Going, going, gone
Author: Simon Staples
On an unusually sticky evening in early April of this year, the auctioneer’s gavel fell and a tumultuous cheer rose from the 500-strong crowd of philanthropists packed tightly into the cavernous ballroom of the Tokyo American Club. The event was a gala dinner being thrown by Room to Read’s Tokyo Chapter, and the final lot of the evening was, well, me: more specifically, five days and four nights with me as a guide, staying in the stunning Ch. du Tertre in Margaux, touring Bordeaux’s most exclusive locations, plus an ‘opening’ lunch at No.3 St James’s Street. Before I knew it I had been sold for an eye-wateringly large amount of charitable cash. I was chuffed. I was nervous. I had to deliver.
The first step was to introduce myself to my new ‘owners’. In all the hullaballoo of the auction I hadn’t seen who was bidding for me, so I was led over by one of the Room to Read team and formally introduced to a table of 10 Japanese ladies. With my most formal bow I muttered one of the very few Japanese phrases I had been able to memorise; ‘Konbanwa, sore wa anata o mitasu tame ni meiyou ga arimasu’ (good evening, it’s a great honour to meet you): this was met by a chorus of giggles and a ripple of clapping. With the aid of an interpreter, some awful Japanese from me and a really valiant effort at English from them, I established the reason the ladies had bought me. Was it my 25 years of experience in the wine trade? My specific love and passion for Bordeaux? My wise and sage-like demeanour? Because it was for a good cause? Sadly it was none of these: fundamentally they surmised that as I am the size of a baby bison, I would likely be fun for a week.
I can’t say if I lived up to expectations, but the laughter started over the first glass of Champagne at No.3, and finished as we said goodbye over a steaming espresso almost a week later. Below is a brief outline of our trip around the region, highlighting just a few of the wines that stood out.
Day one: We arrived in time for lunch at Les Belles Perdrix de Troplong Mondot, a beautiful restaurant overlooking the vineyards and medieval village of St Emilion, followed by a tasting at Ch. Cheval Blanc, then a tasting and dinner at Ch. du Tertre and Ch. Giscours (including 2010 Caiarossa and the remarkable-value 2002 and 2014 Ch. du Tertre).
Day two: Tastings at Ch. Palmer (whose great 2014 is one of the wines of the vintage) and Ch. Latour (where the 2004 was showing particularly well) were followed by a tasting and lunch at Ch. Pontet-Canet, then dinner at Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte.
Day three: We started the day at VINIV, making two barrels of wine, followed by lunch at Ch. Lynch Bages (tasting the fabulous 2006). Tastings at Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou and Ch. Mouton Rothschild (including their amazing 2014) followed, then a tasting and dinner at Ch. Prieuré-Lichine.
Day four: A tasting at Ch. d’Yquem (including the 2013 vintage), was followed by lunch at Ch. Haut-Bailly, a tasting at Ch. Margaux and a farewell dinner at Le Lion d’Or.
You can support Room to Read by purchasing 2013 Widely Read: the proceeds from each case sold will support five children in the charity’s Literacy Program for a year.