Lovely sunny London Spring morning; blossoms, daffs, birdsongs, thin people running ... etc. And a couple of thousand Wine Clubbers ignoring all that to try and taste over 60 wines an hour. For several hours!
I'm Co-Chairman of the Sunday Times Wine Club as it happens. We started this show in 1979 in another place ... where we unfortunately spilt wine on the new carpets and I ended up in a fist-fight with a very drunk hall manager. Not a great start. Stupid place to put carpets anyway.
Next year we moved to the Horticultural Hall where the gardeners don't worry about a bit of spilt wine. Been there ever since. The Hall and us just fit nicely. Every April. Never seriously thought of moving.
So this was the 30th birthday year. And a particularly fine party it was too. We go from 11 a.m. to 2.30. Then the Members go home, we have a rest and do it again from 5.30 till 9.00 pm. for another lot of Members. Then it’s the same again on Saturday. About a hundred wine producers and five thousand or so wine consumers. Marathon? Sure is.
Other wine shows come and go. Why does this live on? Maybe because we make it affordable and easy for the hard-working wine-producer to come. Maybe because we didn't let it get huge; just a realistic number of wines. Maybe because, over the years real friendships have built up between the people who make the wines and those who love to drink them. These relationships last. And overcome any little difficulties like language. I said earlier it was like a very good party. It really is ... And always packed out to maximum. A thirty year party.
It’s well-behaved. You never see anyone being carried out anymore. Though we did lose a little Patagonian last year. But you send a young chap from Patagonia to London ... I mean! Culture shock isn't it? And anyway that was after the show when the younger people carry on a bit.
It’s not in the slightest bit intimidating. There is, it’s true, a special room where the very expensive stuff is. That could be a bit intimidating. But you don't have to go there.
I just love it. Never missed a single session. Though I do flag a bit by Saturday evening. But how can I miss any? All my friends come; Bill Calabria and the others from Oz (and they've still got vintage on!)
What makes a famous winemaker with a load of grapes still to pick, fly halfway round the world to spend two days pouring wine for Poms before flying straight home? Don't know, but it’s very flattering. They come in likewise from South Africa, South American, California and every country in Europe with vines. In fact, everywhere. Why? Because its known to be the best, most fun show there is.
So why not a Laithwaites Festival you say? Well, The Sunday Times thought of it first you see.
But then....why not? OK ... we'll do one for you!
It is after all Laithwaites 40th birthday. So why not a big party then?
Horticultural Hall again? Check back for details.