Today's Throwback Thursday was published last Monday.
Since sending out my weekly email last Friday, I have had several puzzled recipients asking me to explain what I wrote in the subject line: Wine trade poisoning.
This was not, I‘m afraid, a reference to a juicy new scandal but to the lingering and very personal effects on my brain and body of a wine-trade lunch last Wednesday. I belong to a small group of British wine professionals – traders and writers – who happen to have been born in 1950. I can’t remember who came up with the idea but in 2000 we decided to celebrate our half-century with a day trip to Paris on the relatively new Eurostar, bibulous lunch included. (Most of us used up our vintage 1950 wines on this trip.)
In 2010, to celebrate entering our seventh decade, we held a re-run kindly hosted by Simon Berry (1957), with additional guest Jasper Morris MW (also 1957), in the atmospheric first-floor boardroom of Berry Bros & Rudd overlooking London’s St James’s Street. By then our numbers had swollen somewhat, while our general physical state had arguably deteriorated. So it was decided that it would be safer, and more fun, to increase the frequency of our celebrations to every five years. Which is why our 1950s Babes (sic) lunch was set for last Wednesday. (Should you be at all interested in such self-indulgence, you can read about both the 2000 and 2010 celebrations in 1950 vintage lunch.)
Babes they may be but most unfortunately several 1950 babes fell by the wayside. The incredibly youthful-looking John Livingstone Learmonth is still regaining his strength from a debilitating illness. Anthony Sykes, past Master of the Vintners’ Company, is suffering from pneumonia. Bill Rolfe’s wife was, sadly, too ill to leave. And Joanna Delaforce, more puzzlingly, claimed not to be able to leave her builders. So our number was slimmed down to wine writer Rosemary George MW, David Hunter of WSET, ex CEO of Majestic Tim How, ex head of Sainsbury’s wine Allan Cheesman, fine-wine-trader-turned-luxury-rail-trip-organiser Tim Littler, ex Unwins Gerald Duff, ex Davys Tim Langley-Hunt and fifth-generation wine merchant Tony Stebbings, who was in charge of the organisation and, particularly, wines.
Perhaps we should blame him then for the ludicrous over-provision of liquid. We were all asked to supply a magnum, or two bottles. And when the day came, our numbers were down to the nine shown here (L to R before going in to lunch: Tim How, Tim Littler, Tim Langley-Hunt, David Hunter, me, Rosemary, Tony Stebbings, Allan Cheesman and Gerald Duff) plus our youthful host Simon Berry, who was appointed group photographer.
The food, listed below, was one of the finest meals I have ever had at a wine-trade table. The wines, described below, were sumptuous, and copious in the extreme. How Tony Stebbings, with co-conspirators, managed what he referred to the next morning as ‘a cleansing ale’ afterwards, I shall never know.
Cornish crab with avocado, kohlrabi, lime and lettuce foam
Shoulder and fillet of lamb, gnocchi, capers and carrot
Cheese and fresh fruit
Poached peach with white chocolate, grapefruit and lemon
Admittedly I had to co-host a wine dinner for 16 that evening, which did not help my recovery, but the following day Nick and I hosted porty Alastair and Gillyane Robertson of The Fladgate Partnership for lunch at Portland to celebrate – wait for it – their 55th wedding anniversary. Toasted with a mere half of Krug Grande Cuvée and a bottle of Ch Musar 2001, it seemed a very gentle affair.
There is now even talk among the 1950 Babes of celebrating our 67.5th birthdays….