(This blog is re-published from the website of our friends Claud The Butler – www.claudthebutler.co.uk)
There is a little corner of Wiltshire that will be forever France…
Claud is beside himself with excitement at the prospect of a whole day spent in the Yapp Brother’s yard in Mere alongside his buddy, the Yapp blue Citroen H delivery van and his close cousin, the very distinguished Citroen ‘Traction Avant’. And we’re feeling the excitement too as we set up in the courtyard of this award-winning and deliciously ‘under-the-radar’ wine merchants and prepare for a day serving coffee and cake to discerning oenophiles. The eagerly awaited Yapp Brothers ‘Bin End Wines’ Sale is underway, early risers make their way across the courtyard to the ‘tasting’ room, choices are made. No wonder coffee seemed like a good idea.
Jason Yapp is busy co-ordinating a small, dedicated band of staff, but finds time to drop by to shoot the breeze and fill us in on a little of the history of the place. The fountain full of aquamarine water to the right of Claud is a replica of the original at Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône, and the grotto to his left is a hang-over from brewery days. Beer was kept cool in the grotto – until the family of brewers fell under the influence of the Temperance movement and turned their attentions to skimmed milk production. Jason’s father, Yapp père, has stopped by for coffee too, and sits in the morning sunshine in Claud’s café as if it were a regular feature of his Saturday mornings. Jason shows us black and white photo boards of the dilapidated state of the buildings when his father first bought them, way back in the late sixties. Today they nestle side-by-side, resplendent in the colours of Southern France, all blues, turquoises and yellows. Hard to imagine we’re in Wiltshire on the warmest day of the year so far.
Today ‘Team Claud’ is joined by guest member, George, taking time out from his high-flying London legal career to don an apron and help his mum with her new venture. It’s a family affair. The smell of coffee beans fills the air and visitors to Claud delicately negotiate their way through a menu of lattes, espressos, cappuccinos and flat whites. Together with side orders of home-made cake, and, for that true taste of ‘la belle france’, little madeleines fresh from our Willow Vale oven. Tom ‘Yapp’ takes a break to talk cycling with Lee. Turns out they had both climbed Mont Ventoux in the ferocious heat of Le Tour d’Etape, an amateur stage of the Tour de France, two years back.
Customers sit in the spring sunshine, tasting notes in hand, before returning to the inner sanctum that is Yapp Brother’s tasting room. I have my own ‘sale list’ to hand and take the opportunity to conduct a random ‘straw poll’ of what is drinking well today. An Alsace: Pinot Blanc 2005 comes in for special mention, and a heady rose, Bellet: Domaine de la Source Rosé 2009, is talked about with something approaching reverence. A ‘reds’ man who sounded authoritative spoke of the intense aroma of the Saint Joseph:Domaine Georges Vernay 2008 and in hushed tones of the wonders of Cornas: Cuvee Renaissance 2007. Unscientific, maybe, but those are my tips for the day, and I offer them purely on the basis of being an enthusiastic amateur with an ear to the ground.
As the sun sets over the fountain the last of the bin-enders stagger out of the Yapp Brother’s cellars clutching boxes of fine wines and head for home. We send out a last-minute plate of brownies to staff and are delighted when Tom returns the compliment with an elegant glass of deep red dessert wine that verges on ambrosial. ‘It goes with chocolate,’ he explains. Oh yes it does…
I decide that French wine, sunshine, good company, coffee and cake make for a very fine day out indeed. A votre santé!