Desert Island Wines with Guy Ruston, our Asia Managing Director
2 August 2021
We sat down with our Asia Pacific Managing Director, Guy Ruston and cast him off to a desert island with only five wines of his choice. Discover which five he chose to take with him and why.
As Managing Director of Asia Pacific at Bordeaux Index you clearly have a passion for wine, when did this first start? Can you remember your first experience with wine?
My earliest memory was my Dad’s Hugh Johnson wine atlas, which would have been the first/second edition and watching Food and Drink with him on TV; Jilly Goolden, Oz Clarke and co talking about wine. My parents were forever embracing new hobbies and trying to bring a little culture into our family home! It was never a true passion or career idea for me until after university though. I kind of fell into it by accident. I had a degree in American Literature which doesn’t qualify you for a great deal! I had no idea what to do and my Dad said why don’t you try the wine trade. It will be something fun and interesting for you until you can figure out what to do. In Autumn 2003 I joined Direct Wines and never looked back!
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?
I think I would go to California, Napa or Sonoma or maybe the central coast. Not necessarily because it’s my favourite area for drinking wines but I have fond memories there. I spent the third year of my degree at the University of California (Santa Barbara) which I loved, and I have been back several times since. To be able to live in California again would be amazing. When I was “studying” in Santa Barbara, a girlfriend at the time was into wine and I wanted to impress her, so I visited Napa and did a little swotting up on the local wine scene. I suppose that also sparked my interest in the wine world.
What would be your favourite region for drinking wine?
I love Champagne and love visiting Champagne, but it would probably have to be Burgundy. To have the reds and whites and such diversity, especially in the whites, would keep me more than entertained. It’s such a beautiful region too with a fascinating history. So it has to be Burgundy. Sorry, I wish it was a more original answer!
How would you fare being cast away on a desert island and fending for yourself?
I enjoy my own company, but I am a social person so I think I would go a bit stir crazy on my own! I would have to find some hobbies on the island, botany or spear fishing or something like that to keep me busy.
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.
So for my choices, I decided I would have one Champagne, one white and three reds.
Bottle choice 1
The Champagne was the easiest one for me, it would be Krug Clos du Mesnil, it is hands down my favourite Champagne. I have been lucky enough to try some of the best Champagne’s working for Bordeaux Index. I have tried most vintages of Krug Clos du Mesnil, the 1979 was the debut vintage and I actually had the fortune to taste that in the vineyard with Olivier Krug, which was a really amazing memory. I have had the 1988 and 1996 which are probably two of the greatest Champagnes ever made but I will go with my vintage; the 1981. I was given a bottle by a dear client a few years ago, so it has a personal significance to me, and it is an absolutely rocking Champagne. He gave it to me and said make sure you have it with someone who appreciates it. It came round to my birthday and I thought it would be the perfect time to open it and my client would have been the ideal person to share it with, but he was not around. The only other people who would appreciate it, would be people in the business and I didn’t want to spend my birthday with people in the trade, so I ended up merrily drinking the entire bottle to myself! I still have the bottle, it was the way to do it, fantastic!
Bottle choice 2
For my choice of white, it would be easy to go for an iconic Grand Cru from Leflaive or maybe something from d’Auvenay or Coche Dury. I’m going with a Raveneau though, mainly because one of my favourite people to drink wine with in Hong Kong, when we get together we drink Raveneau. We have a routine of lunch at Robuchon with a bottle (or two) of Raveneau from their extensive wine list and they do incredible mashed potato too, I am a mashed potato geek by the way which is probably down to my Irish heritage! I love the 2009’s in Chablis, a lot of people are critical of this vintage for White Burgundy in general because the wines are quite rich and a little flabby but I think for Chablis it works really well. That said, I would go with a 2002 Montee de Tonnerre which is outstanding, a lovely vintage, it is beautiful now but still has plenty of years ahead of it. Top Chablis is so versatile, perfect for a desert island. You could catch some fish, sea urchin, make a ceviche, or have the wine on its own to cool off – whatever you can find on the island!
Bottle choice 3
My third choice is a Red Burgundy. We are very lucky in Hong Kong in terms of our exposure to Burgundy, I have been in the right place at the right time to catch the wave of interest that has swept this region during the last seven or eight years. I have shared many incredible bottles with clients and friends, there is a great culture of sharing great bottles over here. I was thinking along the sentimental route at first, the first bottle of Domaine Romanee Conti (DRC) I had was in London at The Square it was 1999 DRC Echezeaux, it was the first time I have had a serious Burgundy of that calibre. It was a wonderful memory and experience. I have not chosen that though, I am going with pure pleasure, it is a toss-up between something from Roumier or Rousseau. Roumier is my favourite producer, I love the purity of his wines and transparency of terroir. Even in off vintages, I’ve had ‘84s and ‘87s, his wines are unreal. We have a bit of a Rousseau cult in Bordeaux Index, led by Gary, of which I am fully indoctrinated. I attended two of the great wine dinners in Asia about three years ago. We did a vertical tasting of Rousseau Chambertin back to 1979 and a few nights later we did a vertical tasting of Clos de Beze back to 1978. So I have tasted most of the great vintages chez Rousseau. Actually, I am going to go with pure hedonism and indulgence, as I am on an island by myself, I am going with a 2001 Richebourg from Domaine Leroy, I had this at a 2001 Burgundy horizontal, which featured some crazy wines. For one wine to stand out in such a crowd of legendary bottles was impressive. 2001’s don’t have the complexity and power of 2005 or 1999 but there is something beautiful about them, the aromatics/texture, they are sensational. That 2001 Richebourg was one of the most thrilling wines I’ve ever tasted.
Bottle choice 4
My next choice is a Bordeaux, I decided it has to be another big name. Thinking sentimentally the very first First Growth I ever had was 1983 Lafite and when I moved to Hong Kong in 2010, I thought I’d be drinking Lafite every other wine dinner but in reality, I drunk very little whilst living out here, much to my disappointment! I think I will have to go with a vintage of Latour, it’s probably the Chateau that over the years, I’ve enjoyed more great vintages of than any other. Gary and I did a 1940’s themed wine dinner in Taiwan about five years ago. At one point during the dinner, I had a glass of 1947 and a glass of 1949 Latour in each hand. Gary and I looked at each other and we were grinning ear to ear. I was thinking ‘there is no one else in the world doing this right now and this will be something I never get to experience again most probably’ - so that was very special. But I am going with the 1959 Latour which I had at an equally memorable wine dinner, the guy that brought that bottle was in top form and got in big trouble with his wife after that dinner! It was so fresh, had amazing sweetness for a wine of that age and it is rightly considered as one of the great Latours. This choice is contingent on me finding some kind of wild boar on the island or maybe a wood pigeon though!
Bottle choice 5
My last choice is a Rhône, I love Rhône and to be honest I could settle there if I had to settle in a wine region, maybe I should change my answer to the second question! The diversity of styles between Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône, from commune to commune, whites to reds is magnificent. I have had amazing bottles, mainly from Gary’s cellar. Gary is one of the most generous people with his wine collection; old bottles of Clape, Henri Bonneau and lots of wonderful Rayas, but I am going to go to Northern Rhône and choose something from Hermitage, either the La Chapelle 1978 or 1961. Gary and I had an incredible magnum of the 1978 La Chapelle alongside a magnum of 1978 Chave at an epic dinner but the next day I had one of the worst hangovers of my life, more a result of the whisky post-dinner but I think I’ll avoid that association. I will go with the 1961, it is widely regarded as one of the top five wines ever made so why not take that on my desert island! Gary very generously opened a bottle from his cellar a few years ago and it was off the charts. It is rare for top wines like that to live up to your expectations as they are so high and to finally have it, for me it was just WOW.
If you had to choose one, which would it be and why?
I think I would have to take the Krug with me because I’m assuming this island is somewhere tropical, so I’ll need some refreshment. You can drink Champagne at any time of the day, you can have it with or without food, if I am feeling lonely on the island some bubbles might lift my spirits!