Its our last table of the night, a quiet night at that, and they are sat there pondering the wine-list. Ive had a quick look at their order, and tonight they've chosen the gastronomic menu. Im a bit surprised, the menu is quite an adventurous one this week, Simon has opted for a pigeon starter and lobster main course, but after all these years I ought to know not to make assumptions anymore. So a bit of eavesdropping and I can hear her talking about the Hunter Valley, my mind flashes across the Aussie section of the wine-list, Ive only got one Hunter wine - a semillon from Keith Tulloch. But again they surprise me when I ask if they need any help, the wine-list is closed and handed back to me with the words "Yes! We'd like you to chose us a white wine for our meal"
Forty questions run through my mind, but I dont have all night, so I cut it short - new world or old - they chose old. Crisp and dry, full bodied and oaky or somewhere inbetween? - they want something a bit more towards the oaky but not a full on oak bomb. So Im looking at Burgundy. Now bugundy is never cheap, so I have to get some kind of idea how much they are considering spending, but for all I know they guy might be on a date and I dont want to make him look cheap in front of the lady. So what I do is come up with five suggestions - three cheap to middle (£30 - 60) and two more expensive options (£50-100). He plumps for the Auxey Duresses (£45). Nice choice!
I worked the vintage at Vallet last year, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my career. So any chance to promote Bernard's wine, and I'm there. I did the whole presenting the bottle thing, then back at my station, ran my wine-knife under the lip of the bottle in a smooth circle to cut the foil, carefully removing it. The cork smells bad, TCA bad. Now that doesnt always mean the wine is going to be tainted, but usually when the cork smells this bad, I wouldnt bet against it. Sure enough as I pull the cork out, the horribly musty smell of TCA comes full frontal out the bottle and sends me backwards. This is nasty. So a short trip down to the cellar to retrieve another bottle and we're back cooking with gas. This one is perfect, clean, prominant aromas of toasty oak, vanilla, straw and honey with a kind of beurre noisette tone to it.
They loved it.