Flagstone : Trust Your Taste


Editor Andrew Arnott

Andrew Arnott

Andrew studied Literature and Sociology at UCT before setting off on a global trek that saw him working under the seas of the Caribbean, on the snow covered slopes of the Canadian Rockies and writing for a variety of financial and travel institutions. Now at home in Cape Town, Andrew’s passions for wine and writing are married on this blog.

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I Drink at John Arlott’s Grave - Ian Botham

Former England cricketer Sir Ian Botham has revealed that he cracks open “a good bottle of red” at BBC cricket commentator John Arlott’s grave in Alderney whenever he visits the island.

[by Geoffrey Dean]

Speaking to the drinks business at luxury lodge Tintswalo Atlantic near Cape Town having completed a series of Kumala-sponsored charity walks, Botham said:

“John taught me about wine when I was 16 and ignited my passion. I got to know him very well, and over the last ten years of his life, I was as close to him as anybody outside his immediate family.”

Botham and his wife Kathy bought a holiday home in Alderney (one of the lesser-known Channel Islands) where Arlott lived, and enjoyed many a fine bottle from his cellar, from Château Palmer to Château Margaux.

“We had 14 great years down there with the house. We go back occasionally.

“Every time I do, I always open a good bottle of red, take it down to John’s grave, drink it and leave the cork there. I’m sure my brother-in-law or my sons and grandsons will continue the tradition when I’m gone.

“I bought some of the wines from his cellar after his death – I didn’t need John to leave anything to me as we had consumed more than our fair share together before he departed,” he added.

As far as investing in wine is concerned, Botham doesn’t see the point. “I don’t invest – the Chinese have buggered the market, so I don’t think there’s any investment there. You’re better off playing the futures market,” he believes.

Although he enjoys “all kinds of wine”, Botham’s preference is for the New World. “I’ve always bought predominantly New World,” he says, though his all-time favourite is Vega Sicilia.

“Spanish wine has only really gotten the recognition it deserves in the last 20 years. I’ve got vintages of Unico going back to 1970,” he says proudly.

He’s also a fan of South African wine and sips a Flagstone Cabernet Sauvignon made by his friend Bruce Jack during the interview.

“There’s some fantastic stuff here in South Africa, but the wine scene here has only really developed in the last 20 to 30 years. For years I wondered why they were trying to make Bordeaux-style wines –you’re New World – use the vines, use the fruit. The younger winemakers have done that,” he believes.

Botham’s top South African wines include Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay (his preferred white grape), Waterford Shiraz and the wines made by fellow golfer Ernie Els.

“Ernie has sold three-quarters of his vineyards, but his wines are good. There are so many good wines in South Africa now, it’s a great place to explore, and is a bit like Australia 15 years ago or New Zealand seven years ago,” he says.

Botham has a business interest in the McLaren Vale with Geoff Merrill, whose BMW label is short for Botham-Merrill-Willis (after former England captain Bob Willis).

“I know the Australian market pretty well. Penfold’s Grange, Hill of Grace, Geoff’s Henley Shiraz is a fantastic wine. There are some great wines coming out of Margaret River now.”

Despite his penchant for big reds, Botham is a keen consumer of New Zealand Pinot Noir and is particularly fond of Martinborough-based Cabbage Tree.

“It’s the smallest commercial vineyard in the world. David Bull, the winemaker, makes the best Pinot in New Zealand in my opinion, and his Chardonnay is magnificent,” he enthuses.

Botham lost both big toe nails during the charity walks in South Africa but is planning a final hurrah in Oz in two years before the next Ashes series.

This piece was originally published in …

The Drinks Business

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