They came to No.3: Beau Brummell

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A leading figure in Regency England, the trend-setting dandy Beau Brummell visited No.3 several times during his life. Via our ledgers, we trace his rise to the top of the social ladder and subsequent fall from grace

George Bryan “Beau” Brummell was an iconic figure in Regency England whose effortless style set the benchmark for men’s fashion in his lifetime, and beyond.

Brummell first came to No.3 in 1798, aged 20, weighing 12st 4lbs. Fresh from Eton and Oxford, he had joined the Prince of Wales’s regiment, the Tenth Hussars, and – taken under the wing by the Prince Regent (the future King George IV) – had been accepted into the gilded, exclusive world of Georgian aristocracy.

He soon sold out of his regiment, after it was posted to Manchester – a hardship that Brummell couldn’t bear. Over the next 18 years – and despite his modest means – Brummell established himself as the darling of society, a determined dandy who became an undisputed dictator of style. It is perhaps no surprise that over that time he gained almost a stone.

Unfortunately Beau’s lifestyle was far beyond his means, his position in society allowing him a line of credit which he abused, frivolously spending and gambling it all away. He eventually lost favour with his one-time friend, the Prince Regent, who reportedly bluntly ignored his presence when talking to one of his companions, Lord Alvanley in 1813. This exchange prompted one of Brummell’s most famous remarks: “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?”

By 1816, the debts became too much and Brummell fled to France to escape prison and his English creditors. While it is commonly thought he never returned to Britain, our ledgers prove otherwise. An entry of Brummell’s weight against the date “July 26, 1822” shows that he did return, weighing a slight 10st 13lbs – his loss of status perhaps taking its toll.

Beau Brummell is one of the customers that feature on our new tote bags, illustrated by John Broadley.

Category: Miscellaneous

Discovering the three faces of Rioja

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The view across the vines at Finca Allende, La Rioja Alta. Photograph: Jason Lowe
Late last year, Buying Assistant Lucy Bland hit the road for her first trip to Rioja. Here she shares a little of her visit exploring its three subregions: La Rioja Alta, Alavesa and Oriental

I had not expected La Rioja to be quite so beautiful. As we drove away from Bilbao airport heading south, the scenery became more rugged and impressive the further we went. After a while we entered wine country. The warming sunlight wrapped itself around us and gave the surrounding view a gorgeous golden quality. Olive trees and vines alike stood out on the surrounding hills, shimmering in the sunlight and terracotta-tinted towns awaited us on the skyline. The early flight was forgotten. Almost. I made a mental note to come back as soon as possible.

I have read and learnt a lot about the Rioja wine region, but finally being there in person felt like all those wine maps were coming to life in front of me. We spent a bit of time in all three subregions of La Rioja: La Rioja Alta, La Rioja Alavesa and La Rioja Oriental (formerly La Rioja Baja). I vaguely knew that La Rioja Alta and Alavesa were situated closer to the Sierra Cantabria, at a higher elevation than La Rioja Oriental. Yet driving towards La Rioja Oriental – a flatter, warmer and drier part of the region, I still found myself slightly surprised by just how much the land really did flatten out around us. The textbooks hadn’t lied.

“Baja” means lower in English, while “alta” is higher, which refers simply to altitude here, as opposed to quality. I have sometimes struggled to grasp and appreciate the differences of these three subregions, but it all made so much more sense in situ. La Rioja Oriental, for example, can sometimes be overlooked, but standing in the gorgeous La Montesa vineyard of Álvaro Palacios it was easy to comprehend why their Garnacha bush vines perform so incredibly well here. To ripen fully, Garnacha needs warmer conditions than Tempranillo (which forms the majority of a Rioja Alta or Alavesa Rioja blend); as a result, Garnacha retains its freshness here, while Tempranillo can struggle.

Our visit took place in early October, during the 2019 harvest. Seeing everything in action was an invaluable experience. And even though Rioja is typically a rather traditional region, there was a fair amount of innovation taking place as well. We were especially excited to taste Miguel Ángel de Gregorio’s first Finca Allende Rosado (from the 2016 vintage, a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha) as well as a 2018 barrel sample of an old-vine Garnacha Blanca. Both were absolutely fascinating and delicious. The 2019 yields were a little lower than in 2018, but there was huge excitement amongst growers about the quality of the vintage. A couple of comparisons were even made with the legendary 1964 vintage… I am looking forward to seeing the results.

Explore our range of Rioja on bbr.com

Category: Spanish Wine

From our kitchen: Burgundian fish stew

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Photograph: Joe Woodhouse
As all eyes are on Burgundy for the release of the region’s 2018s, our Head Chef Stewart Turner has rustles up a recipe for a fish stew that will sing alongside the region’s whites

January is Burgundy season and I’m a real fan of these wines. It is definitely my favourite wine region, especially for whites, with Meursault being my go-to for a special occasion. So, with all that in mind – and breaking with tradition – I’m doing a dish to go with all those fantastic Burgundian whites. These wines are often paired, and work fantastically well, with shellfish; but as Burgundy is landlocked, I thought it would be great to do something that hails from the region. This is my take on what is a classic freshwater fish stew, or Pôchouse, as it’s known to the locals.

River fish are an acquired taste and their popularity has been declining for many years, so they can be quite hard to source. I’ve stuck with trout and crayfish, as they are readily available, but you can use carp or perch, although these are mainly produced in Eastern Europe and China where they remain popular.

PôchouseServes 6
  • 3 river trout
  • 1 leek – chopped
  • 1 stick celery – chopped
  • 1 onion – peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ bunch of flat parsley – picked with stalks reserved for the stock
  • 500g small new potatoes
  • 150g crayfish tails
  • 150 g smoked eel fillets – diced
  • 100g small button mushrooms
  • 100g button onions – peeled
  • 500ml white wine
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 50g unsalted butter – diced

Fillet the fish, or ask your fishmonger to do this for you – just make sure you get the heads and bones for the stock. Remove the eyes and the gills from the fish heads. Rinse the bones well to remove any blood. Cut the fillets into large chunks.

Put the fish heads and bones in a pot. Cover with clean water (about a litre). Bring to a boil and remove the scum that will rise to the surface with a slotted spoon. Add the leek, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, bay and parsley stalks. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve and set aside. Place the wine in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to 150ml, then add the passed stock and reduce by half. While the stock is reducing, add the button onions and new potatoes. Poach for about 10 minutes until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Add the cream and bring the mixture back to the boil. Reduce the heat and poach the trout until just cooked. While the fish is cooking, lightly sauté the button mushrooms with the diced smoked eel, and then put to one side with the onions and potatoes.

Once cooked, place the fish on a serving dish and keep warm. Return the sauce to the boil. Whisk in the diced butter and mustard, then fold in the crayfish tails. Simmer for a couple of minutes to warm through, then mix in the potatoes, onion, eel and mushroom mix. Finish with the chopped parsley, season to taste and then pour over the fish. Serve with some sprouting broccoli and crusty bread.

What to drink: You can’t go wrong with our own-label white Burgundy, but this dish would benefit from a wine that has a bit more weight and richness. Try one of Stewart’s favourites with our own-label Meursault. Of course, you could also go for a less authentic partner with Chardonnay from elsewhere – something like this superb Napa example (that also happens to be in our Sale) would work nicely.

Browse our range of Burgundy 2018 en primeur here

Category: Food & Wine

In our Sale: five of the best

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As we add a host of new bottles to our Sale, we pick five of the best bottles available

2016 Mullineux, Kloof Street Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa: This old-vine Chenin Blanc comes from one of South Africa’s leading new wave producers, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. From their Kloof Street range, it’s designed for earlier drinking than its other more age-worthy styles – but offers incredible complexity for its price. (£10.46, down from £14.95)

2016 Rosso di Toscana, Sangiovese, Scopetone, Tuscany, Italy: Scopetone is better known for its superb Brunello di Montalcino, but the estate also makes this top-class “entry-level” Sangiovese. The fruit is picked early to make a wine full of vim – vibrant red-berry fruit and amazing subtlety for its Rosso di Toscana status. (£10.15, down from £14.50)

2006 Champagne Gosset, Grand Millésime, Brut: Vintage Champagne, in a Sale: need we really say much more? Gosset isn’t the best-known Champagne House – partly because most of their wines go directly to top-end restaurants around the world thanks to their food-friendly style. This – from the 2006 vintage – is drinking beautifully now, but has much more time ahead of it too (an excellent excuse to stock up). (£52.00, down from £65.00)

2015 Frankland Estate, Olmo’s Reward, Frankland River, Australia: Frankland Estate was the first winery to set up in Frankland River – leading the way in a corner of Western Australia that is now known for its elegant cool-climate wines. While they work with a lot of Riesling and Shiraz, this is their flagship cuvée – an incredible Cabernet blend (more Franc than Sauvignon) from old vines in its Isolation Ridge Vineyard. (£34.65, down from £44.00)

2014 Ramey, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California: David Ramey may have made his name with his benchmark Chardonnays, but he’s now also working with Pinot Noir – and the wines are, unsurprisingly, just as good. This, the first vintage of his Russian River Valley Pinot, is layered with bright red fruit, and a plushness thanks to some new oak. It’s also a rare chance to pick up Californian wine with a little bottle age. (£39.96, down from £49.95)

Please note that stocks of Sale wines are, by their very nature, limited; so these wines may not be available for long.

Browse everything in our Sale here

Category: Miscellaneous