Wednesday 10 April 2013 by John Abbott
Samuel Pepys’ diary was the star attraction as the 350th anniversary of the mention of Chateau Haut-Brion was celebrated in Cambridge yesterday.
‘Off to the Exchange with Sir J Cutler and Mr Grant to the Royal Oak Tavern in Lumbard Street,’ Pepys’ famous dairy entry reads, ‘…and there drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.’
The original diary entry, dated 10 April 1663, was on display to guests in the Pepys library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, alongside a copy of an earlier reference to ‘Hobrionno’ in the 1660 cellar book of King Charles II, which is currently held in the National Archives.
The occasion was marked by a gala dinner hosted by the Cambridge University Wine Society, accompanied by a range of wines including Haut-Brion Blanc 2003, Chateau Haut-Brion 1999 and 1989, and featuring tributes to the relationship between Haut-Brion and both Pepys and Cambridge from Prince Robert of Luxembourg and Serena Sutcliffe MW.
The dinner also featured with a performance of Samuel Pepys’ own song by Cambridge University Wine Society president Major David Beall.
The gala dinner followed an earlier lecture on Pepys and Wine, originally written by Dr Jane Hughes, a Pepys specialist, which explored Pepys’ character as a man who regularly demonstrated a keen eye for a bargain, and who chose to write his diary in a coded shorthand to hide its contents from prying eyes.
Speaking to Decanter.com, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, president and CEO of Domaine Clarence Dillion, said: ‘I think it’s always an emotional moment to be close to a document that’s that old, and a text that’s that important, because Samuel Pepys was someone who was not particularly a historian but was someone who was just intrgued by man’s habits, and was able to take vignettes of every day life and make them come alive to us today.’
Prince Robert also unveiled the Domaine Clarence Dillon History Challenge, a competition designed to uncover early historical mentions of Chateau Haut-Brion. All new historical quotations dating from before 1660 will receive ‘an unspecified reward’ and the overall winner will be announced in June 2014.