THE WORLD IS flush with great wine, but many of us never know when, where or how to drink them. A fine score, review or tasting note rarely suggests the right friend, occasion or meal to make the most of a glorious wine ageing in the cellar.
And while there are some rules-of-thumb we can follow (Burgundy with feathers, Rhône with fur, is a handy one to know), increasingly the consumption of wine is more flexible and open-minded outside of the realm of the traditional dining table with guests.
It’s sadly closed now, but Bubbledogs in Charlotte St was such a place. Instead of partnering food and wine for a perfect match the simple concept was to combine two great loves – artisanal Champagne and gourmet hot dogs.
It was every bit as refreshing, relaxing and as fun as you could imagine, speaking to our modern focus on enjoying the experience as much – if not more than – the material.
At Lord’s, as unlikely a place for innovation as you could imagine, the same concept is surprisingly alive and enduring. In an era where sporting venues everywhere are doing their best to reduce and eliminate alcohol consumption, Lord’s stands out for its civilised and respectful approach to the supporter – everyone can bring a bottle of wine into the ground for a day at the cricket.
The traditional egg and bacon audience tuck into a middle-aged, luncheon claret, or perhaps a bottle of Champagne as well. Aficionados might bring a Burgundy over a Cru Classé but the experience is every bit as good. South African fans will clearly bring a top chenin, or a red blend from Stellenbosch.
But for England’s greatest rivals, the Australians, there is one only wine to choose. And that is Penfolds Grange.
On Day 1 of the 1st Ashes Test at Lord’s in 2005 (inarguably the greatest series of all time), myself and one other arrived at Lord’s with a bottle of 1989 Krug, one of 1998 Penfolds Grange (double-decanted that morning) and the two largest, hand-blown crystal glasses available – these alone required a full kit bag, carefully wrapped. We enjoyed duck liver paté with Krug, and cured meats and hard cheddar with Grange.
England won the first two sessions, Australia roared back in the third. More than 17 wickets fell, both supporters buzzing upon exit. That greatest day, in that memorable moment, was the optimal time and place to drink Australia’s greatest wine.
This October, to celebrate 70 years since its first vintage, you can enjoy Penfolds Grange by the glass at Oeno House in The Royal Exchange – the only place in London you can do so.
Grange is a towering icon, oft compared to the fiercely structured Chateau Latour, or Spain’s long-lived leviathan, Vega Sicilia Unico.
Over the decades it has been tested and proven against the world’s finest wines, with a record of ageing and improving over decades.
A masterly blended selection of the top 1% of grapes from Australia’s most famous producer, it is a metronomic genius of a wine. It will be available alone and in a flight with two other Penfolds red wines – Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz and RWT Shiraz, superb wines in their own right.
We’ll provide the wine and atmosphere, but making perfect memories is up to you.
For more info, see oenogroup.com/house