Wednesday 27 July 2011

Enjoying wine James Bond 007 style - Three Cape Ladies, Warwick Estate

James Bond was originally not that much of a wine drinker. Spirits, cocktails, yes; the ubiquitous Martini, and of course Champagne – but the writer Cyril Ray, who worked with Bond's creator Ian Fleming, once said that Fleming “knew nothing about wine except what he was told when he rang up friends in the wine trade, and then usually got it wrong.”

Perhaps that’s why in both books and films Bond stuck primarily to the irreproachable Chateau Mouton-Rothschild – a 1947 with Goldfinger, and half a bottle On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a 1934 ordered by M in Moonraker, and a ’55 in Diamonds are Forever – where, of course, Bond unveiled the assassin Wint because the man didn’t know that Mouton-Rothschild is a claret. And, fitting to the perpetrator of such a crime, killed him.

(Frankly, for using a gas ejector to open the bottle, he deserved to be shot…)

But now, the American author Jeffery Deaver has written a new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche. And appropriately, just as the 1950s Bond knew all about cocktails, the contemporary Bond is something of a wine connoisseur. The question is whether the wines he enjoys today fit the James Bond we have always aspired to be. After all, like most English men of a certain age, I have always felt something of the Bond about myself…

In Carte Blanche, Bond is invited to lunch at the Travellers Club on Pall Mall, by a solid man in his mid-sixties, identified only as the ‘Admiral’. (He later turns out to have been M.) Deaver has certainly got the right venue for such a diplomatic assignation, and I can vouch for the descriptions of both the Club and its typical member. But the wine?

Menus descended. Bond ordered halibut on the bone, steamed, with Hollandaise, boiled potatoes and grilled asparagus. The Admiral selected the grilled kidney and bacon, then asked Bond, ‘Wine?’
‘Yes, please.’
‘You choose.’
‘Burgundy, I should think,’ Bond said. ‘Côte de Beaune? Or a Chablis?’
‘The Alex Gambal Puligny, perhaps?’ the waiter suggested.

Fools! It should be Puligny-Montrachet – no-one who knew their Burgundy would omit the legendary suffix. Bond would surely delight in correcting the waiter, know that both of the two ‘t’s are silent, and suavely order it from him properly. Then kill him.

Except, he wouldn’t order it. Not just because it’s a poor pairing with grilled kidney and bacon. Nor because it has an ugly modern label.  But because it’s not on the wine list at the Travellers Club. Indeed, I was told, “Regarding the wine, I’m afraid no-one ever heard of it being served in the club house.”

So that’s the end of that one. James Bond would not be drinking that particular wine at the Travellers, and so nor shall I. (Although, if you are ever in the fortunate position yourself of ordering a white Burgundy at the club, may I suggest the Meursault 2002 Cuvée Tete de Murger, Domaine Patrick Javillier, whose flavour has been rather poetically described as “haunting”…)

Bond eventually heads off to South Africa to pursue the usual shenanigans – which, as he wines and dines a female executive, start with an order of a Rustenberg Peter Barlow Cabernet 2005.

This is a Bordeaux-style red, possibly a little young, but given all the government cutbacks, at around one-tenth of the price, an understandable substitute for someone whose expense account can surely no longer bear the cost of Mouton-Rothschild.

However, going from one extreme to the other, I think we have to ask whether James Bond would order a wine which is sold in Tesco.  Last seen in a wire basket alongside a special offer meat pie for one? Is that going to impress the woman he is trying to seduce? Though that outcome is never really in doubt, given that her name is Felicity Willing…

Willing by name and, as it proves, by nature. And she is responsible for the third of the wines he supposedly enjoys. When she later visits him for a return match, as it were, a wine bottle appeared from her shoulder bag – vintage Three Cape Ladies, a red blend from Muldersvlei on the Cape. Bond knew its reputation. He took out the cork and poured. (Good to see he’s mastered that tricky sequence!) They sat on the sofa and sipped. “Wonderful,” he said.

This wine is extremely difficult to buy in London by the bottle; I have to thank the enormously helpful Handford Wines on the Old Brompton Road, a lovely, traditional wine merchant whose knowledge, service and sheer Englishness would surely have merited Bond’s own custom.

Bond’s “wonderful” is not the most precise tasting note I have come across. Nor is it, in this case, the most accurate. This is an immensely muscular wine, dark purple in colour with a hot, foresty bouquet. Perhaps it’s been whacked around its privates with a knotted rope.

It’s dense, almost cloying in the mouth, dominated by cabernet sauvignon but with just a little edge from pinotage and syrah in the blend, and a long, echoing finish. And it’s so heavy and powerful, with 14.5% alcohol, it really needs food to carry it down. It has the lumbering strength of Moonraker’s villain Jaws, rather than the finesse of Bond himself.

Bear in mind that this wine is not, as the overexcited PRs suggest, Bond’s own choice of seduction wine, but his Willing partner’s. Nevertheless, Bond deems it “wonderful”, and like him it is ruthlessly effective. Shortly after sipping it, He kissed her and slowly began to undo the buttons… I’m sure Handford Wines will help anyone wishing to recreate at least the sipping part of this scene.

So 007 could not have savoured the “Puligny” as described. The Rustenberg Peter Barlow is certainly appropriate in both taste and looks (nice traditional label), but may be too commonplace. He finds Three Cape Ladies more “wonderful” than I, but it certainly proves seductive. Hmmm.

Bond’s own London club, Blades, has a knowledgeable wine waiter in Grimley. Faced with a choice of wines in Moonraker, Bond says “Perhaps I could leave it to Grimley?”

Yes, perhaps he should.


(“Who? Kill him…”)


  1. Well written. Now I need a glass of wine!

    James Bond

  2. Dear CJ and PK,
    Thanks for a well researched and interesting post.
    For the record; Warwick 'Three Cape adies' Cape Blend was the first ever South African Cape Blend to be included in the Wine Spectator 'Top 100 Wine in the World' and has received critical praise around the world for over a decade. The current vintage has recently been awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator, arguably the most important arbiter of taste in the world and has been nominated as a Wine Spectator 'Smart Buy' in the September 2011 issue of the same magazine. This wine was also the only South African Cape Blend to be invited to participate in the Wine Spectator Grand Tour of 2011 in Chicago, Las Vegas and Boston. I could go on, but this wine has earned it's respect and its sales in fine wine shops and top restaurants around the world attests to this. One could argue that Warwick 'Three Cape Ladies' is perfectly suited to a man with an eye for the ladies - like Mr Bond perhaps.

    Best wishes
    Mike Ratcliffe, owner
    Warwick Wine Estate

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