In 1970 or '71, just after I and Barbara had started up our business in Railway Arch 36 under Windsor station, a chap used to call in regularly from somewhere near Chelmsford. He bought quite a lot. Last week the delightful Eddie Kentish sent back three boxes of old, dusty bottles!
It wasn't that he was unhappy with the wine, he assured me, just that he thought I might like to have these examples of my early endeavours.
And indeed I would. I have put them down in my deepest cellar. This is where I rarely go, it’s covered in dust and cobwebs and is kept locked safe from my sons. There's liquid history down there.
Eddie sent a note:
"I had nothing to go by with the wines enclosed as I don’t think you printed a list in those early days so you will have to take pot luck with what you find. I am sure you will find a few old chestnuts to take you down memory lane. So I hope you get as much pleasure going through them as I had packing them. I hope you will accept these as a free gift and make my day. Wishing you, your family and staff a very happy and prosperous New Year."
Made HIS day! Well, you certainly made mine, Eddie.
Writing this, kneeling in the dust to unpack:
Château Bourseau '69 from Jean Bernard in Lalande de Pomerol - he also had Ch. Matras in Saint-Emilion. And a nice daughter.
Château Baudron from Jean Boireau – used to run the co-op cellar in Montagne - and Madiran '71 from the Laplace family … that was a wonderful discovery. I can still see in my mind the whole family; Grandfather, parents and children all in the yard together bottling, labelling and boxing on a fine frosty morning forty years ago.
A Côtes de Duras from the Co-op. No vintage on the label but would have been '69 probably. I was the first to do that appellation … long, long before that village got taken over by British ex-pats. It was a wine to drink young … and cold … they were trying to capture a bit of the Beaujolais market I remember. Mmm. Wonder what it’s like now. Maybe I won't open that one.
Many more Bordeaux châteaux.
But the stars are three magnums of Château d'Arche Cru Sauternes '69 from back when it was still owned by Monsieur Bastit Saint Martin. He was a very 'Vieille France', courteous and kind man. Invited the scruffy English boy in the van to stay for an elegant lunch. He put the magnums in individual wooden boxes and stamped my Company name on the side; 'Bordeaux Direct'. I remember being very proud. I think Eddie bought a whole load.
I have been ferociously busy so far this year … six long days of meetings and the rest – scribble, scribble, scribble. It’s nice but knackering for an old geezer. But today I'm off till a supper with CEO Simon tonight to discuss the future plans … Plans for way ahead when it’s our sons leading the charge. So it’s poignant and timely, this morning, to be down in the dark and damp – just like the old Arch – unpacking bottles I packed forty years ago.
I don't know why Eddie didn't drink them. But I'm glad he didn't and was kind enough to give them back to me. He says he wants nothing in return, but I'm going to send him at least a case of something very nice indeed. But a bit younger.
People who don't know me or my Company sometimes claim I'm some sort of hard businessman … 'mogul' even! And that this diary is written for me by a marketing department.
They simply have no idea. I actually am as soft as I sound. Particularly this morning, thinking of long-gone friends.