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Wine Talk: Sean Connery

Legendary actor has long enjoyed wine and the good life

Thomas Matthews
Posted: October 6, 2009

Sir Sean Connery, 79, burst into stardom in 1962, with his portrayal of British secret agent James Bond in Dr. No. But Connery appeared in dozens of films between his debut in 1954 and his retirement in 2003, and he won an Oscar as best supporting actor for his 1987 role as Jim Malone in The Untouchables. In 2000, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Connery was born in Scotland, has lived in Spain and Switzerland, and now spends most of his time in the Bahamas. He spoke with executive editor Thomas Matthews, who has equated Connery, Bond and the good life since seeing From Russia With Love in 1965.

Wine Spectator: Tell us about your interest in wine.
SC: I can tell you more about whisky than wine. I'm not an aficionado by any means, mostly because I have a heart condition and am not supposed to take much alcohol. But I do drink red wine, because of my great friend David Murray [a Scottish entrepreneur who owns two French wine estates, Château Routas in Provence and Domaine Jessiaume [in Burgundy]. He showed me the evidence that it was good for the health.

I favor Merlots from Chile for their value, and I keep a good deal of California wine in my cellar. Don't ask me to tell you their names. I have one that cost me $2,000 for two cases, which I think is rather steep, but people are prepared to pay it.

WS: Is there a particular wine that has really stuck in your memory?
SC: I once lived a few years in Spain. It was around the time I was doing The Man Who Would Be King [in 1975]. I enjoyed a wine called Vega Sicilia, and back then, you could get it by the bucketful. Now it's several hundred dollars a bottle.

WS: Do you ever visit wine country?
SC: I spend a week every year in France with David Murray. He's got the two main bases. We fly to France, then pick up the car, drive down to the coast and spend a week. Château Routas is 1,300 meters above the sea, and it's just a perfect site for health.

There's nothing but wine down there. It's amazing to see how it's all done, from soup to nuts, and how important it is to everyone. The people are really in tune with what they are doing, and it gives a great atmosphere.

We have good food and wine every night [chuckling]. When we're at his places, we drink his wines. But when we're traveling, we try everything. He's a great wine connoisseur, and I just go along with him. Providing you have nothing else to do, it's a marvelous way to spend some time.

WS: As James Bond, you played a character whose connoisseurship of wine was a defining trait. How much of that was from your own experience?
SC: That was all part of the character. I remember the Dom Pérignon scene in Dr. No. But I can't really claim I had any knowledge of wine at the time. The director, Terence Young, put a great deal of sophistication into the films [Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball], and he never got the credit he deserved. He taught me, and helped develop the character. I can wear the clothes well, but he was the one who picked them out.

Dr. No cost $1 million in 1962. Today, to make that film would cost $100 million or more. That gives you an idea how it's gone. Wine is the same thing.

Tom Miller
Vestavia Hills, AL —  October 6, 2009 2:55pm ET
Sean Connery is one of my heroes because he brought another one of my heroes to life on the screen. Sir Sean will always be the consummate James Bond. Unfortunately, I don't recall Ian Fleming ever mentioning Pinot noir in any of his novels...perhaps they weren't as de rigueur in the British Secret Service in the '50s and early '60s as they are now. Here is one of my favorite Ian Fleming passages. Apparently, M had a passion for claret:

‘Ah, Grimley, some Vodka please.’ He turned to Bond. Not the stuff you had in your cocktail. This is real pre-war Wolfschmidt from Riga. Like some with your smoked salmon?’

“Very much,’ said Bond.

‘Then what?’ asked M. ‘Champagne? Personally I’m going to have a half-bottle of claret. The Mouton Rothschild ’34, please, Grimley. But don’t pay any attention to me, James. I’m an old man. Champagne’s no good for me. We’ve got some good champagnes, haven’t we, Grimley? None of that stuff you’re always telling me about, I’m afraid, James. Don’t often see it in England. Tattinger, wasn’t it?’

Bond smiled at M.’s memory. ‘Yes,‘ he said, ‘but it’s only a fad of mine. As a matter of fact, for various reasons I believe I would like to drink champagne this evening. Perhaps I could leave it to Grimley.’

The wine-waiter was pleased. ‘If I may suggest it, sir, the Dom Perignon ’46. I understand that France only sells it for dollars, sir, so you don’t often see it in London. I believe it was a gift from the Regency Club in New York, sir. I have some on ice at the moment. It’s the Chairman’s favourite and he’s told me to have it ready every evening in case he needs it.’

Bond smiled his agreement.

‘So be it, Grimley,’ said M. ‘The Dom Perignon. Bring it straight away, would you?’

“Chapter 5: Dinner at Blades,” Moonraker by Ian Fleming (1955)

It should be noted that Harry Waugh felt that the 1934 Mouton was "just reaching its apogee" when he tasted it in 1953. [Michael Broadbent: The Great Vintage Wine Book; 1980]. We can only assume that the wine cellar at Blades would offer perfect storage conditions for the half-bottle of '34 Mouton.
Morgan Mcrae
Mississauga, Ont, Canada —  October 7, 2009 8:59am ET
Thanks for the great read Tom! I've never actually read any of the books. Perhaps I should.
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  October 7, 2009 9:36am ET
The books and the movies are very different; Bond himself is very different in the two media. Both are great!
Jim Mason
St. John's —  October 8, 2009 7:23pm ET
I would imagine Bond, and Sir Sean being a Scotsman, are fans of whisky, not whiskey. And Bond being a blunt instrument tends to prefer the hard stuff, vodka martinis, over a tight Burgundy.
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  October 9, 2009 8:53am ET

I'm sure you're correct, at least as far as Sir Sean is concerned; that was probably a transcription error on my part. As for Bond, my reading of the books suggest he would appreciate both, depending on the situation.
William Clay
Atlanta, Georgia —  October 9, 2009 12:02pm ET
Sean Connery is one of my most favorite actors and one of the greatest actors of all time...he might not know that much about wine, but if he knows and likes Vega Sicilia, he knows enough :)

The finest James Bond in my opinion (only recently with Daniel Craig has there been one maybe a hair better), my favorite James Bond movie of his is Goldfinger...

Thanks for a great interview with a fine gentleman and actor...
Jose L Rodriguez Agrelot
San Juan , Puerto Rico —  October 11, 2009 10:45pm ET
SC, great actor by my standards. It is good to know that is a wine aficionado. Some day I will visit Château Routas.

Thanks for the interview.

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