A wine-themed tale from Richard Holmes’ history of ballooning “Falling Upwards: How we Took to the Air”

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In 1836, Charles Green (1785–1870), accompanied by Monck Mason and the MP for Hastings Robert Hollond, set a major long distance record in the balloon “Royal Vauxhall”, flying overnight from Vauxhall Gardens in London – ten minutes from where I live – to Weilburg in the Duchy of Nassau (now Germany), a distance of 480 miles.

The three Victorian gentlemen took plenty of provisions with them, including 16 pints each (!) of Sherry, Port, and Brandy, with several dozen bottles of Champagne. Holmes calculated that the daily ration for each man was a pint of fortified wines and several glasses of Champagne.

Mason noted that the Champagne was adversely affected by the altitude: The lower pressure meant that it simply shot frothing out of the bottle, which Mason wittily called its “natural tendency to flying”.

#VinsExtraordinaires
#Finewine
#Champagne
#Ballooning

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PROJECT FRONT FOOT: APRIL NEWSLETTER

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A message from my friend Vic Mills:

“Hi Stuart,

Another busy month of news, comment and action from the far pavilions courtesy of the Project Front Foot April newsletter. The icing on the Ras Malai  was the surprise visit by the former England captain and Sky pundit, Nasser Hussain. You can imagine the excitement among the Dharavi kids as he conducted a coaching clinic at the Gymkhana.

Cheers

Vic” 

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Chat flanqué de Rats – with Romanée-Conti 1858

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Who could resist a Christmas Day lunch of elephant, kangaroo, cats and rats (yuk), and antelope with Latour (sic) Blanche 1861 (a good Sauternes vintage), Palmer 1864 (one of the great vintages of the 19th century), Mouton Rothschild 1849 (average), and Romanée-Conti 1858 (good)?

Here’s a great image from Richard Holmes’ history of ballooning Falling Upwards: How we Took to the Air.

This menu from the Café Voisin, dated 25th December 1870 – the 99th day of the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War – has a desperate offering of dishes with a fabulous selection of fine wines.

The unusual meats were caused by dire food shortages, which led to the animals at the zoo – as well as cats and rats – in Paris being turned into givrets and terrines.

I suppose that I might just about be able to force down “Chat flanqué de Rats” with Romanée-Conti…

#Finewine
#VinsExtraordinaires
#ChateauPalmer
#Romanee-Conti
#MoutonRothschild
#Foodandwinepairings

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My “The Drinks Interval: Wine and Cricket” article published by FINE India

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Following India’s victory over West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on 30th June 2017, the former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who scored 78 not out, was asked by a journalist about how he is getting better with age. Dhoni replied, “It’s like wine”.

Dhoni was born in 1981, which was a reasonable vintage for red Bordeaux, red Burgundy, Alsace, and the Loire Valley. Dhoni’s former teammate Sachin Tendulkar – arguably the greatest of all international batsmen – is known to enjoy good food and wine.

The parallels between cricket and wine are many and varied.

Read the full FINE India article here.

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PROJECT FRONT FOOT: “MUMBAI SPECIAL” NEWSLETTER

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A message from my friend Vic Mills:

“Hi Stuart,

After arguably the weepiest week in the history of the game, it has fallen to Project Front Foot to put a smile back on the face of world cricket. A big ask, but one we feel confident of achieving with the attached “Mumbai Special” newsletter.

The newsletter chronicles PFF’s latest Mumbai visit during the last two weeks of February and first two of March. Not an easy trip given the debilitating conditions and a workload that magically doubled.

The project platform prior to departure was simple: let’s have some fun, do some good. This we achieved in spades both with our flagship project the Dharavi Cricket Academy and the growing work with our Rural Schools Initiative.

There was encouraging news too from the UK where we were further able to support charities involving disadvantaged children together with a refugee cricket project.

A bumper edition, then, with miraculously not a single ball-tampered or tear shed. It can be done.

Cheers,

Vic”

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Wine and literature: Marcus Brigstocke’s “The Red” – and Lafite 1973…

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Marcus Brigstocke’s drama “The Red” was recently broadcast on Radio 4.

The synopsis read: “Benedict has been sober for 25 years. On the day of his father’s funeral, he learns he has left him an unsettling final request. Benedict’s father loved wine. He collected it and found sharing it with his friends and family an act of love and joy. But his son is an alcoholic. We witness how this has affected both their lives and their relationship in this drama based on Marcus Brigstocke’s own experience of recovery.

The play was recorded on location in a 400-year old wine cellar.

The “red” itself is a bottle of Lafite 1973.

I have never tasted any 1973s, which are not known for quality or longevity. Few are available now.

I came across a 1984 FT article by its then wine correspondent Edmund Penning-Rowsell, who wrote, “There were a good many claims in Bordeaux that the 1974s were better than the 1973s, but for the most part they have turned out hard and charmless, whereas a number of the 1973s have developed into light, but agreeable wines.”

He noted the ’73 Lafite as having a “Fair colour and a refined bouquet, but very light on the tongue and lacking substance and follow-through. Other comments included: nose faded fast, artificially sweet taste, distinct absence of fruit, tails off. In view of the standing of Lafite, it was unanimously agreed to be disappointing.”

Penning-Rowsell’s fellow tasters were “a Master of Wine, a woman wine-writer, a restaurant proprietor, a don and wine steward of an Oxford college, my wife and myself.”

I think that the “woman wine-writer” – he had such an elegant way with words, didn’t he? – might have been Penning-Rowsell’s successor as the FT wine correspondent.

And the “restaurant proprietor” might be her husband…

#Finewine

#Lafite

#Radio4

#VinsExtraordinaires

#FinancialTimes

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Wine and literature: Roald Dahl’s short story “The Butler”

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Roald Dahl’s wine-themed short story “The Butler” was recently dramatised on Radio 4.

George Cleaver, the Sausage King of the North, sells his business and moves to London in order to enter society. He employs a butler, Tibbs, to help him to do this. Tibbs explains that it’s vital Cleaver learns as much as he can about fine wines – and, to this end, Tibbs sets about buying rare and expensive vintages and educating his employer. Before long, Cleaver feels he no longer needs his butler’s advice…

I won’t give away the ending!

#VinsExtraordinaires
#FineWineBusinessNetwork
#FineWine
#RoaldDahl
#Radio4

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Fake or fortune? Pétrus 1952

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Which one of these three Pétrus 1952 bottles is an imposter…?

I should point out that I haven’t seen these bottles in person, so any opinions on colours, shapes etc are far from definitive. And the image is not high res.

I tip my “chapeau” to François Audouze, who tasted and photographed these wines.

In no way am I suggesting any misdeed by M Audouze, who – unlike some arrogant and ill-informed people – is a collector of the highest integrity and knowledge. I saw the image and thought that it would be interesting to ask people’s opinions. It’s unique to have three different bottlings of the same wine – even if one is probably a forgery.

The Vandermeulen bottling on the right looks ok, despite the “Château” label. It’s “foxed” with damp stains, which is correct for an old bottle that’s been stored in a cool, damp cellar. This is a European-purchased bottle. One has to be very careful with Vandermeulen bottles in the USA, where very few genuine examples were imported.

The red – rather than the usual grey-black – “1952” on the left-hand bottle is a non sequitur that can cause doubts but, as far as I know, it’s ok. I’ve seen this on bottles of Pétrus 1959 and 1960, for example.

I have an unproven theory that different labels and/or capsules were used for different markets. So, for example, Pétrus that went to the USA might have had the vintage in red. But bottles for the UK or Scandinavia or wherever didn’t. And some of these bottles might have gone to the USA over the years… Who knows? Nobody – not even the estate owners, alas – can give definitive information on these things.

Anyway, the guilty party is… In the centre.

The discrepancies are:

  • Vintage “1952” below “Grand Vin” instead of above “PETRVS”
  • I don’t think that “1er DES GRANDS CRUS” (sic) should be there. I’ve seen it on 1940s Pétrus vintages up until 1949 and never for subsequent vintages but these are things for which it is difficult to be completely certain
  • No mention of “Mme EDMOND LOUBAT”, who owned Pétrus until her death in 1961, after which the estate was divided between a niece and nephew – Mme Lily Lacoste-Loubat and M Lignac – though her name remained on the label until (I think) 1972  
  • “APPELLATION CONTROLEE” at the bottom of the label: “POMEROL” is missing and there’s no circumflex in “CONTRÔLÉE” (though please note that, unlike some bumptious people, I do not have a misguided onanistic obsession with circumflexes and accents on labels, not least because it’s extremely difficult and often impossible to be absolutely sure that a certain label was the one and only design for any given old vintage)

A lot can be judged via a forensic appraisal of bottles, labels, capsules, and corks. Much better in person than with an image, of course.

But ultimately the best way to avoid nasty surprises is to deal with reputable suppliers and to keep the supply chain as tight as possible.

Watch this space for another Pétrus shocker…

#VinsExtraordinaires
#Petrus
#FineWine
#Mayfair
#London
#GenuineFakes

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Wine and Music: “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ by Ian Dury And The Blockheads

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I had never noticed the wine reference in this great hit from winter 1978/9:

“In the wilds of Borneo
And the vineyards of Bordeaux
Eskimo, Arapaho
Move their body to and fro”

I’m old enough to remember this reaching No.1 in January 1979…

 

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Wine and music: “Red Wine and Promises” by Norma Waterson

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Here’s another folk gem courtesy of Mike Harding’s folk show podcast that was broadcast on 15th October 2017.

Sung by Norma Waterson, “Red Wine and Promises” is from Lal & Mike Waterson’s 1972 album Bright Phoebus. It has been covered by Richard Thompson and June Tabor, among others.

“Fell in the street in a drunken heap;
There’s bright water all around me.
And the cheap red wine in me drunken brain
Has left a burning flame in me belly.
I don’t need nobody helping me;
I don’t need nobody’s arm around me.

If I was a black beetle upside down,
I could kick all night long and never turn around.
But I’m flat on my back in the rainbow rain,
Still I know, in the morning I’ll be on me feet again.
Just can’t get a grip on the ground;
I’m upside down the right way round.

I promise thee, my shameless lady,
Who laughs out loud in the sad patient night,
Always to be honestly thee,
In me waking dreams or me drunken nights,
I don’t fear the yawning sunshine morning;
I’m forward running back again.

Fell in the street in a drunken heap;
There’s bright water all around me.
And the cheap red wine in me drunken brain
Has left a burning flame in me belly.
I don’t need nobody helping me;
I don’t need no bugger’s arm around me.”

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