We used to have an office (years 1990-98) and a little duty paid wine cellar in Blantyre Street (off Cheyne Walk) right next to the River Thames. It was a lot of fun, all those bobbing house boats, Chelsea lunches and interesting neighbours. Living in our block where, indeed, quite a diverse bunch of folk. On the corner was Alan Dunn’s house (Mick Jagger’s best man & best chum), on the otherside and living in the penthouse flat, was a Michael Caine. There was a Canadian musician, Bryan Adams, who lived behind the pub and then he went and bought the pub, too much noise apparently?. But my favourates where Philip Turner RA (a sculpture and home builder) who lived directly infront of us at 122A Cheyne Walk (he built his own house from Luftwaffe bomb damage at the end of WW2, and I believe it still stands today). Then a little further up the road was Robert Bourne (some local property whizz) and his wife Sally Greene (a big local theatre impresaria!). I never saw Bob & Sal ever, and would not even have a clue what they look-ed like, but I did see both of their cars every morning as I went to work. And as always they where very neatly parked outside Chez Greene. The joy on seeing their mowtars parked there would always bring a smile, and still makes me smile today, I do not know if they are still there or not.
But when Willy Shakespeare throws a line like ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’ whether tis nobler to choose Claret or Burgundy, or throw Muscadet and Chardonnay, or take Douro instead of Tuscany. There is, of course, always Champagne, and there’s the rub!
Deciding to pull the cork on a special bottle or two, can put one’s senses spinning and if not then sometimes leaning towards dilemma. Not always but sometimes that is. Talk about faffing around. I of course get there in the end as we all do, and maybe in part of the faffing, there is some odd kind of pleasure to be found, especially in the result. The other day, a good customer since 1985, thanked me for telling him to always buy 2 cases of the same wine. I had forgotten this. But the idea was to drink and enjoy one case, and see how it comes along while the other case languashes away in a part of the dark, cool cellar that is untouchable. One day, you not only now have the knowledge but you have the option of drinking more of that same wine or selling it on and swopping it for something else that tickles your fancy.
So, to welcome in the first week-end of 2022 I thought we should try something, down here, old and local. Without much faffing around, out came the firm cork on a fine bottle of 2001 Estiba Reservada from Bodega Catena Zapata, hidden away there somewhere in Mendoza.
It had a deep violet colour with red ruby hues. The nose was intense, complex cedar, ripe red cassis, tobacco and sweet spice. On the palate, a sweet/dry, soft entry leads to a rich wine packed with red fruit and subtle black pepper and eucalyptus flavours. Finishes long and elegant with round, silky tannins and still, I tell you, has a future. A Grand Cru Argywine without doubt!
And the following day I had to stretch for an old world Grand Cru lunchtime white. A chilled bottle of 2007 Ch.d’Yquem went down very well with a lunch of sweetbreads & large prawns all resting on a bed of pureed fennel. Outstanding! Not just the wine, but my wish of drinking a whole bottle of d’Yquem with lunch, and not with pudding.
The 2007 was a blend of 70% Semillon & 30% Sauvignon Blanc. Pale gold. Knockout nose of mirabelle, pineapple, spices and honey. Dense and thick but with racy acidity leavening the wine’s liqueur-like flavors of peach, apricot and pineapple and imbuing it with superb energy. With a bit of breathing on the table, the wine showed captivating notes of vanilla, toast and fresh and exotic herbs, plus a saline aspect on the very long, clean and off sweet finish. I kept saying that this is not a sweet wine, it is so much more complex than that!
‘A man, a plan, a canal, Panama’ says señorita Pal Indrome