When HE had his clothes on and wasn’t chasing baddies, there is no doubt that James Bond was a noted oenophile. You only have to have a passing knowledge of Ian Fleming’s books or the films to know that 007 was a full-on connoisseur. Forget the vodka Martini, that was just the aperitif; when it came to business it was a diet of vintage champagne, claret, sherry and everything in between.
You only have to list Bond’s wine consumption to marvel at the fact he managed to shoot straight. Little wonder that in Skyfall Bond struggles to pass his medical. Now an enterprising wine advisory firm called Wine Chap has done the research and put together a rather entertaining James Bond tasting, which takes its guests through all of the man’s favourites. Be warned though, this is not for the faint hearted – you would need the constitution of a secret agent to make your way through them all.
Of course, there were occasions where wine saved 007’s bacon. In Diamonds are Forever he susses that the wonderful Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are about to blow him up when they don’t know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret (there is none). And there is that great moment in From Russia with Love where the thuggish Red Grant gives the game away when he orders Chianti with his fish in the dining car. Later, Bond grimaces: “Red wine with fish, that should have told me something”.
Grant replies: “You may know the right wines, but you’re the one on your knees.” Before, of course, Bond (fuelled with the right sort of wine) sorts Grant out.
But back to Wine Chap’s tasting. Bond was partial to his champagne but was always promiscuous in his tastes. So, we start with the sublime Taittinger Comte de Champagne 2000. Not the Blanc de Blancs ’43 from Dr No, sadly (if it still exists), but still wonderful. Then comes Dom Perignon 2003. Allegedly Dom Perignon used to send Fleming a case on his birthday and was rewarded by some early product placement. After that comes, or course, the intense and rich Bollinger, beloved in later films.
To shock the audience there is then a change of pace to some warm Sake, a homage to You Only Live Twice. I will draw a veil over this bit. Then a high speed swerve into the clarets. Chateau Angelus, the St Emillion from Casino Royale and the Chateau Batailley – a bit of an imposter this list, since it only appeared in Sebastian Faulks’ Bond book Devil May Care. But since Batailley is a regular in the Bennett cellar, it is nice to see it there.
And then the finale. An Oloroso Sherry, a nod to the vinous tussle between 007 and M at the end of Diamonds are Forever over the “1851 Solera”. Now, frankly, all this is a bit too much and hardly what one would call evidence of a balanced palate. “It shows he was a prolific boozer,” says Tom Harrow, founder of Wine Chap. “And his wine taste was not so much deep as infinitely shallow. But you have to hand it to him.” My lingering question is: how did he manage it all on a civil service expense account?
• One for the weekend: Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2009, £18.69 at thewineshop.com.
• One to impress: Chateau Batailley 1998, £42.00 at Berry Bros.
• One to keep: Dom Perignon 2003, £510 for six in bond at Lay & Wheeler.
To organise a tasting with Wine Chap, call 020 7720 2024 or visit winechap.com.