Last week Tom and I had the pleasure of meeting up with the other representatives of The Bunch - in the salubrious setting of the Paramount Club on the 25 floor of the Centre Point Tower, London W1. This fabulous locale offers the finest view imaginable of the Capital but is not a venue for those suffering from vertigo – which happily none of our party did.
On the relatively rare occasions when the Bunch confrères convene we nearly always bring along our own wines and although this always makes for a convivial atmosphere there is a certain degree of one-upmanship. As ever the banter was lively and gossip scurrilous but I was intruiged when my neighbour (at table not post-code) Adam Brett-Smith the genial MD of Royal Warrant holders, Corney & Barrow opened a bottle of (I think) Corton Charlemagne Bonneau de Martray 2003 at the upper tier of the ridged flange on the bottle-neck. I expressed my surprise and bemusement but Adam gently explained that that was, of course, the ‘correct’ way to open a bottle. Moreover, when quizzed, he averred that he was pretty disdainful of any other approach to the matter.
My interest was piqued. As someone with a marked preference for the lower tier, had I been opening capsules on bottles incorrectly for over 2 decades of professional service?
My own (quite dearly held) feelings are that the lower tier offers some upward purchase with a corkscrew and a cleaner more aesthetically pleasing appearance – so is therefore the best option. It was clearly time to solicit opinions from the other distinguished diners. Simon Berry, chairman of Berry Bros. & Rudd, prevaricated but was outed as a ‘topper’ when he generously opened a magnificent bottle of 1961 Domaine de Chevalier Graves. Just as the ‘top ridge’ party were beginning to dominate proceedings Charles Lea of Lea & Sandeman pitched in with a bullish plea in favour of the lower option. Perhaps unsurprisingly my co-director Tom also came out in favour of the bottom ridge but Robert Boutflower of Tanners then induced gasps of amazement when he declared himself to be an unashamed ‘ripper offer’. Once decorum had been restored other colleagues conceded that they ‘ripped off’ in private but favoured the top or bottom options for more formal imbibing.
Clearly this is a subject about which people feel passionate. Subsequent quizzing of journalists and sommeliers has elicited strong opinions and at the time of writing the ‘bottomers’ just have the edge in terms of numbers. I’ve only discovered two other variants. The outrageous and uncivilised ‘pull the cork through the foil’ manoeuvre and the overly fanciful ‘double cut and wrap the cork’ option. Perhaps I should stick to screw-caps in future lest I cause offence!