In part one, WineChap jumped in a Rolls-Royce Phantom to Hampshire to taste English sparkling wines and hunt truffles; with haul in tow, it's back to London for a 007-style jaunt…
We pulled up on the cobbled street opposite Timothy Everest’s Elder Street townhouse first picture), once residence of Bloomsbury artist Mark Gertler and restored to its original Georgian specification – a hat tip to history in a postcode whose current scene is epitomised by nearby Shoreditch House’s rooftop bar. Alongside a roster of A-list clients (a previous meeting with him had been disrupted when he had to oversee changing the lining for Benedict Cumberbatch’s tux for the Oscars), Everest seems to be “shaken and stirred” – busy tailoring for several of the Hollywood spy franchises, from the dashing Henry Cavill in The Man from Uncle, the cast members of Mission Impossible, Ralph Fiennes’ “M” in the previous Bond film Skyfall to numerous cast members of the latest Spectre, due for release this autumn.
This professional connection to the world’s most famous spy and his own interest in the Bond universe makes Everest an ideal partner to host the kind of unique events we were here for today – and he had not disappointed, dressing each floor with appropriate posters, memorabilia and mannequins clad in iconic designs from specific films that had been paired to the drinks.
On arrival we headed up to the first-floor White Room to begin our vinous exploration of 007’s drinks cabinet, which had an appropriately casino feel and featured the perfect Dress Black midnight-blue dinner suit that continues to be the defining uniform of the franchise. In Casino Royale (the book) Bond mentions that he takes great care over what he eats and drinks because they become an extra interest when eating alone, as often as his profession requires. The group appreciated this maxim, and alongside three top prestige cuvée champagnes, The Clove Club’s Johnny Smith and Daniel Willis served paired canapés that head chef Isaac McHale was preparing downstairs.
First up was Taittinger’s Brut Blanc de Blanc – the 1943 vintage of which is described by Bond in the book as “probably the finest champagne in the world”. Sean Connery has a bottle of Taittinger champagne cooling to drink with Ms Sylvia Trench during a riverside picnic in From Russia with Love. The 2005 was magnificent and very complete for a young wine, graceful yet steely yet inviting all at the same time – and the brioche notes nicely partnered with cod’s roe on rye.
We then enjoyed Dom Pérignon’s sinuous 2004 (first picture) alongside a Clove Club classic – crispy chicken feet. DP features heavily in Fleming’s books – 1952, 1953, 1955, 1959 and 1962 all appearing variously from Dr No to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with the most famous reference coming in Goldfinger when Bond tells Jill Masterson, “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Pérignon above 38ºF. That's just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.” As a keen exponent of the art of sabrage, I am left in the shade by marksman Christopher Lee who, as Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, shoots the neck off a bottle of 1964 (a vintage I enjoyed at L’Abbaye d’Hautvillers, if opened more prosaically).
Our final champagne was Bollinger’s RD 2002 (first picture), a monumental, almost monolithic effort from the maison. The first mention of Bollinger is in the novel Diamonds Are Forever in 1956 when Tiffany Case sends a bottle up to Bond’s cabin on the Queen Elizabeth. He also utters the memorable line in Moonraker – “Bollinger? If it’s ’69, you were expecting me”. It made its first screen appearance in the franchise in Live and Let Die in 1973 when Roger Moore orders a bottle in his San Monique hotel.
Indeed, the friendship between Bond producer Cubby Broccoli and Bollinger president Christian Bizot would forge a relationship lasting 40 years and counting, with the non-vintage, Grande Année and RD appearing throughout the movies. This rich and powerful cuvée was perfect for washing down the baskets of buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt, which McHale will never be allowed to take off the Clove Club’s menu.
Next we headed upstairs to the oriental-themed Blue Room decorated with Mao-jackets as sported by Dr No and Blofeld, for the exceptional Isake 19 (second picture), accompanied by turnip rolls and nori-wrapped sashimi. In You Only Live Twice, a Honjozo sake is given to expert orientalist Bond who notes approvingly that it has been served at the correct (body) temperature – 98.4ºF. Junmai Daiginjo sake, however, is best served slightly chilled in order to avoid burning off the subtle and fragrant top notes, especially one as exceptional as Isake 19, where each grain has been milled to an unparalleled 19 per cent of its original size. Akin to a mature Grand Cru Raveneau Chablis, the Isake had a purity and depth, a yin-yang of malted milk and buttery, leesy notes balanced by gooseberry, lemon and quince notes, at once exotic yet curiously familiar.
Pointing to the film poster, Everest mentioned that he had recently stayed in Tokyo at modernist architect Yoshiro Taniguchi’s Okura hotel, which also features in You Only Live Twice; it opened in 1962 – just two years before the book’s publication – but is set to close for major refurbishment in a few months. One hopes the Bond legacy will remain…
For the session’s red wines we went up another floor to the cutting room, appropriately draped in slashed lengths of crimson and scarlet cloth, with oversized tailors’ scissors glinting dangerously on various surfaces. To further the theme of bloody violence, plates of the Clove Club’s house-cured meats and raw-beef toasts were served and a mannequin sported the pea coat inspired by the one Daniel Craig wore in Casino Royale – his debut as the most vicious and visceral rendering of Bond. The violence might be bubbling below the surface, but as the quintessential Brit (as quintessential as any half-Scot/half-Swiss can be), Bond’s red wines of choice were of course claret, and so our selection paid homage accordingly.
A lover of aristocratic Pauillac, Bond enjoys Mouton Rothschild in Moonraker and Diamonds Are Forever, and then Lafite appears in A View to a Kill, so we toasted his triumph over Christopher Walken’s psychotic Zorin with the 2002 – the wine of the vintage and beginning to drink with great charm. Crossing to the Right Bank, top St Emilion Angélus accompanies Craig’s “skewered” lamb in the train carriage scene in Casino Royale, lubricating the charged repartee with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in the best tradition of Bogart and Bacall. We enjoyed the seamless, silken opulence of the 1998, arguably the last old-school style vintage the château made.
Back on the ground floor we enter Diamonds Are Forever, where homage was paid to Bond in Vegas in ivory smoking jacket and exotic dancers with a touch of red silk velvet adorned with a suitable amount of crystals. We concluded with Valdespino’s 1842 VOS Oloroso and The Clove Club’s duck and ginger consommé, possibly the pairing of the afternoon. Despite reels of more action-packed acrobatics, there is no better confirmation of Bond’s unassailable superiority than the instance in Diamonds Are Forever where he comments on the year of the Oloroso proffered by “M”, and when reminded that sherry doesn’t have a vintage instantly replies that he was referring to the oldest sherry in the solera system (1851).
This superbly rich, nutty and complex old wine was a fine way to end the afternoon’s exploration of 007’s preferred tipples, but it's amusing to note that the most famous and quoted wine reference from the franchise concerns a wine that Bond pivotally does not drink. In From Russia With Love, Sean Connery realises (too late) that SPECTRE assassin Robert Shaw is masquerading as an English agent because he orders a Chianti with his Dover Sole – an unpardonable faux pas at the time. When he sourly remarks on this as Shaw subsequently holds a gun to him, the latter delivers the immortal riposte: “You may know the right wines, but you’re the one on your knees.” Despite all the day’s fun, there is a lesson here I think…