Desert Island Wines with Gary Boom, Bordeaux Index CEO and Founder
25 March 2021
We sat down with our CEO and Founder Gary Boom and cast him off to a desert island with only five wines of his choice. Out of all the incredible fine wines that Gary has drunk throughout his life, discover which five he chose to take with him and why.
As the founder and CEO of Bordeaux Index we know you have a passion for wine, when did this first start? Can you remember your first experience with wine?
Well, I can remember the first time I drank really good wine. It was when I first came over from South Africa to England and I drank a bottle of 1985 Lynch Bages. We had one of the very first Majestic Wine Warehouses nearby in Islington. I stumbled upon it on a Saturday morning and bought a few bottles. At the time it was something like £23 a bottle. And don't forget, at this time in my life I was buying £5, £6, £7 bottles of wine, I took this home and it really was transformational. I didn't know that the liquid I had been drinking vociferously since I was a student could be so good! It totally transformed the way I thought about wine and it was coincidental that at the time The Sunday Times were running a series on wine and the first supplement was on Bordeaux and low and behold, there was Lynch Bages. I rushed back to Majestic and bought a few more bottles roundabout the same price, but that's really what started me off on this journey back in 1988. It really was quite remarkable.
So, from that point on did you avidly read The Sunday Times column for wine recommendations?
I think I did, you know, Hugh Johnson was running this 'Series of Six’ about how to collect wine. One on Burgundy wine, one on Bordeaux, one on Rhône, one on whites, the list goes on. And from that moment I started reading emphatically and then of course I came across the Bible, which is Robert Parker. And Robert Parker just made everything easy, didn't he? With a score out of 100 you know what you are working with, if something gets 100 out of 100 you know it is going to be good and you start collecting. I moved on from Majestic pretty quickly and lived not too far from a place called Bibendum, which was a great wine company in those days. It was so good; I went and stole half of their staff to start Bordeaux Index! I remember walking in on a Saturday morning and by now you know I was lucky. I was making money very quickly and I was going into Bibendum on Saturday mornings and I was buying things like Vieux Château Certan and I will never forget that pink label. And very quickly I was introduced to something called Le Pin. I remember buying a case of 1982 Le Pin for about £400-500 and we drank the whole case at a BBQ - it was a very good BBQ I have to say! Nowadays a case would go for about £100,000. There was this great guy, Kostas Kaplanis, who was a great friend of mine, he was a Greek guy who lived around Hampstead. And in the back of Decanter Magazine there was a case of Château Margaux 1983 for sale for £200 a case. I remember driving around and buying 4 cases. I went straight round to Kostas's place and polished off 2 bottles with him and I remember thinking wow this is quite nice. By then I was away and within a year or two I was buying a lot of wine. By 1990 I must have been a fairly big customer for at least half a dozen wine merchants.
You are clearly a very experienced and successful businessmen but how do you think you would fare being cast away on a desert island?
I think I would do quite well actually. I think because I am quite gregarious and an extrovert, I quite like time on my own, so I'm quite happy spending time alone. I think maybe it’s an age thing too. A young Gary Boom would have hated being cast away at the age of 20, I’d be going nuts! Now I’d be saying thanks for the holiday!
How do you think you would cope with having to survive, finding your own food and shelter?
Well, I think two years in the army taught me a bit of that, but no, I don't think I would be that good. Although I would be good at catching fish, growing up on a beach in South Africa taught me that and I was pretty good. Having said that, I wouldn't know how to make a fire, so come to think of it, I would probably be dreadful!
Say we cast you away to a wine region rather than a desert island, if you could choose one wine region to be stuck on which would it be and why?
Well, that's an interesting one, isn't it? I think for pure passion, it would have to be Burgundy, but it is not the prettiest place in the world to hang out. I guess you would have to chuck me back to my roots and go to Bordeaux. Where you have the most beautiful city in the world, you have the culture and of course, the fantastic wine regions. I am sure everyone wants a year in blissful Provence but for me I need people, so I need that combination of culture and passion. And I think Bordeaux has it all. If I have to be specific then Saint-Émilion, Pomerol would do the trick very nicely. You have the combination of beauty and in Pomerol, it is still all about the farmers, they are so passionate, and you can still see the owners getting their hands dirty working the grapes, so I guess it would have to be Saint-Émilion for me.
You mentioned your passion for Burgundy, would you say Burgundy is your favourite wine region at the moment?
I think your tastes change, everyone starts with Bordeaux because it’s easier to collect. I moved on from Bordeaux to Rhône and had a real passion for Rhône wines, especially Guigal, Hermitage La Chapelle and Chave. Next was Burgundy and you really have to work out that region, it’s a real trainspotter area. And that kind of appeals to me. I still spend at least 20 minutes a day reading a wine book or wine blog. It's an all-encompassing passion. Burgundy allows you to do that. Bordeaux isn’t quite the same, once you are up to date with Bordeaux, you’re done. When you look at maps of Burgundy it is fascinating, take Clos Saint-Jacques for example, you have a vineyard with five solid lines from top to bottom, running through with exactly the same grape Pinot, five different winemakers with exactly the same land from top to bottom, yet they are all making totally different wines. I mean, that’s magic right there. And that just allows you to scratch your head and say but how? How do you create this and why is your wine so different? Which is why I love doing horizontal tastings. Tomorrow night I’ve lined up five or six Brunello di Montalcino from 2006 and they all have 97-98 points. I know they are all going to be massively different, but with a common theme. It’s like looking at 5 children from the same family, you know their DNA is binding them yet they are so different.
You are being cast away to a desert island and you are only allowed to take 5 bottles of your choice with you. We would like to know which 5 wines you have selected and why. This could be because they bring back fond and loving memories for you, it could mark a significant milestone in your life or it could simply be down to the incredible taste of a wine that you just can not bear the thought of never drinking again. We won’t be giving any more details as to the desert island, it is up to your imagination but it is important for you to know that it will be just you and your wines. It’s time to hear your choices and we are very excited to hear which special bottles you have selected to take with you.
Let’s start with bottle number 1, could you tell us which bottle you have chosen and why?
Well, I will move pretty quickly through bottle one as we have touched on that already, it was the 1985 Lynch Bages I shared with my wife and it was the first great bottle I ever drank so I would like to go back and try that again.
If we could move on to number 2, what is your second choice?
My second choice would be the 1982 Le Pin, which I have also mentioned, but drinking that bottle again would really take me back in time. There are so few around and 1982 Le Pin is one of the most copied, fraudulent bottles on the market. I remember being at a dinner in Taiwan with the owner Jacques Thienpont. Jacques had flown over to Taiwan for the first time and we were hosting a few dinners around Asia together. That night three people had brought the same bottle – 1982 Le Pin and only one of them was real. I remember Jacques as he tasted the first bottle and said, “It’s a fantastic wine, but I don’t know what it is.” It was slightly embarrassing in a way as the second bottle was exactly the same. Then we moved on to the third bottle, and I said I recognise this one and Jacques looked at me and said “Yes, that’s Le Pin”.
It’s time for choice number 3, tell us Gary which is your third choice and what memory does this bottle conjure up for you?
Next, I’ll move on to the best bottle I’ve ever drunk and that is 1961 La Chapelle. If someone says to me what is the greatest bottle you’ve ever drunk, there is no hesitation. It’s 1961 La Chapelle every time. I have been lucky enough to drink it maybe 20 or 30 times. This is because I was introduced to 1978 La Chapelle very early on in my wine buying days back in the early 90’s by my wine merchant called Robert Rolls. Rob took me for lunch and served me this bottle. And it was brave of him because he had a very small wine company and this bottle was worth about £100 in those days. After that lunch I ordered 3 or 4 cases off him and that afternoon he said to me “have you ever tried the 1961?” Of course, I got my Parker book out, it had 100 points and Parker said it was the greatest bottle he had ever dunk. This is a man who has drunk hundreds of the best bottles in the world, so I thought if he is saying that then I have got to have it! Even back then it was £1500 to £2000 a case. Bear in mind La Tâche was only £100 a case in those days, it was even expensive back then. I managed to get my hands on a case and then I went to Belgium. I had a great customer and friend in 1995 called Herman Veltman, who was the Chairman of the Bank of Brussels, in Belgium. And in his cellar he had 10 cases of 1961 La Chapelle which he had bought in 1963 so it had never moved. 10 cases of 61! I said come on Herman sell me some of this and he did for £2,500-£3,000 a case and I bought 3 cases, 2 of which I promptly drank. I’ve got 4 bottles left. One of which I swore I was going to drink when Bordeaux Index reaches £500 million turnover. The second two I want to share with my son. And the final one I was going to share with David Thomas, our Sales Director, in the office at some point, preferably when we reach £500 million so I don’t have to go through two bottles!
Moving on to your penultimate drink to take on to the desert island you have been cast away on, which would be your bottle of choice?
So, we are on to the last two bottles. My next choice has to be the best Bordeaux I have ever drunk and that is 1961 Latour. I have drunk this numerous times and I was lucky enough to drink this at the Château with Freddie Engerer and John who run it. They very kindly threw a lunch for some clients of ours and they asked for our birthdays but I know their trick. The trick is to serve the wines from the birth year of the customer. But everyone else was smart enough to know this too, so everyone’s birth years were 61, 82, 59, 69, 70 maybe at a push. Now they ask you for a copy of your passport! Luckily enough one of the guy's birthdays was 1961 so they served it at the Château and the 1961 from their cellar really was an out of world experience. It really was. I've drank 61 from my own cellar again numerous times and I've got four or five bottles left. Interestingly enough, I served 61 to Freddie back in our dining room at Bordeaux Index and he said, “it’s a great bottle isn’t it”. I knew exactly what he was saying, it’s great but not as great as his.
With 4 phenomenal wines already going with you, it is time for the grand finale tell us, what is the final wine that you would like to take with you, Gary?
So the last wine is very special to me and is the greatest Burgundy I have ever drunk. It was a 1966 Rousseau. I drunk that with Dylan, who I started Bordeaux Index with many many years ago, who is sadly no longer with us. He was the first guy that really excited me about wine, he came over from Bibendum and he said, “I’m going to introduce you to the greatest wine in the world”. The 1966 Chambertin Rousseau was an outer world experience and that got me onto the world of Rousseau. And to this day, you know there is a saying that Rousseau is ‘God’ and has never made a bad bottle. I have to say I have never had a bad bottle and it's no surprise to me that you know the cheapest bottle in the world of Rousseau right now is £2000-£3000 and the great vintages are £5000-£6000. It's that good. And you know what, sadly it is worth it! So, if you've got the money, go and buy it. Don't buy another Skoda. Don't buy another second hand mini go and buy yourself a bottle of Rousseau Chambertin and sit back, strap yourself down, drink it on that desert island. You would probably have to open it with a coconut somehow, get it open and watch the sunset as they say.
This is probably the most difficult question of all, if you had to choose just one of these bottles which would it be and why?
I guess I'd go back to 1985 Lynch Bages where it all started.
If you’d like to talk to us about experiencing these wines, get in touch to start your own desert island collection.