George Orwell, such a great man and so many great titles. But this one is very apt for my just finished lightning trip to London, (Stevenage), Deauville and Paris.
La raison d’être was 30th reunion of my class from school. At forty-eight it seems a good age to do this one – enough history to make people interesting and well before we descend into decrepitude. The bar was too noisy and dark, and the conversations too brief, It was, however, cathartic to feel that people were actually pleased to see me, as indeed I was them. Perhaps another time in a more civilised place – but I doubt they will manage so many again.
At close of play I pushed off to Stevenage where I was picking up wine the next morning. Arriving at one o’clock in the morning I circled the Ibis hotel with its bright red sign illuminating the Hertfordshire sky. It took me twenty minutes to find a way in and find the hotel marooned in a shopping concourse eight hundred metres from the nearest disabled parking space. I decided to try my luck elsewhere, namely the nearby Novotel only to find no room at the inn. So fittingly, like an impoverished eighteen year old of thirty years ago, I spent a night as a vagrant on the Novotel car park. The Volvo is comfortable enough, but it was cold, and I am suffering the consequences now…and the cooked Novotel breakfast did little improve the situation.
I was done at the Wine Society by a quarter past ten and sped off to Folkestone and then a pleasant drive through Normandy to Deauville and Les vins de Pierre Boinet. I blindly tasted (correctly) a 2016 Saumur from Romain Guiberteau (at least I go t the grape and the region) before heading back to Pierre’s flat which has a lovely view out to sea and the bay of Trouville. A plateau de fruits de mer (the whelks are always delicious there) was accompanied by a very odd bottle of Domaine Leroy 2009 Aligoté – strange because it really was quite funky and dominated by sulphur, although it did transform from oiliness to quite dry and mineral, and a clearly well made bottle of wine. I had brought a 2013 Chenin Blanc from Swartland’s Leeuwenkuil which was quite a contrast to the Guiberteau. Quite rich with a nose that could have been taken for a very discreet Gewurtzraminer; it was complex and fine. Well worth checking out, and £22 from the WIne Society.
Saturday was a long drive back to Dijon and as I approached la Porte de Neuilly I decided to stop off at my old haunt (and one of the best jobs I ever had), Tim Johnston’s Juvenile’s in the rue Richelieu just next to the Palais Royal. By chance Tim was there, his much exaggerated retirement is a fiction, and he invited me to lunch. A plat of Poire de Boeuf with a pesto sauce was delicious, and a 100% Carignan from Domaine Dauphilac rolled back the years. The Languedoc produces a lot of dross, but there are wineries you can rely on, year in, year out. Dauphilac is one, Domaine de l’Hortus another.
When it was time to move, Tim kindly pushed me back to the car and I saw that I had inadvertently “down and outed” two plastic bollards. Curiously the Volvo had not whined, so I think they were couchés before I parked. But Tim was very pleased; we took a photo and I’m to send it to Annie Hidalgo – Tim is not a fan.
Back home by seven thirty I had a remarkably full forty-eight hours. My cellar is full of RIesling and New World Pinot Noir…Let the (blind) tastings begin. I’m looking forward to trying to guess the 2014 Separavi from Georgia – and I am estimating my chances at zero.