Douglas Blyde’s average week might include tending to the needs of A list celebrities of his media mogul client, or working out tasting events for both his drinks and corporate clients. Either way he is constantly on the look out for challenging wines and spirits to excite and illuminate his many guests. It certainly makes for a great read…
Douglas Blyde has a most fascinating life in his role as a self proclaimed “gastronomy consultant”. Here’s his not so average week.
What was the highlight of your last working week?
Getting three magnums of Rauzan-Segla onto a private jet with just two-and-a-half hours notice before unwinding from the challenge at my client’s golf driving range proximate restaurant, Vinothec Compass. Over a well wine-rinsed lunch we decided they will go ‘more Basque’ in the kitchen.
And the lowlight of your last working week?
Suffering something like jet-lag from long finishes crafting cocktails for A-list celebrities at a client’s Italian palazzo – alleviated by doing a fair few baskets of ironing at 2am. Therapeutic.
What is the best part of your job?
Seeing people enjoy my liquid recommendations. Especially when I’ve pushed their boundaries, by introducing wines in larger formats with bravely artistic labels, like Chêne Bleu’s Pont des Artes rosé (read our review on The Buyer). There’s really not enough visual elements in wine – which was something Sopexa and artists from Central St Martin’s tried to address at the recent Rhône Touch pop-up gallery, restaurant and bar, which I consulted on.
What is the thing about your job you would like to improve?
I wish I was able to be strict enough to literally switch off electronic communicative devices after a certain time in the evening.
How has 2016 been for you and your business?
I’ve moved further from writing and into both consulting and organising detailed events. Whether they be large summer parties for my media mogul client, the drinks pairings for the launches of new planes and a new Bristol car for my aviation client. Advising on the most influential palates to taste wild Kopi Luwak in capsule form for my coffee client, or a gamut of wine tastings for regional wine boards and my South African bank client.
Regarding the latter, heading to South Africa for a week around my birthday in January with the wonderful Jo Wehring of Wines of South Africa and witty Fiona Beckett proved the most inspiring press trip I’ve ever experienced. That country’s approach to wine tourism puts much of closed-gates Europe to shame. And not a duff wine tasted out of over 350.
What are the key trends that are impacting your business. How do you hope to live up to them?
Building up cellars of fine French and Californian wine for UK-based clients is becoming ever more irksome an ambition thanks to the post-Brexit currency reduction. The UK’s fine wine reserves are, like London property, in effect, being eagerly asset-stripped by those harbouring stronger currencies. I’m therefore introducing clients to better value fine wines from regions other than Bordeaux with extra zeal. Labels like CARO (Catena-Rothschild) from Argentina light up the faces of those who try it for the first time, for instance.
Favourite restaurant you have eaten this year and why?
Must be perky oysters, roasted sardines, then tender grouse at The Withies Inn near Godalming, Surrey with a bottle of humble but freezing Fleurie at a gingham tablecloth under a living pergola. Properly old school. Waiters in bow ties. Charming landlord who is also a bit of an intellectual when it comes to marine biology. Feels like nothing bad could happen here.
Favourite bottle of wine you have had in the last month. Why and where did you drink it?
Rauzan-Segla 2007 with my main wine merchant, Jon Hirsch (IG Wines) sipped at home on my 50 year old psychedelic sofa after a night of gains at The Ritz Club. Not the best vintage, perhaps, but I challenge you not to find it utterly delightful. I’ve just bought 12 cases of it for a client, in fact.
Favourite cocktail you have had this year. Why and where did you drink it?
Other than the Aviation sour which celebrates a century of recorded existence this year? Or the Beluga Gold Line Kopi Luwak Difference Coffee espresso martini I helped plan at a media dinner at Harry’s Bar, Mayfair? It must be the Negroni, crafted with 1950s Campari, from when it was still coloured with cochineal (sourced from Edgar Harden of Old Spirits Company), remarkably aromatic Cornish Knightor vermouth (from Tim at Sommelier’s Choice) and export strength (47.3%) Gordon’s gin. As smooth and supple as the guts of a lozenge! I organised a version of this to be served at an event I helped mastermind for a security firm up at SushiSamba’s balcony, and it went down as fast as the Heron Tower’s lifts.
If you could pick three people for a classic dinner party from the trade who would they be?
The eagle-eyed James Steen whose chef autobiographies are unbeatable, the ever charming Richard Siddle (Thanks. Ed)who gave me my first professional wine writing break at Harper’s, and, not strictly wine, but hospitality, Alan Crompton Batt, a PR supremo who sadly no longer moves the mortal coil (so that could be rather tricky to achieve).
Best job you have had in your career. Why did you leave (or you may be still in it)?
Taking guests around Chilford Hall Vineyard as a guide while at university. Their Brut Pinot Noir, which I chose for an event at Newmarket’s Jockey Club Rooms, is a lithe princess.
Who have been the mentors in your career or people who have inspired you the most?
David Fox, who made me stand back and try to see the whole picture when editing my film for BBC Three’s ‘I Love Milton Keynes’ which I made a decade ago. He sort of ‘felt’ the texture of the shots. The film had been rejected rather dramatically by the first commissioning editor, and Fox repaired me before I could repair the film, in effect.
What is the your favourite film orbook that includes wine/drink?
Where are you going on summer holidays? And what were you drinking?
Partly through the demands of work, my wife and I have decided to rather couthly split our honeymoon into three parts. The first week saw us explore mountainous Northern Greece, where we helped deplete older reserves of the local Averoff winery, Metsovo after hiking around the wild strawberry-laden slopes. The second week took us to Sri Lanka, where we took reserves with us. In addition to deeply-hued Gosset Rosé, I brought a mature Casa Lapostolle Alexandre Syrah 2002, which tasted of sweet blood. For the final week, we may well journey to see the Northern Lights at the end of the year, armed with aquavit of some sort, or, in homage to my Russian client, Beluga vodka!
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