LONDON - Wine and charity have something of a relationship. It seems that many wine producers and wine lovers feel lucky in life, able to enjoy fabulous bottles with friends and generally enhance their existence. So there is often compassion for those whose life experience is very far from joyful, perhaps suffering pain, poverty or deprivation, with little to illuminate their time on this earth.

The façade of the Château La Mission Haut-Brion.

A recent example of a gathering of people who effect change for the better among those with the tragedy of a sick child brought together Châteaux Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion and Rainbow Trust. Set up to support families when their child has a life-threatening illness, Rainbow Trust steps in to offer real and practical assistance at a critical time. Only able to support 10% of the families in England who have a child with such an illness, the Trust obviously needs more funds to extend its valuable and compassionate work.

The Château Haut-Brion.
This is where these two great Bordeaux châteaux came in as the owning family gave a series of glittering wines for a very special dinner for people who have been very generous to the Rainbow Trust and others who, we hope, will follow suit. Top wine properties such as these are often solicited by good causes and it is greatly appreciated when they dig deep into their cellars, especially when they bring out rarities and limited production wines. Great bottles as bait – there could be no better use for them.

So we assembled in a beautiful Nash house in London’s Regent’s Park and applied ourselves to the task – well, I did, as I had been asked to give some background to the gems we were drinking. I admit that this was no Pauline conversion moment for me – I have long adored the wines of both Haut-Brion and La Mission – but this was ‘something else,’ one of those evenings when all the wines ‘talked.’

We kicked off with Laville Haut-Brion 2007, the dry white of La Mission, a tiny vineyard majoring on the Sémillon grape and producing a unique taste that combines minerality with smoky grapefruit and orange, all silky softness. Then we had Haut-Brion 1989 and 1982, two of the finest Bordeaux ever made, the 1989 with notes of tapenade and peat and the 1982 with rich, spicy chocolate – I might keep the glorious 1989 longer, but I would not let the 1982 out of my sight! Still licking our lips, we were regaled with La Mission 1995 and the 1990 in magnum, heavenly mouthfuls of brambles, nutmeg and Havana cigars – yes really, top wine is like that. You could leave these in the cellar for a bit longer as well, but I am not sure the audience was up for this – they seemed to be living in the present and, on this occasion, who could blame them?