The unstoppable rise of Champagne: insights from BBX

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You might have thought that a global pandemic would quell our thirst for Champagne – but not so. In fact, our appetite for Champagne has only increased. No longer confined to moments of celebration or special occasions, it continues to grow in popularity. Consumer habits have changed: Champagne is now a wine to drink year-round. Increasingly, it’s also a must-have for the savvy collector; like other fine wine, it can age effortlessly for decades, developing tremendous complexity in bottle.   

For anyone looking to sell, now is an opportune time: Champagne’s share of all BBX sales over the past six months has increased by 2.6%, representing 7.9% of all sales for September.  Champagne sits closely behind Italy, and continues to chase down the front runners Bordeaux and Burgundy, which represent just under 50% and 25% of BBX sales for September. 

Taking almost 40% of total Champagne sales, the clear leader is Moët & Chandon’s Dom Pérignon, followed by Louis Roederer’s Cristal at 13% and Krug at 12%. Perhaps this is to be expected, given the large volumes of Dom Perignon that are produced. However, as Champagne is consumed, demand begins to outstrip supply and we see an exponential increase in value. 

Take a six-bottle case of 1996 Dom Pérignon, which reached a value of £2,000 when it was sold in September. In the same month, the 2002 vintage traded at around £1,020 and the 2008’s last trade was at £820. But prices continue to rise: October’s prices are at £1,150 for the 2002 and £999 for the 2008 – at the time of writing, you can pick the 2008 up at £1,000 on BBX.

The five best performing Champagne vintages on BBX in September, by purchase value, were: 2008 (24%), 2002 (20%), 2006 (16%), 2004 (7%) and 1996 (3%). Interest in 2008 shows little sign of abating with the bid to market ratio ever-tightening. In the UK, the 2009 and 2012 vintages are making strong headway in the secondary market. Sales on BBX reflect this for the 2009 vintage, but the 2012 is still being shipped – watch this space.

With Christmas around the corner, now is the time to set your sights on Champagne.

For more information on listing your Champagne, placing bids or purchasing on BBX; please contact the BBX team at bbx@bbr.com

Category: Miscellaneous

The next generation: Geordie Willis

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Illustration: Samuel Haskell

Our new issue of No.3 Magazine looks to the future through the eyes of Berry Bros. & Rudd’s next generation. Here, we speak with Creative Director Geordie Willis.

Geordie Willis, Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Creative Director, may have been born in the Berry family, but he never felt destined for the business. “Early on, I wanted to work in the magazine world,” he says. “It was only when I’d started work experience at a magazine and needed to supplement my income that I applied for a job in the cellars.”

Amongst the boxes and the bottles, Geordie began to learn what the business was really about. “It surprised me how quickly I fell in love with it,” he says. “There’s something extraordinary about Berry Bros. & Rudd; the buildings, the history. There are so many layers.”

As it turned out, the cellars were a tough but excellent wine school: “I could identify any bottle by the foil,” he says. “And I quickly learned one of the great benefits of working in the cellars: I had the responsibility of opening and decanting some very special wines destined for the Directors’ Dining Room upstairs.” Checking the wines meant the cellar team were able to taste “extraordinary” bottles.

“It’s a tough, physical job, and I was desperate for everyone to think I was a hard worker. But my three years there gave me greater standing in the business.”

Finding fresh influences

Geordie’s stint in the cellars wasn’t followed by a smooth ascent to the boardroom. “One day, Simon, my uncle who was the Chairman at the time, called me up to his office. Normally this meant you’d done something very wrong, or very right,” says Geordie. “Simon asked me when I was leaving. It wasn’t what I was expecting. As a family member, I thought I had a job for life.

“Simon told me that I needed to work in another industry for at least three years before I could come back to the business. With the new generation coming through, I think he recognised the need to free people from the obligation to work here. The hope was that only those truly interested would come back. Also, he wanted me to gain skills that would allow me to bring something meaningful into the business rather than learn everything from within.

“It felt tough at the time. Like I was being turfed out of a job I was enjoying. But, now I look back, it was the best thing I ever did.”

Geordie started work for a creative agency, where he stayed for four years before Simon asked him back. He headed to the Hong Kong office to help develop the brand internationally. “People assume that in a business such as Berry Bros. & Rudd you either work as a wine salesperson, or you don’t work in the business. But it’s so varied in terms of the opportunities,” Geordie explains. “I could’ve been a chef; on the legal side; in marketing, etc. A family business needs different skillsets from the family, and we’ve always benefitted from the diversity of thinking between the two families.

“I think the fact we are two families is genuinely one of the secrets to our success. Traditionally, you probably bring a lot of family life into the work arena. And, as we all know, conversations one might have around the dinner table aren’t always appropriate for the boardroom. The fact that we are two families means that there is always an inherent respect for the other family involved. There will be challenges and different points of view, but you have to think as one body to make this business work.”

Family politics

In practical terms, difficulties seem to get ironed out in the same way as in any family: by talking things through. “We all make an effort,” says Geordie. “We have the Owners’ Board, so the two families regularly come together to support the business. There is also the Family Council, which is about bringing all the generations of the family together. You want all the family, whether they work in the business or not, to be ambassadors for it. And that works best when they understand it – perhaps more than we did as children.”

In business, and beyond, the Berrys and the Rudds are close. “I think of Edward and Lizzy [Rudd] as cousins. I found out from Lizzy recently that her father John was my grandfather’s best man. It shows that there was real friendship there as well as a business relationship. And that remains true. The two families are great friends. And to consider that’s been true for over 100 years is pretty extraordinary really.”

Your name above the door

What, then, are the most challenging aspects of working in a family business? “I think, when your name is above the door, you naturally take everything very personally. But the main thing is this huge sense of responsibility. After being in a business for eight generations, making sure we continue to thrive can feel like a huge responsibility.”

Three centuries of heritage is quite something to have on your shoulders. But, of course, it’s a privilege too, as Geordie is quick to point out. “You get this immense sense of pride working for a business which has endured for 323 years, so the positives outweigh the negatives every time.”

The next 300 years

So how is the business going to take on the next 323 years – and beyond? “Today, we innately know who we are. We’re clear what we’re going after and we’re focused. We’re doing things we’ve done for generations. We are more Berry Bros. & Rudd than we’ve ever been before. And part of that innate DNA is innovation. We are always looking at ways to do what we do better. We’re always looking forward. It would be so easy to rest on our laurels, on our past, but actually, we’re on a journey here. And – in so many ways – we’re just getting started.”

You can pick up a copy of No.3 magazine in our London and Basingstoke shops.

Category: Family,Miscellaneous

Dinner party wines: hosting tips from Barbara Drew MW

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Photo credit: Joe Woodhouse

The entertaining season is here. We caught up with Barbara Drew MW, our Events Manager, to learn her top tips for hosting the perfect dinner party.

As we return to normality and the colder evenings draw in, our minds inevitably turn to the pleasures of indoor entertaining. We know that there’s nothing quite like uncorking an exquisite bottle in the company of friends – especially if your guestlist is brimming with wine lovers.

There’s little that Barbara doesn’t know about putting on a great event. From wine schools to luxury private dinner parties, Barbara’s role at Berry Bros. & Rudd has seen her host magical evenings for a range of clients. She’s also something of a home entertainer herself; here, she shares her dinner party expertise. 

The attentive host

The perfect host, Barbara says, is one who looks after every need of their guests, yet makes it seem effortless. “Nobody wants to be made a fuss of,” she tells me, from experience. “For instance, if there are a mixture of omnivores and vegetarians at your dinner party, ensure your dishes work for everyone so one group doesn’t feel as though you’ve had to do lots of extra work for them.” 

A hands-off approach can also work when it comes to drinks, she tells me: “No-one likes that awkward moment when their glass is empty, and they have to catch the attention of the host to offer them a refill. To avoid this, I place a selection of drinks on the table and allow guests to help themselves. Not being overly attentive can often be the most hospitable approach.” 

Wine etiquette

For a group of wine lovers, the bottle on the table is the focal point of the evening. With this in mind, Barbara imparts her advice for effectively preparing your wine: “Make sure that whites and sparkling wines are well chilled ahead of time. It is far easier to gradually bring a wine up to room temperature as needed than chill it down rapidly,” she points out.

“This advice also goes for reds. They don’t need to be in the fridge, but ensure they are lightly chilled, and not sat by the oven. I generally don’t decant wines at home – I think it’s much more fun to watch the wines evolve in the glass during the evening. Besides, it’s nice to keep the bottle on the table so guests can be reminded of what they’re drinking.”

That’s preparation sorted, but what of the wines themselves? Barbara has a few go-to rules for what to serve throughout the evening: 

“Sparkling wines are a wonderful way to start any dinner,” she enthuses. “The acidity and bubbles help to wake up your palate and prepare you for the meal. If Champagne feels too extravagant for the occasion, I will often serve a Crémant like our own Crémant de Limoux.” 

And for the main course?

“I tend to gravitate towards New World Pinots – they hit the sweet spot between fruit and spice without being too tannic. guests who don’t like heavy red wines will tend to be happy with a glass of Pinot Noir. Also, they work wonderfully with most foods.” 

The question of food

“I generally stick to quite simple, homely food – dishes where most of the work is done by the oven,” she suggests. “Roast chicken stuffed with oregano and crusty bread, with roast tomatoes; or, as we head into autumn, slow-cooked lamb shoulder with root vegetables. They free me up to spend more time looking after guests.” 

Any tips for pairing with specific dishes?

“If you want to dive a bit deeper, then think about weight as well as flavour,” Barbara advises. “Lighter dishes need wines with lower alcohol, lighter body and fewer tannins. Rich, heavy dishes can match wines with plenty of tannic grip and high alcohol.” 

There’s a lot to consider when putting on the perfect dinner party, but Barbara urges hosts to not pile on the pressure for themselves: “Don’t overthink it. All too often, I see hosts being too modest about their food. If your soufflé is a bit flat or the meat is a little overcooked – nobody cares. Know that everyone is there to have a good time. If they wanted perfection, they’d go to a Michelin-starred restaurant.” 

“Dinner parties are not competitions – they should be fun and relaxed. There are some truly sublime food and wine matches in the world, but if you have a nice bottle of wine, and a nice plate of food, I think you’re set for the evening.” 

Browse our favourite dinner party wines here.

Category: Food & Wine,Miscellaneous

No.3 magazine: the new issue is here

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Copies of No.3 magazine are arranged on a table at No.3 St James's Street. An old-fashioned phone and dried flowers decorate the table.
We’ve just unboxed the latest edition of No.3 magazine. Here’s a taste of what to expect.

There was just one theme that felt fitting for this issue of No.3 magazine – the future.  Over the past year, so much has been paused, put on hold and delayed, and it seemed like time to fully immerse ourselves in the energy of the wine world’s most exciting stories.

We asked our Buyers – the talent scouts of the industry – to recommend the producers that they feel are destined for greatness. They came back with six names to watch, some new and some just coming into their own. We’ll be taking time to tell you more about them over the coming months.

We also quizzed our Buyers on which is the most exciting wine region. There was one clear winner – and it’s not exactly new news. England. As Wine Buyer Davy Zyw explains, the scene is perfectly poised. It’s mature enough to be attracting serious talent and investment, yet young enough to be surrounded by buzz. It’s also experiencing changing climate conditions which – for now at least – are ensuring new things are possible when it comes to the quality of what can be produced.

And there’s so much more. The endlessly knowledgeable Barbara Drew MW examines the technology shaping the way we grow, make and consume wine. Elsewhere, we look to the future through a different, more personal lens. We speak to three young Berrys and Rudds to find out how they view the next 300 years of Berry Bros. & Rudd.

You can pick up your copy of No.3 magazine our shops. Alternatively, we’ll be publishing extracts from it on our editorial hub over the coming months.

You can share any thoughts about the issue at editor@bbr.com.

Category: Collecting wine,English Wine,Miscellaneous