…I’d Like a Bottle of Bollinger R.D and Some Beluga Caviar…
Ahead of the release of the latest Bond Movie, Rory Craig from Station to Station Wine has created this fun and informative piece around the drinks of choice of Bond through the ages.
Few things personify the Craig era of Bond as the sight of him swigging a Heineken. In an attempt to broaden the appeal and attract a younger viewer (and to pad the product placement slush-fund), it was decided that for the first time ever in Skyfall, Bond should pound a beer. James Bond’s ultra-functioning alcoholism is well established, and when he is not ripping the palate off himself with vodka martinis, he drinks wine. In reverse chronological order, we look at Bond’s relationship with wine. Culinary accompaniment, aphrodisiac, weapon, or as a tool to snuff out a baddie, Bond is typically inventive in his consumption. And, in the parlance of our time: spoiler alert.
Champagne is always the focus. Ian Fleming was quite a boozehound himself, and when he wasn’t smashing wild turkey with Ernest Hemingway up the road in Cuba (or bitching about him behind his back apparently) he was devouring a bottle of gin a day. His wine tipple of choice was Champagne, and his favourite was Taittinger. In the original novels Taittinger is Bond’s over-arching bubble of choice. Taittinger has played only a minor role in the films. Moet’s premium cuvee Dom Perignon was ever present during the 60’s. Original producer Cubby Broccoli’s penchant for Bollinger helped establish it as the choice of fizz in the 70’s before he entered an official arrangement with Christian Bizot, the head of Bollinger in 1979 for Moonraker (incidentally a pioneering film in the art of product placement).
Tough Bond Daniel Craig does not just chug beers. In addition to famously coining the Vespa Martini, he hits 50 year old Macallan, plays scorpion tequila and drinks quite a lot of wine. He is in fact, the most booze soaked Bond of them all.
Like his predecessors Daniel Craig places huge importance on Champagne, and while he will always order their top cuvee (which are always specific vintages) it is done in an of course Bollinger RD/Grand Anee, who do you think I am? Sort of a way. Very Craig. Far more interesting however, is his choice of red. On the train to Montenegro in Casino Royale when he first meets Vesper Lind, they enjoy a bottle of Chateau Angelus 1982, a vintage generally regarded as the best ever. Accounts differ as to who approached whom, though the Broccoli family already had a long established friendship with the family behind Chateau Angelus. Undisputable though, is the impact on sales and reputation Bond had on the wine. Angelus eventually moved up the classification from Grand Cru classe B to A, not the first time 007 has facilitated such a rare change in Bordeaux’s appellation hierarchy (to that we venture later). Angelus’ owner described the impact of its appearance in the film as extraordinary. Chateau Angelus made another appearance in Spector, this time the 100 point 2005 vintage.
If you were to be kind to Pierce Brosnan, you could say that he created an ample pastiche of James Bond, honed from those that came before him.
Having arrived at the franchise low-point in the 90’s, poor Pierce seemed to get a bit of a raw deal. In M’s office upon meeting his new boss, he suggests there may be a bottle of Brandy somewhere left by her predecessor, his new M curtly tells him she prefers bourbon. Judy Dench memorably proceeds to tear him a new one, Brosnans Bond bearing the brunt of decades of sexism and misogyny. Alcohol wise, Pierce seems simply to fulfill marketing obligations, even drinking straight Smirnoff at one stage. The contractually obliged appearance of Bollinger appears once a film and sadly his most authentic drinking experience is probably a Mojito, which he drinks with Halle Berry’s dreadfully written but charmingly performed character Jax over a MonteCristo cigar.
…THE BRAND ON THE LIST WAS QUESTIONABLE SO I TOOK THE LIBERTY OF CHOOSING SOMETHING ELSE…
Daniel Craig’s scowling James Bond is augmented with a hefty portion of pouting, betraying a rather over-performed aspect to our current Bond. As a reaction against Brosnan’s soft touch and a nod to the raw original though, it is admirable. In comparison to Timothy Dalton’s glowering ocean of aggressive testosterone though, Craig is positively cheery. In an effort to provide a counterpoint to the wink wink nudge nudge nature of Roger Moore’s Bond, Dalton decided to go dark and emulate the true Bond – Fleming’s Bond. He is wildly successful in this regard.
In The Living Daylights (one of the last authentic spy films ever made) and then the ill-judged, violent and over-15’s rated License to Kill, Dalton is limited to several martini’s and a couple of Bollinger mentions. He does throw some shade at M’s choice of Champagne when bringing a hamper of goods to a KGB defector de-brief: the brand on the list was questionable sir, so i took the liberty of selecting something else. One wonders what the questionable brand was, or indeed why James Bond was dispatched to pick up lunch from Harrods (itself explicitly name-checked).
In License to Kill, after relieving a drug dealer of several million dollars in cash, Bond flies into fictional Isthmus City (almost certainly based of the Manuel Noreiga-era Panama) and checks into the hottest hotel in town, ordering (in addition to fresh flowers every day) a case of Bollinger RD. Bollinger RD is made in tiny qualities and aged for at least 10 years before release, suggesting vintages from the early 70’s, but no vintage is ever mentioned when he is ordering. Though when one is drinking RD one does not quibble about vintage, does one?
…I’LL NEED A BOTTLE OF BOLLINGER, 2 GLASSES…
As we have covered, Roger Moore was a softer Bond. Curiously, he is never more badass than when wine comes into the equation, and it does frequently. In his first outing as James Bond, he orders some Bolinger from room service though does not specify a specific wine. (In keeping with the extraordinary casual racism in the film, 007 may have presumed that this small hotel on the fictional island of San Monique may have been short on prestige cuvee). Busily defrauding virginal girls of their innocence and culturally appropriating everything in sight, Bond has little time for wine though he does find time to get charged extra for having no ice in his bourbon in a bar in Harlem and drinks a Sazerac in New Orleans.
The Man With The Golden Gun is a veritable wine feast. In the opening scene, Scaramanga and Ms Anders are enjoying a bottle of Dom Perignon at the beach. Interestingly, there is also a bottle of Guinness on the table, whether the man with the golden gun is enjoying black velvet (guinness and champagne) is unclear. Later in the movie at dinner Bond is served Phu Yak, a Thai sparkling wine and he does not make too much of an effort to hide his disgust. 007 surprises Ms Anders in the shower with a bottle of Dom Perignon before assaulting her and extracting information on her lover Scaramanga. When Bond lands on Scaramanga’s island at the end of the film he is greeted by a beaming Niknak who presents a Dom Perignon 62, which is opened spectacularly by Scaramanga with a Colt .45. At lunch with Ms Goodnight (…I like a girl in a bikini, no concealed weapons…) Bond recommends his host add their lunch wine to his cellar because it is slightly reminiscent of a ‘34 Mouton – the recently elevated 1st growth Bordeaux. In the final scene as Bond and Goodnight are about to celebrate a job well done, Niknak heartbreakingly flings two dozen bottles of wine and Bond and Goodnight. Given what had gone before in this outing, one can only imagine this was rather fine wine. For this abomination, Bond stuff the psychotic dwarf into a suitcase.
The Spy Who Loved Me opens with a stunning bit of imagery as Bond skis apparently to his death, right off the side of a mountain before revealing the union jack parachute to kickstart the Monty Norman score and title cards. Compared to his last outing, Spy contains very little wine drinking. At the end though, after dispatching the baddie and making his getaway on a submarine escape pod with Russian agent Triple X (played by Beatles’ drummer Ringo Star’s wife) Bond finds an ice bucket with Champagne ready to go and reflects: Maybe I misjudged Stromberg, anyone who drinks Dom perignon ‘52 can’t be all bad. Q uite.
Bollinger had become James Bond’s official drink in Moonraker. We get several glimpses of the iconic cuvee throughout the film, but the best moment is when, upon inspecting the contents of the ice bucket he tells Dr Goodhead (yes, really) Bollinger! ‘69, you were expecting me. Recently rehabilitated by love, the baddie Jaws, who has previously been mute actually finds a bottle of Bollinger in the wreckage of Drax space station, opening it with his beastly silver teeth before toasting: well, here’s to us.
…THAT’S A LITTLE SCENTED FOR MY PALATE…
If you really thought about it, in For Your Eyes Only, you could have figured out the baddie very quickly via the following exchange on wine. Bond has a dinner meeting with a contact well known to, and well trusted by her majesty’s government – Greek industrialist Haris Kristatos. Bond rather nonchalantly rejects the wine suggestion from Kristatos who wants to showcase a Ribolla by a producer from Cepholina, his home town. 007 shuts him down, suggesting that it is far too scented for his palate, ordering something else. Kristatos does not bat an eyelid, and Bond does not break his gait, ordering something else presumably magnificent. This kind of vinous smackdown would not be inflicted on a true ally, and a true ally would not have taken it lying down. Was there anyone who guessed Kristatos was the baddie based solely on this wine exchange? There must have been. (That particular producer still toutes the association nearly 40 years later).
Long in the tooth does not go far enough in describing Roger Moore’s tenure in the early 80’s. The toupee and eyelid surgery that Cubby Broccoli invested in to flog this fine mare only served to make things worse and sadly Roger’s last two outings were a source of regret for the great man before he died. If you are a fan of a certain age and disposition though, Octopussy and A View to A Kill will rank amongst your favourites. During an Eiffel Tower meeting with Inspector Aisheel Aubergine (yep) Bond blind tastes the Champagne and correctly judges it to be Bollinger ‘75 (no mention of Cuvee). His guest orders a Chateau Mouton 1969 which Bond to be an excellent choice. The truth is though that ‘69 was not all that. Either Bond was being polite or he was out of touch and tired. Moore always regretted staying on that long, very few fans regretted it though, and his extravagant knowledge of wine and taste will ring through the ages.
…RED WINE WITH FISH. WELL THAT SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME SOMETHING…
Connery to many is the quintessential Bond. Along with extraordinarily good looks, he added an athleticism and physicality that will simply never be matched. As a Scot he seemed to revel in the English gentry that the character needed, almost playing it as parody but never going over the top. Fleming balked at the casting initially, calling Sean Connery working class, who in turn called Fleming a snob. Fleming’s mind was quickly changed after Dr. No however, and the last couple of Bond novels that he wrote saw the character of Bond change to mirror Connery’s playfulness and humour. Connery imitated art and then art imitated Connery.
Sean Connery the working class hero is the ultimate wine Bond. In Dr No there is little to speak of until we get to Dr. No’s island of crab Quay. At dinner, as the guards manhandle Honey Ryder from the dinner table, Bond stands up and nearly clubs one of them with a bottle.
Calmly Dr No announces that: it’s a Dom Perignon ‘55 Mr Bond it would be a pity to break it. 007 nonchalantly sits down and says that he prefers the ‘53. This seems to rile Dr. No up who announces that he has misjudged Bond and calls him a stupid policeman. Records are sparse from this time and while 1955 was indeed a classic vintage, there is some evidence to suggest that ‘53 was a connoisseurs vintage. There is also some empirical evidence to suggest that this was a bit of a flub by the film makers. Given Dr No was filmed early in 1962 and Dom requires 8 years of ageing before release, it is unlikely that they were in fact drinking the ‘55, though I could not find confirmation. It certainly irritated Dr. No and Bond is beaten badly and thrown into a cell for his trouble.
From Russia with Love was the last film that JFK watched before he died, or at least the last film he watched that he saw fit to shout about, naming it his favourite film ever. At the start of the film, Bond chills a bottle of Taittinger (maybe Comte – their prestige cuvee) on a piece of string in the river with his toe while he canoodles Ms. Sylvia Trench in a small punt boat. Journeying through a myriad of poor Eastern European countries that no longer exist, Bond sticks to spirits mostly, though he does try some gypsy wine straight out of the bottle: I’ll take care of this filthy stuff. During the train ride at the end we get one of Bonds finest wine moments. Having met KGB agent Grant, posing as MI6 agent Nash, they go to the dinner cart where Bond orders some Taittinger Blanc de Blanc for him and Tanya – a fab match for the sole he has just ordered. Nash orders a Ricasoli Chianti. Although Baron Ricasoli is a totemic producer in this famous region, Bond realises too late that no self-respecting MI6 man would have ordered such an aberration. Red wine with fish, that should have told me something, he says to himself disappointingly as Nash points a pistol at him. He obviously prevails in the ensuing dust up.
Goldfinger contains some of the most iconic imagery of all time. From Auric Goldfinger himself, to Oddjob, to Pussy Galore and ejector seats, it is generally seen as the zenith for Bond stereotyping. Bond shows off his expertise in Brandy early in the film when he suggests that a rather disappointing Brandy is a 30 year old Fine (fine Brandy) indifferently blended, with an overdose of bon bois (an outlying area to the centre of Brandy production that yields poorer fruit). M gruffly admonishes him, Colonel Smithers is giving the lecture, 007. Perhaps the most iconic image of the film is that of Jill Masterson covered head to toe in gold paint. Having invited her back to his suite for Dom Perignon, Bond notices that the bottle has lost it’s chill and says he will get a fresh one. When Jilly queries whether this is necessary we get one of the all time great Bond quotes: My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs. (It may have been ok in the 60’s, but 38 degrees fahrenheit is FAR too cold to drink fine Champagne by any standard).
Thunderball is shockingly short of any wine, but there is an Irish connection worth making note of. Dun Laoghaire born Kevin McClory helped Fleming Bond for the screen and specifically helped write Thunderball. Court cases were brought and settled and McCrory won the rights. Never Say Never Again, an alternative Bond film based on the Thunderball treatment was made, starring Connery, 12 years after his last turn as Bond. Embarrassingly the glossy 80’s flick starring Kim Basinger as Domino had the largest box office opening for any Bond film until that time, but it has aged less well. McClory died in 2006 and the decades long litigation was settled with his estate in 2013, allowing the reappearance of Blofeld.
You Only Live Twice marked Connery’s (initial) final outing as Bond and as an inside joke of sort, he is killed in the opening scene, his death faked to give him some breathing room. Dom Perignon is the order of the day, though we sail close to the wind again with release dates, given it is the ‘59 they drink in 1967. Enjoying a glass in the morning, Osato (Specter number 2) says he has a glass every morning as it adds a sparkle to the day. Bond drinks a lot of Saki and has a vodka martini incorrectly made for him – stirred not shaken. Ye Gods.
Underwear model George Lazenby took over from Connery for one ill-fated adventure, prompting the producers to beg Connery to come straight back for Diamonds are Forever. Connery was coaxed back with an extraordinary sum of money and seems a little out of shape and disinterested during proceedings here, but he is worldly and shows off his wine knowledge to devastating effect. During a briefing on diamond smuggling he accepts the a glass of Sherry and comments that it is an unusually fine solera, a ‘51 if I am not very much mistaken. Seeing blood in the water, M immediately tells Bond that there is no vintage for Sherry. I was referring to the original vintage, on which the Sherry is based, Sir….1851. In the final scene of the movie, Bond is suspicious of the strange waiters that bring him and Tiffany Case a meal compliments of Mr Willard White. The lead henchman, not knowing his wine falls into Bonds trap. 007 asks why he would not have served a Claret with such a fine meal. The henchman offers that their cellar is poorly stocked of Clarets. Chateau Mouton Rothschild is a Claret. And I’ve smelt that aftershave before, and both times I’ve smelt a rat. Bond has exercised the ghost of From Russia With Love and correctly snuffed out the baddie via knowledge of fine wine. He smuggly enjoys the victory a moment too long and nearly gets impaled by one of them, but he of course prevails.
Diamonds are Forever came out in 1971. Just 18 months later Mouton Rothschild was elevated to first growth from second growth, and this remains the only instance of a re-classification of Bordaeux’s 1855 appellation law. While Baron Rothschild had been campaigning tirelessly to have it elevated, it is no stretch to suggest that its Bond association helped. Along with the re-organisation of St Emilion to elevate Angelus, as well as boosting sales of Dom Perignon and then Bollinger, creating huge commercial interest in prestige cuvees, Bond has left an indelible mark on the world of wine. What next though? Craig is retiring after the imminent No Time To Die. Will the next Bond enjoy the same wines? Perhaps it will be time to modernise Bonds wine of choice. Maybe James Bond will dig natural wine and Pet Nat sparkling, biodynamic fruit and sustainable farming. Are we ready for Bond to fret about the sulfite content of his wine? No. Realistically no matter how revamped the character gets, as long as there is Bond he will drink Champagne and Bordeaux.
Written By: Rory Craig