We are delighted to announce that the iconic Hambledon vineyard – a true piece of British heritage, established in 1952 – is now part of the Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Symington families.
The bid to acquire Hambledon was a joint venture between us and Symington Family Estates. The Symingtons have been Port producers in northern Portugal since 1882; we have worked together and been friends for many years, always sharing the same values and ethos.
An exciting new chapter ahead
This morning, our Chair Lizzy Rudd had this to say: “We are delighted to confirm this exciting joint venture with Symington Family Estates. Together, we are committed to sustainable viticulture and winemaking, and we believe that this business, which was the first commercial English vineyard of the modern era, has the foundations and potential to lead the way in the English sparkling wine category.”
Our delight was matched by our partners in Symington Family Estates. In the words of Johnny Symington, “It was going to take something very special for us to make wine in a new country, having produced port and wine in Portugal for five generations.” It was the quality of Hambledon’s wines which convinced them: “The quality of the wines is absolutely spectacular and is a reflection of the fantastic Hambledon terroir […]we believe that these are world-class sparkling wines, that will play a leading role in the development of English sparkling.”
It’s an exciting day for us all, and one that calls for sparkling wine to celebrate. A glass of Hambledon, anyone?
Bonfire Night is one of autumn’s glittering highlights. Delicious wines and warming seasonal cocktails are a must – because what’s in your glass should be every bit as spectacular as the skies above.
Bonfire Night has always been one of my favourite occasions of the year. By now, we’re in the thick of autumn: the trees have turned properly golden, Halloween is behind us and Christmas lies ahead. Everyone is wrapped in warm layers, braving the cold night with good cheer. It must be one of the most low-key occasions of the year, meaning there is little to disappoint and much to unexpectedly delight.
Sparklers have always been a must – ever since childhood, huddled in the cold darkness of my garden in West Wales. In those days, we often put on our own little firework display, watching them light up the sky in modest shoots of gold, violet and scarlet. But over the course of a decade in London, where personal gardens are harder to come by, I have made a tradition of seeking out proper firework displays. And, unlike the Bonfire Nights of my childhood, the question of what to drink becomes an important one.
I tend to choose red wines over white, on the condition that they must be delicious out of a picnic glass or a portable mug. Given that they will be enjoyed outdoors, they needn’t be too heavy, as the cool air will chill them naturally. For that reason, I’d recommend fruity red wines that can take a little chilling – such as wines made from Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Garnacha.
This is a night for the autumn cocktail to take centre stage, too. With the arrival of dark, chilly evenings, I am always excited that hot toddies are back on the cards. A blend of whisky, honey and lemon juice, pour it steaming out of a flask into outstretched mugs, and it’s just the thing to warm you up as you wait for the fireworks to get started. If you’re looking for a reliably delicious whisky, I recommend the Glen Elgin Speyside Single Malt, with its notes of burnt marmalade, apples and spiced cream. It will blend beautifully with the honey and lemon.
Then, there’s The King’s Ginger – the original outdoor restorative, crafted to revivify royals and landed gentry through the ages on their winter outings. While I fall into neither category, I nevertheless enjoy the spicy notes of ginger blended with my hot chocolate or mulled cider. Fit for a king, but delicious for peasants too.
Equally, there is nothing more warming than a simple dram of whisky. I’m a huge fan of peat smoke all year round, but it seems particularly appropriate on Bonfire Night. Kilchoman’s Sanaig, with its beautiful notes of caramel, toffee and gentle smoke, is utterly delicious. Or, try Ardbeg’s Wee Beastie for a real bonfire character.
Whatever you choose, you’re in for a magical autumnal evening. All you need to round it off is a generous Tupperware full of Yorkshire parkin.
We recently visited two very different distilleries in the east of Scotland– one founded in 1763, the other in 2014. As time has passed, how much has really changed in Scotch whisky distilling? Siggi Gunnlaugsson, one of our Account Managers, reports.
After a lumbering journey to Scotland aboard the Caledonian Sleeper in early August, our first scheduled visit was to The Glenturret Distillery. As Scotland’s oldest working distillery, whisky has been produced here since 1763.
Self-described as the “newest old kid on the block”, the distillery’s history is vast. Whisky has been produced on site since 1763 but it is, conversely, new to the market with 2020 being the inaugural release from Glenturret’s current guise. Fans of The Famous Grouse may be interested to know that Glenturret had previously produced the backbone of that blend.
Glenturret takes its name from “Glen” meaning “narrow valley” and the river Turret which runs past the distillery. The soothing atmosphere of the riverbank is the perfect place for a deep and cleansing breath – an experience I miss from my native Iceland.
Making whisky in the good, old, traditional way, Glenturret’s core range starts with its Triple Wood, so called as it is matured in Bourbon, American Sherry and European Sherry casks. It also includes a 10-Year-Old Peat Smoke whisky and a 12-Year-Old single malt. Beyond that, much of the range consists of limited and scarce releases such as those in the ethereal Lalique decanters (thanks to the distillery’s part-owners, Lalique Group).
Due to the abundance of grain stored on site, it had been essential in the past for distilleries to have a resident cat or two to keep the mice at bay. Glenturret’s famous cat, Towser, has become a legend in her own right. A female, long-haired tortoiseshell cat, her residency from 1963 to 1987 was officially recognised as a record-breaker, with her victim count estimated at 28,899 mice. Her victims were laid out on the still house floor each morning to be inspected (and presumably, counted) by the stillman.
So far, so traditional. But Glenturret Distillery is also home to Scotland’s only Lalique boutique and is the only distillery in Scotland with a Michelin starred restaurant.
A new age of Scotch engineering
After the rich history of Glenturret, our next visit of the day was something quite different.
At the end of a long road winding through a Glenrothes industrial estate, we reached Inchdairnie Distillery* – safely tucked away behind similarly industrial-looking gates. There was something very “James Bond” about it.
Not only does Inchdairnie’s infrastructure contrast with Glenturret’s 18th-century buildings but so too do methods in the distillery. Inchdairnie’s team has opted for a hammer mill over the conventional roller mill. The milling process, essentially, extracts the starch from the grain being used for distillation. Hammer mills can process different grains and not just uniform-sized barley. This is especially useful for producing Inchdairnie’s rye-based whiskies as rye grains are inconsistent in their size.
In a nostalgic nod to tradition and perhaps most excitingly, Inchdairnie has installed a Lomond still which has not been seen in the Lowlands since the closure of Dumbarton distillery in 2002. Inchdairnie’s has been designed by its founder, Ian Palmer, and is an engineer’s dream to see. The “geek factor” scale was smashed.
As Inchdairnie only started making spirit in 2015, we must still wait for its malt whisky which is on the horizon, expected 2029. Its first whisky release is RyeLaw. Distilled in 2017 and bottled in 2022, this Scottish rye is a limited release and the outcome of just a single week’s production. Only 200 casks of this vintage were ever bottled, to be released worldwide and it is the first commercial pot still, rye spirit made in Scotland for over 200 years.
While the beautiful traditions of Scotch Whisky distilling are alive and well at Glenturret and the new frontier is being broken at Inchdairnie, there are occasions when the then and now collide. It simply comes down to a matter of taste.
Château Lafite Rothschild has a storied history, but the women running it are decidedly future-focused, says Sarah Adwalpalkar. Here, she reports from a day on the ground at this Pauillac First Growth.
It’s an early spring morning in March 2023 and we’re rolling through the gates of Château Lafite Rothschild. The sun glints off the château’s weathervane, which bears the Rothschild family’s five-arrow symbol. I’m with noted photographer Chris Floyd and his crew (and no fewer than 10 bags of equipment). We’re just weeks away from the launch of Bordeaux 2022 En Primeur, and we’re here to meet some of the women running this renowned First Growth.
Lafite is the jewel in the crown of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) group, the family portfolio of wineries that also includes nearby Ch. Duhart-Milon, Ch. L’Evangile in Pomerol and Ch. Rieussec in Sauternes – along with famed estates in the South of France, Argentina, Chile and China.
As we arrive at Lafite, I’m struck by its quiet industrialism rather than its grandeur: groups of workers, mainly female, tend the vines; renovations are underway ahead of the upcoming En Primeur season.
We first meet with Manuela Brando, a self-effacing Columbian who oversees research and development here. She has been with the company for over 10 years. As she begins to speak, her knowledge is evident, as is her enthusiasm for safeguarding the estate for the future.
The 2022 vintage brought extreme weather across all of Bordeaux. The year’s excessive heat and drought seem to be becoming the norm here. How, then, are Manuela and her team to combat such extremes in the future?
Her most interesting answer for me relates to the work they are doing in planting non-native grape varieties and testing their potential to brave a scorching summer. Varieties from the South of France, Greece, Portugal and even Georgia have been planted in an experimental plot. The team will need to wait 10 years to see the fruits of their labour and to judge whether they could be viable options for future Bordeaux blends.
The Rothschilds have owned Lafite since 1868. I find it impressive that an estate of this age would go to such lengths to ensure consistently excellent wines. Manuela admits that it’s “a risk”. Clearly, it’s one that they are willing to take.
Saskia de Rothschild is the Chair of the family group, the first woman to have taken up the position in six generations. When we sit down with her, she speaks passionately about the need for diversification. They need to work differently in order to bridge the gap between now and the future, she believes. She has clearly inherited this passion from her father, Baron Eric de Rothschild, who had spearheaded the introduction of cows into the estate’s surrounding marshlands.
Being something of a cow-enthusiast myself, I’m keen to meet these famous vaches marines (roughly translated as “sea cows”, although these ones stay firmly on dry land). Saskia graciously obliges, jumping in the car with us to seek out the typically shy creatures.
“This is like a safari!” she cheerfully notes as we glance at them through the trees.
The cows help to graze and maintain the marshland and promote biodiversity here. Their manure can be used for biodynamic treatments in the vineyard. The contrast between neat, elegant rows of vines and the rugged earthiness of sprawling marshland highlights to me how two seemingly distinct ideas can work in tandem.
The “invisible hand”
Our day at Lafite concludes with a tour of the chai circulaire, a concrete barrel-room designed by Ricardo Bofill and constructed in 1987. It’s a striking structure, entirely circular, punctuated with thick pillars and lined with wine barrels. The damp smell underground is comforting and full of promise for the vintage that lies ahead.
Manuela comments on the “invisible hand” of the estate. It helps everything progress, she says, while remaining unnoticeable. This statement resonates with me, as in a world where greenwashing is increasingly prevalent and companies spar to demonstrate their sustainable credentials, understated and even invisible seem like the right strategy.
Our day concludes as we send our drone out over the sunset hill which gives Lafite its name: the term fite means “mound” or “hillock” in historic French. It gives me a moment to ponder what Saskia and Manuela had mentioned: that “everything is related”. I watch how the footage spans the vineyards, the marshlands, meadows of wildflowers squeezed between the vines, and the château overseeing it all.