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REAL MEN

DRINK

PORT …and ladies do too!

A contemporary guide by

BEN HOWKINS

Illustrated by Oliver Preston FOREWORD BY HUGH JOHNSON

Quiller

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Copyright Š 2011 Ben Howkins Illustrations copyright Š 2011 Oliver Preston First published in the UK in 2011 by Quiller, an imprint of Quiller Publishing Ltd Distributed in the USA by: The Wine Appreciation Guild, South San Francisco CA 94080 www.wineappreciation.com British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 84689 112 0 The right of Ben Howkins to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patent Act 1988 The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations are made without any guarantee on the part of the Publisher, who also disclaims any liability incurred in connection with the use of this data or specific details. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the Publisher in writing. Book and jacket design by Sharyn Troughton Printed in China

Quiller An imprint of Quiller Publishing Ltd

Wykey House, Wykey, Shrewsbury, SY4 1JA Tel: 01939 261616 Fax: 01939 261606 E-mail: info@quillerbooks.com Website: www.countrybooksdirect.com

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CONTENTS

Dedication Acknowlegements Foreword Preface 1 2 3 4 5 6

Dinner at the Factory The Power of Eleven Quinta-ssential Englishmen The London Boys and the Douro Boys Any time, Anywhere‌ Anybody One over the Ten

Bibliography Index

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7 9 11 13 17 42 65 75 98 115 171 174


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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I AM DEEPLY INDEBTED TO Andrew Johnston and his splendidly cheerful team at Quiller for carrying out such an inspiring ‘William Webb Ellis’. Elliott Mackey wanted to, but the recession got in the way. And it all started with Hugh Johnson advising me to write a new book rather than revise another addition of ‘Rich Rare & Red’, as I knew all the ‘Port people’. The 2009 Belvoir Game Fair provided my first encounter with my hero, the brilliant cartoonist, Oliver Preston. Ollie’s contribution completed my vision. I particularly want to thank Lucy Howkins, having honed her skills at Bloomsbury and now at HarperCollins, for her loving encouragement and professional criticism. Also, Clarissa, for seemingly not minding this prolonged, and sometimes tense, gestation period, and she still has not read the book. A loving thank you.

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4

THE

LONDON BOYS DOURO BOYS AND THE

LET US NOW CONSIDER SOME PORT PEOPLE OF TODAY. All these personalities tend to have a half-full glass rather than a half-empty one. Characters they are; bland they are not. In the same way that Bordeaux has five first growth Bordeaux estates (Châteaux Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Haut-Brion) and several other great estates knocking on their doors, as it were, it could also be claimed that London has three first growth Royal Warrant-holding wine merchants (Berry Brothers, Corney & Barrow and J&B), with several other great wine merchants knocking on their doors. These would include Lea & Sandeman, Tanners, Goedhuis & Co, Farr Vintners, Wilkinson Vintners, Laytons, Haynes Hanson & Clark and many other such purveyors of excellence. No one does St James’s urbane as well as Hew Blair, Chairman

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Real Men Drink Port

of Justerini & Brooks, wine merchants to the gentry since 1749. As J&B laconically point out, this was before the United States existed. Justerini’s, the company’s other shortened name, have always had more than their fair share of characters in their company. It is also said their pale whisky was created so that the womenfolk in the USA could not tell how much was in their husband’s glass. Geoffrey Jameson, affectionately nicknamed ‘Giant’, whose twinkling eyes gave away his wicked sense of

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The London Boys and the Douro Boys

humour, Dick Bridgeman, who once drank six double whiskies before a rackets game and won, and Edward Demery, who, like Geoffery, became Clerk to the Royal Cellars, were Hew’s predecessors in the boardroom character stakes. The game of guessing the vintage of the port has been played in J&B’s elegant dining room around a round table for over seventy years, firstly in Pall Mall and now in St James’s Street in London. ‘They (the guests) come for the wine, but remember the port’, explains Hew patiently. For some reason, vintage port has always been singled out for guests to guess. Maybe this stems from the Factory House weekly lunches. There may well be some stunning wines being served, and sometimes guests may be asked their views, but the vintage port is always served ‘blind’. I suppose it helps to know that there are a finite number of declared vintages, currently going back to 1875 up to 1997. These are split up between nineteen shippers. So the odds are calculable. But no. This is St James’s after all, the

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epicentre of nineteenth-century gaming. ‘I throw in the odd curly one sometimes, like a single quinta or a late bottle vintage’, beams Hew. Over the years, guests have included cricketers Ted Dexter, David Gower and Allan Lamb, cartoonist JAK, restaurateur Albert Roux, bankers Keswicks and Barings, politicians Jonathan Aitken and Nicholas Soames, plus countless Dukes, Earls, Marquesses and Lords who fortunately only have to sign one name, their surname, after lunch in the series of visitors’ books. The late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, last lunched there in December 1998. Not for her the nominal £1 bet per person. She upped the ante to £10 per person and promptly guessed the vintage to be the year of her birth, 1900, and happily shovelled her winnings into her lady-in-waiting’s handbag. Next stop the bookies? Almost any excuse to secure a much coveted invitation to J&B is invoked: ‘The Friday 13th club’, ‘The longest day dinner’, ‘the independent family brewers’ are all regulars. All guests participate in the port game. After lunch, upon leaving J&B, there can sometimes be seen mini conspiratorial confessionals on the pavement. With bowed head, one guest will confess that he was in the wrong century, not just the wrong decade, on the port. Hysterical shame is followed by peals of laughter.

The oldest wine merchant to hold a Royal Warrant is Berry Bros. & Rudd, whose amiable chairman is Simon Berry. Number 3 St James’s Street, across the road from St James’s Palace, has been in the same family for over three hundred years. Before that the site was a real tennis court for Henry VIII. Royal links indeed. Again it is the visitors’ book that provides a focal point. Simon

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is amazed to discover that his first entry was made when he was two years old! The humble visitors’ book links our lives today to the previous generation and earlier. It is truly our link with the past. Lose the visitors’ book and you lose a swathe of history. A thank-you email simply does not have, nor will have, the same historical significance as signing your name in such a book.

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Real Men Drink Port  

The absolute must-have contemporary guide to the world of port - packed with numerous amusing anecdotes, historical and current facts, all o...

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