Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Sea Wolves (1980) Part I

Today's installment of Sisco Vanilla at the Movies centers on a true story of World War II. In The Sea Wolves (1980) the year is 1943 and German U-Boats are wreaking havoc on British shipping in the Indian Ocean. It was deduced by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) that the British shipping coordinates were secretly being relayed from a German freighter that was docked in Mormugao harbor in Goa. The problem was that Goa was a Portuguese colony from 1510 until the colony was annexed by independent India in 1961. Portugal remained neutral during World War II and with Goa being a Portuguese colony during World War II, Portugal's neutrality status also applied to Goa. So how to take care of this tricky situation without creating an international incident?

It was decided to send in the veterans of the Calcutta Light Brigade as a covert operation named Operation Boarding Party. Well that was fine and dandy except that these gentlemen all saw action last during the Boer War of 1900, and that many of them were at least 60 years of age. Their cover as presented in the movie was in the form of drunken businessmen on holiday boarding the suspected German freighter on a dare. This mission was so classified that it was not revealed to the general public until 1978.

The movie stars Gregory Peck, Roger Moore, David Niven and Trevor Howard as various British agents trying their best to bring down the German threats on the freighter Ehrenfels. Peck plays Colonel Lewis Pugh who is the leader of the mission. Moore plays the suave ladies man Captain Gavin Stewart who is very much like an amalgam of his James Bond and Saint characters. Niven plays Colonel W.H. 'Bill' Grice who is the head of the Calcutta Light Brigade and Howard plays Jack Cartwright who wants to do his part for the war after his son was killed in action fighting in Burma. How did it turn out? Well, I'll let you watch the movie. How does this relate to booze and cocktails? Allow me to move forward.

The movie has numerous instances where drinking is happening both in the foreground and in the background. In the beginning of the movie, the members of the Calcutta Light Brigade and together en masse at the bar attentively listening to the war news.

Later when Hugh and Stewart are sent to Goa to investigate the British ships being sunk by German U-Boats, Stewart attempts to charm Mrs. Cromwell (Barbara Kellerman) while at the roulette table. Unlike Bond and the Saint, his charm fails to work on her...for now.

While Stewart is striking out, Hugh is working bar proprietor Manuel for information while they enjoy a snifter of Rémy Martin Cognac.

From the image it looks as if they are enjoying the Rémy Martin VSOP. The Remy Martin website describes the company as follows:

The history of the House of Rémy Martin is one of a family, the family of five generations of vintners and cognacs driven by the same ambition of exception capture the heart of the Cognac.

The company was founded in 1724 and produced such an extraordinary product that in 1738 King Louis XV of France grants Rémy Martin the exceptional right to plant new vines even though a ban was enacted in 1731 on all new vines. By 1830, the first Rémy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac was created with the Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac VSOP being created for the first time in 1927.

For pictures of what a 1940's Remy Martin VSOP may have looked liked, click on 1940's Era Remy Martin V.S.O.P. Cognac - Sealed & Rare page from the Worthpoint Antiques website. Here is how that blend is described on the Rémy Martin website:
One of the world's favourite VSOP. The Rémy Martin VSOP is acclaimed for its pedigree and smooth taste. The ultimate versatility of the Fine Champagne which will lift your drink to new heights.
It's flavor notes are:
Photo Courtesy of Rémy Martin
Cognac Fine Champagne,
55% Grande Champagne,
45% Petite Champagne

Vibrant gold

Fruity notes: the roundness of summer fruits, especially ripe apricots and peaches
Floral notes: the impertinence of wild flowers, particularly violets
Oaky notes: predominantly vanilla, with a hint of liquorice


A perfectly balanced blend of ripeness
Now if you remember my post on Ian Fleming's Goldfinger Part I dated February 3, 2014, I describe what the Fine Champagne appelation means:
In terms of what the term "Fine" means, Cognac World's article on Reading the Label (of a Cognac Bottle) describes it as so:
The term "Fine" is authorised by the law of 1938 and qualifies a vintage spirit. For example, a "Grande Fine Champagne" qualifies a Grande Champagne vintage cognac assembled with spirits that come solely from the Grande Champagne region.
On the other hand, the "Fine Champagne" appelation qualifies a cognac with at least 50% of Grande Champagne spirits and the rest from Petite Champagne.
A "Bons Bois" ou "Fine Bons Bois" cognac contains 100% of spirits from the Bons Bois area.
As the information on the Rémy Martin VSOP page states, this blend is Cognac Fine Champagne made up of 55% Grande Champagne and 45% Petite Champagne. Rémy Martin states that the secret to their product lies in the soil:
The secret of cognac is in the soil from which it comes.

For this reason, Rémy Martin only uses grapes from the most respected growing regions - the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne.
Photo Courtesy of Rémy Martin

These regions contain a unique type of chalk-flecked soil that reflects light and ripens the grapes to absolute perfection.

The eaux-de-vie that come exclusively from these crus, in the heart of the Cognac region, offer a palette of unique flavors and tastes.

It is these very subtleties in taste that are not only recognized by the growers but protected by French law.

Like the Fine Champagne Cognac, only made with Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne grapes, which is the only blend of two crus protected by the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.

The legal alliance between winegrowers, distillers and Rémy Martin started in 1965. It was the first contract between Grande Champagne & Petite Champagne and Rémy Martin, finally forming the Alliance Fine Champagne.
For more information on the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, access the International Wine Guild's post AoC = AoP.

In terms of aging:
The barrels we use for our laborious aging process are made exclusively from French Limousin oak which contributes to the aromatic development of the blended eaux-de-vie.

Limousin oak allows a delicate yet substantial exchange between the eaux-de-vie and the air inside the cellar. And thanks to its large and open grain, it imparts a rich vanilla-like flavor to the aging cognac.

Revealing the aromatic heart of the blended eaux-de-vie is probably one of the most subtle and intricate responsibilities. For this reason, our Cellar Master ages them exclusively in Limousin oak barrels.

And since Fine Champagne eaux-de-vie have greater aging potential, Rémy Martin chooses to age them for much longer than the minimum time required by law.
One things I found to be interesting in the research of the Rémy Martin brand is that after a century making cognacs, they house of Rémy Martin has had only four cellar masters. Current cellar master is Pierette Trichet who is the first woman to hold such a prestigious position in the house of Rémy Martin. Click the following link The Art of the Cellar Master to watch a video with House of Remy Martin Cellar Master Pierette Trichet.

So how does the Rémy Martin VSOP taste. I have to admit that the in comparison to some of the other mainstream cognacs that I have tasted (Hennessey and Courvoisier to name a few) the Remy Martin VSOP is very mild. It indeed has a golden color with a fruity and floral nose. It does have a woodsy flavor though I really can't pick up on the slight licorice flavor that description for the cognac states. The cognac leaves a slight burn on the tongue but goes down nice and smooth. I must admit that I am not very experienced when it comes to cognacs but I can definitely enjoy this blend from Rémy Martin.

For the second part of the post on The Sea Wolves, I will be highlighting Ballantine's Scotch Whisky. Until then I leave you with Captain Gavin Stewart enjoying a brief interlude with a cigar and what seems to be a glass of wine.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla