Back in the days when I had hair, hope and a bank balance unsavaged by the needs and wants of children, I happened upon a bottle of Jaboulet ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage 1961 among the bin ends at a city centre shop.
Being even less sophisticated then than I am now, I didn’t realise that this was one of the world’s great wines from one of its legendary vintages and bought it on a whim and able to do so only because I hadn’t yet got round to wasting all that week’s spending money at the pub.
It was the wine that gave me a true passion for the stuff, for, when I pulled the cork a couple of days later at home, the heady scents that emerged from the dusty bottle were huge, beguiling, exotic, seductive.
The depth and array of complex favours on the palate were headier still.
Now, many thousands of bottles of plonk later, few wines have had such a profound impact on me.
Fast forward several decades and here I am at the Michelin-starred Cross in Kenilworth eating head chef Adam Bennett’s hugely impressive food and drinking a range of Jaboulet wines selected by Bibendum.
There’s a ‘La Chapelle’, of course, bravely served with a hard cheese course that shows off its intense deep red fruits and almost smokey backdrop.
Around it we drink snappy but tropical fruit-tinged Crozes Hermitage Blanc Les Jalets with a sweet Portland crab given a gentle nudge by cumin and tangy pomelo, the trio’s playfulness reined in by creamy blobs of avocado.
Crozes Hermitage Rouge Les Jalets – gentler than ‘La Chapelle’ but still a bold show of summer fruits and sweet spices – is shown off alongside a mighty dish of ridiculously tender pork cheek with Roscoff onion, wild garlic, mash and blood bread.
The same wine holds its own, too, with an even mightier plate of perfectly-cooked Highland venison with a deconstructed haggis, refreshing pear and zingy celeriac.
At the end of the meal we sip Muscat de Beaumes de Venise with Bennett’s beautifully balanced and understated mango crumble and honey ice cream – the wine sweet but restrained, its background hints of elderflower enlivening at the end of a a thrilling meal.
It is of such afternoons that memories are made.
These wines and dishes – through the menu may change slightly – will be served at The Cross on Thursday April 14 at a special Jaboulet Aîné dinner.
It’s among a series of gourmet events at introduced by restaurant manager Giuseppe Longobardi.
Tickets are £100 a head – a fair price for such stunning wine and stunning food.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the pub on 01926 853 840 to book your place.