R.I.P. - My first ever day in France was spent at a lunch with Madame Bollinger, seated on her left. All the stories about that wonderful lady are true; she was a great ambassador for champagne in general and Bollinger in particular. It was a remarkable 10 days, with a collection of wines from the stellar 1966 vintage - a lifetime experience never to be forgotten and which influenced my future career in the food and wine industry.
The original Cork & Bottle Wine Bar (in Leicester Square), renown for its champagne sales, was my first Wine Bar. It was followed by Shampers, Bubbles, Methuselahs and, finally, Hanover Square Wine Bar & Grill.
In 1985 I wrote my first book, "Enjoying Wine". In 1989 I wrote my second, "The Glory of Champagne", which won the Lanson Award. Whilst researching this book I had lunch with Christian de Billy of Pol Roger and told him it was my birthday. He asked my vintage and two weeks later the doorman of the Savoy (in full livery) turned up at the Cork & Bottle with two bottles of Pol Roger's 1945 vintage. I cannot top that as a tasting experience in champagne drinking.
Now happily retired, I am a consultant to the Cork & Bottle Group, whose new owner Will Clayton continues the promotion of champagne as an Academy Committee member.'