Today, wine is far more than just a good of joy. For some, wine is an investment, for others it is about status, and still others have made wine their life’s work. But enjoyment is a concept and a feeling that is very subjective and individual from person to person.
Thus, in the supreme discipline of being a sommelier, one speaks of food pairing. Here, the chef specifies the dishes of the menu with all their aromas and nuances, whereupon the sommelier starts his grey cells and meticulously creates the perfect vinophile accompaniment. This involves things like aromatics, acidity, body or tannins. By the way, this is just as possible the other way round. If a wine theme is given, the food accompaniment can be built around it using the same attributes. The aim of the exercise? If wine and food go well together, this combination can highlight both sides – wine and dish – and support each other.
This combination of wine and food is by no means the only way to use wine and marry it with a partner. Maison Krug – one of the leading houses for champagne – uses music as an accompaniment for its champagnes. Olivier Krug, director of the Maison, is a huge fan of Krug Music Pairings and loves to talk about the combination of music and his champagnes. The idea is to add another dimension to the experience of tasting such a champagne – that of music.
Wine can reach us on different levels, goes with all kinds of things and almost always has a legitimacy. Wine is emotional. Wine is enriching. Wine is aesthetic and wine can enchant. So why not pair wine with products that evoke exactly the same thoughts in their consumers?
That’s why, as an old car enthusiast, I sat down with my partner Bentley Düsseldorf, got to grips with the unique models of the luxurious car manufacturer and developed wine pairings to go with them, which reflect the DNA of the vehicle, its characteristics and its appearance. A different kind of wine pairing!
After Bentley Düsseldorf CEO Guido Graf von Spee and I have already talked about the Bentley brand, the DNA and the customers of these elegant and impressive vehicles in the 11th episode of my “A Bottle with” podcast, the next step is now to merge two of the most beautiful secondary things in the world.
The product portfolio of the luxury house from the UK currently comprises three model series: the Bentley Continental GT – also as a GTC convertible -, the Bentley Bentayga and the Bentley Flying Spur. Unfortunately, the Bentley Mulsanne has recently fallen out of the portfolio, which does not prevent us from pairing it with a fine drop as well. Hardly any other model embodies the DNA of Bentley like the Mulsanne, on whose back seat, by the way, we also recorded the podcast.
Bentley Continental GT – Crisp & Dynamic
The classic and sports car in the bunch is the Bentley Continental. The classic coupé, which is also available as a convertible (since 2006), has been hand-built in the UK since 2003 and is probably the epitome of the term luxury coupé. It is also the first Bentley to be introduced by Volkswagen and its image continues to shape the brand to this day. Despite up to 12 cylinders, 900NM torque, over 650 hp and the accompanying hissing when the accelerator is pressed, it – like all its colleagues – comes across as “quiet”. Of course, the appearance is powerful and impressive and a statement, but in contrast to a Lamborghini, AMG or Maserati, it is almost an understatement.
This is also how Guido Graf von Spee described the average new car customer, who owns an average of eight other vehicles and generally no longer has to drive up with a roaring engine.
Nevertheless, the Continental GT is the sports car in the range. Explosive power delivery down low, plenty of bile out the back, a dynamically tuned chassis and a good dose of effervescence stand out as striking on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Of course, this is accompanied by luxury, elegance, the finest materials and appropriate workmanship.
If you now look at these emotions, impressions and transfer them to the world of fermented grapes, as Krug does with music, the Continental GT is a Riesling Großes Gewächs or Grand Cru. Whether a German Gewächs like the Kirchenstück by Bürklin Wolf, the Felseneck by Schäfer-Fröhlich or a Brunnenhäuschen by Wittmann or an Alsatian Grand Cru like the Schoelhammer by Hugel or the Clos St. Hune by Trimbach immediately come to mind. Powerful with the radiant Riesling acidity, from the best sites with unique soils. Similar to the UK, everything here is worked by hand by passionate personalities, with the claim to create something special.
If it were a matter of the convertible, which has the same basis as the GT, I would orientate myself towards Champagne. With the “topless” feel, and therefore more direct feedback and airier setup, I would go for a Rosé Champagne. This might be a Cristal Rosé from Louis Roederer or a Belle Epoque from Perrier Jouet. If – and this should really happen – you are not a fan of the rosé bubbler, you could take up the style of the United Kingdom and serve a 2004 Sir Winston Churchill from Pol Roger. Serious, understated, elegant, impressive!
Bentley Bentayga – Powern & Elegance
Next in line is the Bentley Bentayga. A ship. But it is more like the mighty Dilbar than the timeless Gorch Fock – without wanting to get too close to the Gorch Fock. The Bentayga – correctly pronounced Ben-tey-ga, by the way – is the epitome of an SUV, but trimmed to luxury from the 24″ wheel to the panoramic roof.
Since 2016, around 5000 vehicles of the luxury SUV have been hand-built in Crewe. With a length of over 5 metres and a width of just under 1.80 m, the Bentayga with a price tag of just under €190,000 is a guarantee for a free left lane on the motorway, no matter what the speed limit. 290 km/h are possible, by the way.
Precisely because it is such a ship, it makes an impression. Even though it could, if it wanted to, with its V8 and over 500 horses, it is for me the epitome of the sedan. With the Bentayga, you don’t float above things, but you certainly float above the roads. Timeless elegance meets a look dominated by its power and mass.
Transferring this to the world of wine, one would probably immediately look for the vinophile equivalent of this ship in the red wine corner of Harrods Vinotheque. Powerful appearance, elegance and the power and spice under the bonnet to travel fast and yet most comfortably. With all the chicanery. A not-so-mature Bordeaux – left bank – from a great year? A Cote-Rotie from the northern Rhone with the spice and pepperiness of Syrah? The Australian equivalent from Penfolds – the Grange? How about Napa Valley?
All of them are wines with a good portion of power, full of elegance and, yes, that can’t be missing, with a correspondingly high price tag.
Bentley Mulsanne – The timeless classic
Actually, we should continue with the Flying Spur, as the Mulsanne is unfortunately no longer listed in the current portfolio. However, as the Flying Spur is a kind of successor to the Mulsanne as a Bentley Motors saloon car, the Mulsanne follows first. As already mentioned, we – Guido and I – recorded the podcast in the back seat of a Mulsanne Speed. And that was really impressive. The materials used and their workmanship are so absurdly high quality that it must have been out of date. “So everything that feels like leather here is leather. Everything that looks like stainless steel is stainless steel. And everything that looks like wood is solid wood.”
That they have really reached the end of the line here is impressively attested by the price tag with the figure 400,000€. Built from 2009 to 2020, it takes its name from the historic 1980 Bentley of the same name. It almost seems as if the Mulsanne was made for recording podcasts in the rear, because the body, which can be up to 5.80m long, allows for free thinking and movement in the back seat. All joking aside. That’s luxury for the chauffeur-driven customer, right? Wrong. At least not entirely true, because in fact many Mulsanne owners enjoy driving this work of art themselves.
If you move in these realms, where price tags are secondary and interpersonal contact is more important to the customer, you cannot avoid the so-called and gladly but rarely seen “stoop goods”. These are, for example, the wines at Prowein – the world’s largest trade fair for wine and spirits – that you don’t find in the usual tastings. The bottles are really under the counter and are served to good customers, friends or people “for whom it is worthwhile”.
And if just the price tag doesn’t matter, I would move to France and stop off in either Burgundy or Champagne. Then, of course, it can’t be just anything, which is why I would choose the “end of the line” in each case. In Burgundy, it would be a wine from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the “most expensive vineyard in the world”. The Domaine’s reputation has always preceded it, and so a glass of this Burgundy in front of it is one of the few holy grails for any wine lover.
Whether Corton, Romanée St. Vivant, Echezaux or Grand Echezaux, Richebourg, Monopollage La Tache or Romanée-Conti. Price per bottle? Depending on availability and vintage, around 20,000€. Yes, per bottle.
In Champagne, not far away, I immediately had two names in mind. One is Selosse, the other Krug. However, referring to Bentley’s “Craftmansship” idea of handcrafting everything in the vehicle, I feel a Krug a bit more. No other house in Champagne goes to such lengths to create its champagne, the Grande Cuvée. Up to 200 different wines from various vintages are meticulously blended together here to create a unique cuvée. But since we are talking about the Mulsanne, I would go for the “big ones” at Krug – the Clos de Mesnil, a single-varietal Chardonnay – or the Clos d’Ambonnay, which is a single-varietal Pinot Noir and puts the Clos de Mesnil in the shade. Price for this “Blanc de Noir” from a single, 0.69ha small vineyard in the village of Ambonnay: over 2000€!
Bentley Flying Spur – The elegant one of the bunch
Even though some Bentley enthusiasts may not have fully digested the news of the Mulsanne’s discontinuation, the unofficial successor is already here. The Flying Spur is by no means a newcomer. The first series of the Flying Spur rolled off the production line back in 2013 – is that what you say when all vehicles are made exclusively by hand? It was relaunched in 2019 and is my favourite in the British portfolio. It is – for me – the perfect symbiosis of an elegant saloon (a good 5.30m in length), an insanely dynamic and powerful feel (up to 635 hp and 12 cylinders) and Bentley’s luxury DNA.
The Flying Spur is not only a worthy successor to the legendary Mulsanne, in my opinion it presents itself as a kind of dynamic update of the state coach described above.
And here, too, I would find myself in French Burgundy if I were looking for a wine that embodies the Flying Spur. In contrast to the Pinot Noir in the Mulsanne, here I would go for a Chardonnay that comes along elegantly and with a lot of “steam”. Of course, the first place to look is the Cote de Beaune, go through the internationally popular and beloved communes and inevitably get stuck where it is most expensive, but also most complex and adequate for a Flying Spur – Montrachet. Montrachet is the Grand Cru site – the best of the best – of the communes of Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. As is so often the case, the best is always expensive on the one hand and very limited on the other, which is also the case here. The Grand Cru vineyard covers only 8 hectares and is the only one, along with the other four Grand Cru vineyards Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet and Criots-Bâtards-Montrachet, that can boast this highest title. The unhyphenated Montrachet is the most sought-after and also the rarest.
The single-varietal Chardonnay, which is one of the best dry white wines in the world, shines from the glass and enchants with voluminous elegance and plenty of capacity. Besides an incredible harmony and balance and fine minerality, it often presents notes of brioche, honey, butter, herbs and a wonderful melting.
Here, too, one could take a cue from the Domaine de la Romanée Conti, which cultivates part of the Montrachet site.
Another great Burgundy winemaker and name is Domaine Ramonet, which also bottles a sensational range of different Burgundies each year, including Montrachet. At this point, Santé!
By the way, all Bentley Motors models will be offered with alternative drive systems in the future, which once again underlines the brand’s sustainability philosophy. Currently, the production facility in Crewe UK is the only one in the world that is emission-free.
Never forget: Drink Responsibly – Don’t Drink and Drive!