Jonathan Ray

The Joy of our Spectator Wine Club lunches

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Our final Spectator Wine Club lunch of the year was a huge success last week. There was something of a festive, end of term feel to it and although we didn’t quite have to flick the boardroom lights it was clear that nobody was going anywhere until the last dregs of the last bottle were drained.

In fact, such was the demand from readers that we were obliged to run two final Spectator Wine Club lunches in successive weeks. Martin Vander Weyer, our esteemed Business Editor, co-hosted the lunches with me and whilst I showed and discussed half a dozen wines that I had included in my revised and updated version of dear Simon Hoggart’s mini classic, Life’s Too Short to Drink Bad Wine (available online and in all good bookshops, hint, hint…), Martin read from and discussed his inimitable tome, Any Other Business: Life In and Out of the City (available online &c &c…).

Forman & Field catered with their customary flair, with last week’s scrumptious cold lunch including such delights as Forman’s cured smoked salmon (which I matched with some 2015 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay); chicken, duck and pistachio terrine, Cornish Yarg, fig and tarragon tart (2015 Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage Blanc); crayfish and avocado cocktail, sugar snap, radish and feta salad (2014 Josmeyer Mise du Printemps); a charcuterie platter (2011 Quinta do Noval Red); English cheeses (2012 Seresin Estate ‘Leah’ Pinot Noir) and mince pies (2014 Andrew Quady ‘Elysium’ Black Muscat).

We chatted about the dramatic rise in English wine, the benefits of organic/biodynamic wine and the merits and demerits of screwcaps amongst other vinous topics. Trump and Brexit reared their ugly/beautiful heads (delete where applicable) and Martin had us baying for more as he read from his book and recited some of his hilarious and really rather touching poetry.

Best of all, MVW regaled us with his entry for the Spectator’s President Erdogan Offensive Poetry Competition which was won notoriously by none other than our former editor and current Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, with the following lines:

There was a young fellow from Ankara

Who was a terrific wankerer

Till he sowed his wild oats

With the help of a goat

But he didn’t even stop to thankera.

Martin’s entry was vetoed thanks to the fact that he hadn’t read the small print which required that all entries be in limerick form. His verse is still a belter, though, and brought the house down last week. If you recall the bizarre story about two celebrities who sought and gained an injunction earlier this year regarding the alleged tumble à trois one of the pair had in a blow-up, olive oil-soaked paddling pool you’ll find it even more droll.

Tabloids thinks they know the name

Of the celebrity they’d like to shame

For a three-way romp in an oily pool

But if you think that sounds quite cool

Prepare yourself to be disgusted…

For the threesome who were really busted

Were a pair of pigs called Pinky and Perky

And President Erdogan of Turkey

Martin’s witty lines led, of course, to a round of saucy limericks which got smuttier and smuttier as the afternoon wore on. I blush as I recall them.

But as I say, our final lunch was but of many such jolly occasions held by the Spectator Wine Club. We aim to have one – sometimes two – lunches a month in the boardroom, featuring the wines of a particular estate or winemaker. Forman & Field cater said lunches and we have a maximum of 14 guests plus me and the winemaker. There is never any shortage of fine wine or sparkling conversation and we invariably have a hoot.

Winemakers and principals who have joined us this year include Nick Hall of Herbert Hall Winery in Kent, producers of exquisite English fizz; Julian Chivite of Grupo Chivite the oldest wine producer in Navarra and one of the most revered in all Spain; Beltrán Domecq, President of the Consejo Regulador de D.O. Jerez/Sherry; Sami Ghosn of Massaya, the celebrated Lebanese winery and arak distillery; Oliver Humbrecht MW of leading Alsace producer, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht; Francois Lurton, the fifth generation of his celebrated family to make wine; James Simpson MW, managing director of Pol Roger Portfolio; Matthieu Barrère from Domaine Chanson, producer of exceptional, handcrafted Burgundies for over 250 years; Michiel Eradus of the boutique New Zealand winery, Eradus Wines and Antonio Menendez, director of sales and marketing at Vega Sicilia, the most celebrated wine estate in all Spain, known as its ‘First Growth’.

If you can get a better lunch in the West End with finer wines or more agreeable company for £75 all in, I’d like to know about it. We’ve Mark Walford, partner in the leading Roussillon estate, Le Soula, coming on Thursday 9th February and Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell from Hamilton Russell Vineyards in the Cape coming on Thursday 9th March. Do come and join in the fun!