Robin Butler on Twitter

June 2011

As I write this, the London antiques fair season is almost upon us. This year will provide simpler options than in previous years, with just three principal antiques fairs.  First, there is the mass-market traditional fare on offer at Olympia, then the more erudite collector show in Hyde Park at "Art Antiques London", with its emphasis on ceramics. Finally there is the top-of-the-tree show, Masterpiece, at the end of the month which will be in the grounds of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea. The latter two debuted (can I really write that?) last year, following the demise of the Grosvenor House Fair. It was the doyen of all antiques fairs which had started in 1934, but the concept had really run its course. The 2010 inaugural Masterpiece certainly lived up to its name, presenting more than just antiques; it is more a celebration of all that is
best in luxury goods - "The Best of the Best". In addition to the finest antiques from many disciplines, it showcases cars (vintage and new), watches, wine and good food (fine restaurants, too) as well as jewellery, perfumes and what one exhibitor describes as "20th Century objets de luxe". I will report on each of these events next month.

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While I deal in wine accessories, I have never sold wine itself, despite having a distinct penchant for it. I am often asked if I have done, or will do so, but I prefer to concentrate my energies where my expertise lies. I really do not know enough about the technicalities, the growers, oenologists and other aspects of wine to sell the nectar itself.

However, since my last newsletter, I have encountered a couple of wines at either end of the price spectrum which have given me a great deal of pleasure - one white and one red - and I thought I should share my findings. I have to say I was surprised by Sainsbury's House Chardonnay at less than £4 a bottle, for its being thoroughly quaffable when it isincreasingly difficult to find anything that gives drinkable pleasure at less than £5. It may not be a great wine, certainly not a fine wine, but it has the unmistakable characteristics of the Chardonnay grape, and I find it a very agreeable 'daily tipple' – or you could tuck some in your picnic basket for Wimbledon or Henley this season.

Recently I had a visit from Martin Spedding who has vineyards in Australia. He brought his wife with him and 2 year-old daughter who were a delight to entertain. The reason for his visit was his interest in starting a wine museum - well, he had to come here didn't he? A couple of days later, I met him again at the London International Wine Fair, and I tasted his wines; I was very taken with them indeed. His Chardonnay is 10 times the price of the 'daily tipple', but simply oozes style, refinement and character, with complex aromas and flavours. I also tried his Pinot Noir which equally enchanted me in a different spectrum of my palate. If you are interested in knowing more, please go to Martin's website - The estate is called Ten Minutes by Tractor
because there were three vineyards, and it takes ten minutes by tractor to get
from one to another - obvious really!

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I had a delightful surprise last week when a customer asked me for a decanter - nothing out of the ordinary about that, except that it was the fourth time he had done so. This prompted me to ask him why he bought decanters at odd intervals and
over quite a period of time. It emerged that he had more than his fair share of
godsons, and he gave each an antique decanter when they reached the age of 18.
I have another customer who gives a decanter to his nephews and nieces as
wedding presents.

This really delights me, as quite apart from it boosting business, it is great to hear that young people actually request these gifts, so that once again these both
beautiful and very practical objects will be re-cycled to new owners. I often
wonder, when I sell something, how many hands it has passed through. It
certainly backs the assertion that the antiques business is the 'greenest' of
them all.

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I would like to end this month's newsletter with a request. If you know
anyone who would like to receive these letters, please do put them in touch
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