Recently, there has been a spate of sports and entertainment celebrities’ involvement in the drinks industry – either through sponsorship or more hands-on activity. There’s David Beckham and Haig Whisky, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden teaming up with Robinsons Brewery, Spanish football icon Andrés Iniesta’s family vineyard, Graham Norton’s award-winning New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and many others. So what about a range of classic European wines endorsed by a famous name? This is exactly what is happening now with the launch of golfing legend, Sir Nick Faldo’s wine collection from six of Europe’s classic regions, in partnership with Milton Sandford Wines.
Sir Nick Faldo MBE is one of Europe’s finest ever golfers with a tournament record including 6 major championships and 11 Ryder Cup appearances. The former World Number 1 is also the highest individual points scorer in Ryder Cup history and is the only living British golfer to have received a knighthood from the Queen. Currently, he is heavily involved in golf-related projects, including designing courses and developing programmes for aspiring young golfers. However, in addition to his love of golf, he has always had a passion for great wines, which has led him to his latest venture.
The two white and four red wines comprising the Faldo collection have been selected from some of the best European vineyard areas, reflecting both his love for these styles, but also the regions he encountered during his professional golfing career. Each bottle is adorned with the Faldo Shield (six stripes in claret and green, based on the Claret Jug of the Open and the Green Jacket of the Masters) which represents his six major championship wins in order. Milton Sandford Wines, with whom Sir Nick is launching this range, is an independent wine merchant, founded 25 years ago by former restaurant owner Stan Park and Michelin-starred chef Richard Sandford. The company supplies leading hotels, restaurants and gastropubs in the UK, has underground chalk cellars in Berkshire and provides professional services that include creating wine lists for the hospitality sector. Previously, they launched a successful range featuring wines from other famous golfers, including Arnold Palmer, Ernie Els and Jack Nicklaus.
Milton Sandford Wines is owned by John Winchester, whose involvement in the Wentworth golfing fraternity and his school connection with Sir Nick’s son, Matthew, led to him meeting the golfing star. General Manager, Deborah Kerr, explains what this new Faldo collection means to her. “This is an amazing opportunity to design a unique collection with producers that we love and respect. It’s a family of wines with a broad range of styles that reflect Nick’s palate. Consumers buy for different reasons, so by including classic wines from across Europe, there should be at least one which will connect with every wine drinker, so nobody is excluded. Today’s launch is all about choosing the correct venue, matching with foods from a well-regarded chef and showing the wines in the environment we hope they’ll be served in and enjoyed for a long time to come, not just in the UK but internationally too.”
Although the target audience for these wines essentially comprises golf clubs, restaurants and hotels, there are clearly other opportunities too given the strong, bold labelling reminiscent of a sports club crest. Deborah explains further: “From a retail perspective, buying for men in particular can be incredibly difficult, so this amazing selection of wines of different styles would make a fantastic gift!”
I was delighted to be invited to attend the launch of these wines, held at Searcy’s fabulous Urban Coterie at the strikingly beautiful M by Montcalm Hotel in London’s Shoreditch and to have the opportunity to ask Sir Nick a few questions about his range of European wines:
Robin Goldsmith: What was the spark behind launching this particular range of wines?
Sir Nick Faldo: We had a collection about 15 years ago with Wingara Wine Group in Coonawarra, Australia. However, despite taking it to America, it never really took off and there were problems with distributorship. This new project has been going now for a couple of years since I first met John. Initially, he talked to my son Matthew, who mentioned it to me and I said I thought it was a good idea, so let’s give it a go. John then contacted my group and we started out on the whole process with Milton Sandford Wines. They offered us this opportunity to go out to different vineyards and then get the winegrowers and owners interested in our little project and joining the collection. We did many tastings to see what I like and slowly came up with where we are today. We felt it made more sense to stick to Europe because of the contacts that the company had and also the fact that I’m a European golfer. Through the last two summers we’ve had taste tests to end up with this collection.
I’m just a good old fun drinker! I’m not a connoisseur, but I do enjoy my wines and like a glass with all my meals. I kept sending in different bottle labels from wine that I’d drunk at home in Florida. I used to go down to the local store and say “I want to try some Burgundies or some Pinots”, that sort of thing and they’d send me a dozen or 20 bottles of wine, which I’d rate myself. In fact, I had most pride and enjoyment in trying to find the ones that only cost 20 bucks which I thought were great!
RG: Have you always been interested in wine and can you remember what first kindled your interest in classic European styles?
NF: Probably from way back. We all thought it was really great when I won the Spanish Open in 1987 and had a bottle of Marqués de Riscal. That was the night that things changed for me. I remember it well, of course, as that gave me the confidence to then go on and win the Open and have that little run I had for a while. Also, when I was a lad, we often used to go to France for our summer holidays and my Dad would let me have a little taste of wine to go with our freshly steamed mussels for 2 Francs! So who knows, it might have started through that. As I said, I just enjoy the odd glass here and there and I know it’s healthy for me, which is good.
RG: Do you have any further plans for introducing new ranges to celebrate other golfing achievements? What about an English range?
NF: Yes we talked about that a long time ago and we actually did some tastings, so we’d like to do an English range. Also there are lots of stories about my golf across Europe and I’ve got friends in Germany who could introduce us to some nice Rieslings for example, so who knows where else we may venture?
RG: You retired from competitive golf earlier this year at St. Andrews. Did you celebrate with a few glasses of wine or something stronger?
NF: It was stronger that week as I was injured and it was quite an emotional time, so I celebrated with Glenmorangie – it actually saved the day! Also, as it was my birthday, we had birthday cake as well, so I was able to celebrate with a big chunk of birthday cake and Glenmorangie!
RG: Many celebrities from the sports and entertainment world have become involved in premium quality wine, beer, or spirits. Do you think that there’s a connection and natural affinity between the glitz and glamour of sport and entertainment and the prestige of having a range of wines, for example, linked to your name?
NF: Well I think the great thing about success in a sporting profession is that it gives you a name, which then gives you an opportunity to pursue other things and do something special. Some players are deeply involved, like David Frost – he has his own vineyard – whereas for others, it’s more of a brand project. It’s really about passion and entertainment and I think that’s quite cool. Golf is all about entertainment, including after your round and hotel life is the same. You need a bit of entertainment. I spent 40 years living in hotels, so it’s quite nice to do this, especially as we do it properly.
Each wine was paired with canapés, specially prepared by Michelin-starred chef Anthony Demetre. For me, the most successful pairings were Chablis with foie gras brioche – the wine’s steely minerality and green apple acidity cutting through the sweet richness of the food – and Châteauneuf-du-Pape with mushroom arrancini – the fruity, earthy and savoury flavours uniting in total harmony.
Created by a wine grower husband and oenologist wife, Bruno and Patricia Denis, from vines with an average age of 40 years old, this is a classically elegant Loire style of Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh and vibrant with notes of elderflower on a grassy, mineral backbone plus a herbal and vegetal touch. This would be great served with asparagus or delicate fish dishes. RRP £10.99
Milton Sandford Wines started out 25 years ago and Domaine Brocard is one of the original wineries with whom they have been working. So this Chablis celebrates the Silver Jubilee of this partnership! Beautifully elegant and well-balanced with steely minerality and green apple acidity, this shows some richness on the palate plus a long finish. A brilliant match for dishes rich in fat which have a touch of sweetness, such as duck or goose and for poultry, rabbit or fish in a cream or mustard-based sauce. RRP £15.50.
Ripasso (literally meaning re-passed) is a by-product of Amarone, in which regular Valpolicella is added to a barrel containing the skins and lees left over from fermented Amarone wine. This example, made by a family-owned winery, has typical cherry notes with chocolate, spice, hints of dried fruit and mint, good acidity and light tannins. Fresh, bright and fruity, the initial sweet fruit leads on to a dry mid-palate and satisfying finish. Food-wise, this is a really versatile style, but pairs particularly well with duck, veal and lamb. RRP £13.50.
This Crianza, made from Tempranillo vines averaging 30 years old, is aged for 14 months in mostly French oak. The result is a soft, rounded, well-balanced style with dark fruit notes including blackberries and plums, vanilla, herbs and sweet spice. It is elegant and velvety smooth with a long finish. The ABV is 14%, but this level of alcohol is not hugely noticeable as the wine is so well balanced. Javier de Galarreta, President and CEO of Araex-Spanish Fine Wines Group, explains: “This wine is made from our best barrels of 2010 Crianzas. We always aim for nice, accessible, drinkable wines using gravity-based vinification methods over our seven floors, which avoids pumps or other mechanical intervention that might damage the grapes and the resultant wine.” Another versatile wine for food pairings, try this with roast lamb or duck in a fruity sauce to complement the Rioja’s sweet, ripe fruit and soft oaky notes. RRP £15.50.
Made predominantly from Grenache (65%) plus smaller quantities of Mourvèdre (20%), Cinsault (10%) and Syrah (5%), this elegant, well-balanced, aromatic wine exhibits notes of loganberries, blackberries, spice and herbs with savoury and earthy hints plus a light touch of liquorice on the mid-palate. Great with roast beef or, given Christmas is fast approaching, turkey with cranberry sauce. RRP £22.50.
This is the flagship wine of the collection made from very old vines and is a delightful and approachable example of the Barolo style. Rich, complex and intensely aromatic, this shows classic notes of tar, rosehip, prunes, damsons, leather and spice. Initial sweet fruit leads on to a well-balanced palate where the fruit, oak, tannins and acidity are perfectly integrated. A superb and classy accompaniment for slow-cooked beef or game dishes. RRP £44.99.
This collection represents an excellent way for any wine lover to try a selection of classic European wines. From speaking to Sir Nick, he clearly enjoys a range of styles, but in particular Rioja – perhaps because of the association with his life-changing Spanish Open triumph. Indeed, when I asked him what his favourite wine of the collection was, that was the one he chose. However, it’s not just a vein of nostalgia and a love of classic wine styles that define this collection, but it’s value for money as well. As Deborah Kerr confirms: “I think what’s important with the range is that, as Sir Nick said, he used to get more pleasure out of finding the wines that weren’t expensive. The joy was in value and the range here, at each style and producer, reflects that.”
A British freelance food and drink writer who has a WSET Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits and is a member of CAMRA (The UK Campaign for Real Ale).
Robin reviews food and drink products for individual companies and he regularly writes reports on trade events, such as wine tastings or food and drink shows.
Additionally, he has written detailed commercial reports for trade publications and many of his articles have been published on respected industry websites, such as the drinks business, Speciality Food Magazine and hostelbookers.
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