle of Bollinger dressed with the corner cut label. I do like my Champagne to have a bit of age and character. This bottle, probably seven or eight years since disgorgement, was just glorious. But nil desperandum, I do still have five months to search for an even better bottle.
Barry, thank you again. And the list lives on at www.fourwallswine.com