Old wines with the old folks

A few years ago a friend introduced me to a mutual friend thinking we’d get on because of our shared love of wine. We met for dinner to which this mutual brought some superlative Burgundy but sadly I couldn’t stand him (to be fair, I’m not sure he liked me that much either.) A part of me though, thought perhaps I should try to get on with him because of his amazing cellar. I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t, wine is only ever as good as the company you drink it in. I wrote a while back on the circle surrounding wine forger Rudy Kurniawan:

“Jay McInerney was affiliated with a bunch of high-rolling wine enthusiasts who styled themselves “The Angry Men”. Think of Patrick Bateman’s friends in American Psycho only with Grand Cru Burgundy. One of their number, wine auctioneer John Kapon, had the charming habit of referring to wines as “call girls” or “t&a” (tits and ass.)”

Not even the promise of Romanée-Conti could make me want to spend some time with that lot. I’ve never met people that awful in wine but I have been to dinner where the quality of the wine could not make up for the awkward stilted conversation. The converse is true,  I don’t think anything has tasted finer than those bottles of rosé drunk in Victoria  Park with my wife in 2010. Of course, the jackpot is when fine wine and good company collide which is what happened last month.

My parents had come to visit for my birthday. We didn’t know it but it would be the last time we saw them before the lockdown started. That weekend, 7/8 March, had the air of unreality as we knew something was coming (but what?), and yet my father and I went to pubs as if nothing had changed. He had brought with him some wine from his cellar as a birthday present plus two rogue bottles he’d recently acquired. They’d come from a deceased member of the Chiltern wine club who’d left his collection to the members. Everyone got two bottles picked at random and these were the ones my father got:


Looking at the two bottles, I thought the Rauzan-Gassies would be at the very least drinkable, good chateau, great vintage, but the Burgundy, excellent vintage but a negociant house I’d never heard of (not that I know terribly much about Burgundy), would probably be knackered. Reassuringly both bottles had a very high ullage. We opened the Burgundy without much ceremony, no decanting, to go with roast chicken, and it was. . .  spectacularly good. No mustiness, no off notes, just lots of tobacco followed by dark cherry fruit. It tasted about 10 years old, not 24. And the Margaux? Well, it was probably past its best but not by a lot, fruit a little stewed, some mushroom, cigars and cedar, didn’t fall apart in the glass, in fact it got better with every sip. Reminds me a bit of myself.

Charmingly the Chambolle-Musigny had a note written on the label saying, I think, “We had this wine in Beaune with Becky’s husband 15 June ’99 at 10.30am!!” We raised a glass to my father’s deceased friend, and then there were lots of ‘mmmmms’ and ‘ooohs’ from the table. Enjoying wine with someone you love, who also appreciates wine is one of life’s great pleasures. But it’s even better when the enjoyment is so unexpected, both these wines could well have been disappointing, the fact that they far exceeded our expectations made the evening all the more special. Next time I see my parents, I’ll bring something treasured to drink. I hope that day is not too far off.

About Henry

I’m a drinks writer. My day job is features editor at the Master of Malt blog. I also contribute to BBC Good Food, the Spectator and others. You can read some of my work here. I’ve done a bit of radio, given some talks and written a couple of books (Empire of Booze, The Home Bar and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary).
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6 Responses to Old wines with the old folks

  1. PippaC says:

    Oh this is a beautiful blog post – you’re so right about the relationship between wine ‘quality’ and good company. I hope you can drink with your Dad soon.

  2. Enchanting words as always Mr J. I do like Jay McInerney as a writer (both fiction and on wine). He’s never been short of confidence in life, but I think his writing on European wine producers/growers is pretty spot on. Great that you have the memories of these outstanding wines to last until you can broach something epic with your folks again. Cin

  3. E-83 says:


    Just received the spectator (free trial subscription!) and read your nice article on bag in box. Have you been there long, or is this a new column?




    • Henry says:

      Thanks Elliott, I’ve been writing for the Spec for about 7 years but, despite much angling from me, I don’t have a regular column. H

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