Robin Butler on Twitter

February 2015

I remember when I was really quite young, that my father liked his glass of sherry before dinner each evening.  Sherry was very popular in the 1950s and 60s, and it appears to be having a revival - and not before time in my opinion.  My father’s favourite was Harveys ‘Merienda’ a medium amontillado - long since out of production - and not quite to my taste anyway.  I recall trying it at Harveys Wine Museum in Bristol in the 1990s and quickly moving on to something else.


It is odd really how sherry fell from fashion in the 1970s (or was it the 80s?) and I recall more recent times when sherry, even quite good sherry, was absurdly inexpensive, but retailers seem to have realised what they were allowing to slip through their fingers and prices of sherry generally are taking off, reflecting its true worth. 


Sherry was clearly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and this is reflected in the silver and silver-gilt labels I am showing here.   I know of nobody who collects sherry labels per se , so there is an opening for someone who would like to begin a collection.  They encompass all styles and qualities from the unadorned to the elaborate and from the ordinary to the finest and from the earliest to more recent examples.  Sherry is not the most common of labels, Madeira is, but it probably comes second or third so there is no price premium for name rarity.


While I cannot have a professional opinion on the subject of wine itself, I have nevertheless learned a certain amount about it along the route to my own speciality - and that is aside from my quest to know more about something I enjoy.  I have read several books about wine and listened intently whenever I meet someone who is an acknowledged expert about it; I listen not only to what they have to say but to their choices also.  I have one friend in particular from whom I learned much in my earlier days of taking more than a passing interest in wine; he was not a professional.  However, he had and still has a highly refined palate.  His son is now a feature writer for the Daily Telegraph and recently he conducted an interesting exercise which he recounted in the paper.


In the name of his profession (no other reason of course!), he tried to live for one day drinking the same drinks and as much as Sir Winston Churchill.  However, he threw in the towel before he even reached the evening drinks - the cognac and the port.  . 


The alcohol intake started at 9.30 am with a whisky and soda  - a weak one admittedly, but by lunchtime, he had had a half dozen.  Churchill called these ‘mouthwash’.  For lunch he would have had a bottle of his favourite champagne - Pol Roger, but  in those days, it was possible to buy champagne in pint bottles - not 75 cl., and he had it in a silver pint mug.  Lunch was followed by a 2-hour nap, then the whisky and soda regime re-started.  At 6 o’clock, Churchill would have a glass of amontillado sherry, then a second pint bottle of Pol Roger with dinner.  It was at this point that my friend’s son was defeated!   He was unable to cope with the post-prandial Hine cognac - nor the Port, let alone carrying on with his work.


To see a video of Harry Wallop ‘at work’, cut and paste the following into your web search am sorry there is a promotional prelude which seems unavoidable, but if you can ignore that, the video is interesting and not too long.

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