A harem and a headache: how wine was born

Heard the one about the woman in the harem who had a headache?

No, neither had I until I got chatting to the guys at Cheval Blanc wine bar and kitchen in Moseley.
Now I realise that we owe a big debt of gratitude to the migraine-stricken mystery woman.
This is the story.
King Jamsheed was a mythical ruler of Persia long long ago and adored grapes..
He liked them so much that he sought to preserve them in jars over winter.
Some fermented and, worried about what was bubbling away inside the containers, Jamsheed had those jars marked ‘Poison’.
A concubine, despairing of frequent headaches, decided to end it all by glugging back some of of the ‘poisonous’ potion.
Instead, she decided it was pretty good stuff and slurred her appreciation of the beverage to Jamsheed.
Thus wine was discovered.

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All of which is all nonsense, of course, but the legend’s the reason behind the name of Jamsheed Wines in the Yarra Valley in Australia.
It’s one of the winemakers whose beautifully-crafted wines are stocked by Cheval Blanc.
And the story behind its name is very much in keeping with the ethos of Cheval Blanc, which aims to supply wines with history, interest and a story.
Such as Nothing To Declare – a wine made by the Blankbottle winery in Western Cape, South Africa.
That’s its name because once upon a time South Africa winemakers would smuggle in new vines from foreign lands by tying them to their legs beneath their trousers and sauntering nonchalantly through Customs.

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Cocktails at Cheval Blanc, too, have some fascinating tales behind them.
The gin-based cocktail Good Morning Steve got its title because ‘Steve’ is the name that Yorkshire-based Mason’s Gin gave its copper still.
“Rarer Than A Can’ – a cocktail featuring vodka, bitters, dandelion and burdock, lemon and soda – is so named because that’s part of a line from the Arctic Monkey’s love song Suck It And See.
Whoever said romance was dead, eh?
It certainly isn’t at Cheval Blanc where the two guys in charge, Abigail Connolly and her assistant Rory Eaton, are in love with the magic and myth and stories behind the drinks they serve.
Feel free to ask them if you’re ever puzzled by a name!
Meanwhile, let’s raise a glass to Jamsheed’s concubine.

Cheval Blanc
145 Alcester Rd, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8JP. 0121 449 6344.

I work on a freelance basis with Cheval Blanc.