Craig Brown wrote recently in the Mail on Sunday how the the biggest influence on contemporary British writers was in fact Ronnie Corbett:
“A surprising number of recent books seem to have fallen under the influence of Corbett’s capacity for the rambling digression.”
Robin Yapp was clearly a writer ahead of his time. His 1987 book, Drilling for Wine, an account of juggling a career as a West Country dentist with starting a pioneering wine business, is full of off-piste anecdotes and not entirely relevant reminisces. It’s a charming and often very funny read though I think some of the stories would have worked better told in person by Mr Yapp with a decent Lirac or indeed by Ronnie Corbett from his big leather chair.
Yapp Senior has since retired but happily his son Jason has not only inherited the business but also his father’s peculiar literary idiom. Here’s a brief snippet from their latest catalogue:
“Following a brief stint as the photographer’s monkey’s minder in Selfridges. . . ”
From reading Yapp Pere et fils one gets the impression that being a wine merchant mainly involves drinking, telling long anecdotes and accidentally stumbling across good wines. What shines out of the book, the list and, from my brief acquaintance with Jason, the Yapps themselves, is their gift for bonhomie and fun. You get the impression that their producers really are their friends. It’s a wonderful way of doing business even though, I suspect, behind the bonhomie they are also astute businessmen. They specialise in the Rhone, Loire and Provence but have wines from all over France and even a few from Australia!
They’re based in Wiltshire but being terribly modern and forward-thinking, they’re opening a ‘pop-up’ shop in a restaurant on Exmouth Market called Medcalf from Monday 1st July to Saturday 6th July. I have very fond memories of this place mainly due to the original head chef, Tim Wilson, who I used to knock about with years ago. Once having been seriously ill, I visited Medcalf with some friends. Tim asked how I was and when I said that the doctors had given me the all clear, he sent over some champagne. The first and only time this has happened*. Tim has moved on to the Groucho Club but he’s back on Thursday 4th July cooking a special dinner with the family Yapp.
During the Yapp residency, I can see myself spending a lot of time there. Here are a few wines to look out for:
Saint Pourcain: La Ficelle 2012 – (£9.50) – a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay with layers of crunchy forest fruit, smoke and then something earthy. Very rural and refreshing.
Chateau Simone – (£35) – I’ve fallen in love with the wines of this venerable Provençal estate. The red, a blend of nearly every grape in the world, tastes like a sort of heady Levantine claret. Imagine Suleiman the Magnificent enjoying a moment of intimacy in Château Léoville Las Cases, and you’re nearly there. The white, a blend of nearly everything else, is beguiling, complex and blossomed beautifully with some crab at Medcalf. The rose isn’t quite as exciting.
*Note Corbettian digression.