He laughed like a drain, not at the thought that I’d be writing an article for such a fine business magazine as BQ, but more that I’d be capable of drinking wine without falling asleep in front of the TV.
In my defence, working extremely hard at building such a successful, fast-growth business in Scotland as Santander Corporate & Commercial Bank is a hard but hugely rewarding job. So, it’s the hard work that occasionally makes me a little sleepy, not the wine (honest).
As a Christmas present, my wife Gill treated me/herself to a long weekend at a vineyard in France. It’s one of these things where you ‘rent’ a row of vines, but in reality just get the opportunity to buy some wine at cost price along with a nice tour of the vineyard. To decide which vineyard we visit, we have three different reds to choose from. Sampling wines for BQ gave me a chance to practise.
I picked up the wines on Thursday but resisted the temptation to try them there and then, deciding that a weekend over some dinner was probably the mature thing to do. We had two bottles, both French, a rose champagne from Pascal Poudras and a red from Domaine Gallety, a wine from Vivarais which (I’m told) is on the other side of the Rhone to the more famous Cotes du Rhone.
I’m no champagne fan and definitely no connoisseur, so my first dilemma was what do you eat with champagne? I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about Google’s suggestions of oysters, mushrooms or BBQ chicken sandwiches (I kid you not), so the easiest solution was for Gill and I to have it on its own as an aperitif.
This turned out to be an ideal way to enjoy what was an excellent wine. The first sip got an exclamation from Gill of “oh that’s delicious”, which is praise indeed from a lifelong champagne dodger and gin lover. It’s hard to describe the sensation, but it seemed to melt on the tongue and was one of the smoothest and most delicately flavoured champagnes I’ve tasted. Often champagne can leave you reaching for the Gaviscon, but Pascal Poudras had none of that unpleasant acidity and we raced through the bottle at a pace. Have I discovered a ‘session’ champagne?
That set me up nicely to prepare dinner to go with the red, which I’d been told to open at least an hour before drinking and which “as a 2011 vintage can apparently be drunk faster than a 2010 vintage”. I wasn’t sure if that meant I had to neck the bottle in one go, but decided that would just be silly. So, an hour later and with a home-made spicy stir fry to hand, we had our first glass of the red. It was unmistakably old world, deep with lots of character and in no way overpowered by the chillies I put in the food. It dries the mouth out – tannin my wino friends tell me – and without sounding like I know what I’m talking about, it definitely needs food to go with.
Overall, I would recommend the champagne if you want good quality but not astronomical prices. The red is good, but would probably get better with age and if you’re anything like me, that’s not going to happen to any wine in my house.
Kevin Boyd is divisional managing director of Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking, in Glasgow.
Thanks for the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh for its selection and advice on wines and allowing us to take photographs. These wines are available from Wildflower Wines: Contact Christian Albuisson on 07767687368. Domaine Gallety is £17.50 a bottle. Champagne Pascal Poudras Rosé: £24.50 a bottle