We met in the sumptuous surroundings of Edinburgh’s spectacular Prestonfield hotel for our episode with the best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin.
Although his lead character, Inspector Rebus, is better known for enjoying a pint of real ale in his beloved Oxford Bar (or a dram of whisky for that matter) his creator has a passion for wine.
With Ian having ‘trod the grapes’ in arguably the most famous post-war vintage in Bordeaux, 1982, nor far from Château La Clarière in Castillon, we did of course enjoy a glass of red Bordeaux.
As Ian pointed out, Edinburgh has a rich history of drinking claret. We know from the memoirs of Scottish judge and literary figure Lord Cockburn, expertly summarised in Billy Kay’s vinous history “Knee Deep in Claret” that in the 18th century a cargo of claret would arrive in the port of Leith to the north of the City. A hogshead would then be carried through the town in a cart with a horn. Anyone who wanted to have a little taste could stop the cart and fill up their jug for sixpence.
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But our vinous journey began across the border, in Oxfordshire with a Club favourite – Wyfold rosé, which we agreed would be absolutely ideal with a simple plate of smoked salmon and buttered bread on Christmas morning.
Throughout it’s nearly 50-year history the Club has always been good at sniffing out interesting new wines from undiscovered wine regions. In that vein, we journeyed to Moldova for the perfumed and summery Viorica from Château Vartely. As Tony once said, many club members would be forgiven for not knowing where Moldova is, let alone that it made wine. And good wine too!
We ended with a brief discussion on blind wine tasting and wine clubs. Ian once joined me for the 20th anniversary of the Edinburgh v St Andrews match. I did think he might be a crack blind wine taster as on the Edinburgh street on which Ian used to live, there was a wine circle, where they would meet and sample various wines. However they didn’t learn much – after years, Ian admitted they were no further forward in trying to discern what the wines were. Somebody would host it and at the end they would say: ‘more research needed.’ Which was a bit cheeky as I gave them a tasting a few years ago!