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Allan Perry in the cellars at No.3. Photograph: Joe Woodhouse

He’s tasted almost 150 different vintages, seen four decades of change and survived Norman Shelley’s scrumpy: Alexis Self talks to Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Allan Perry

If you’ve bought a bottle from No.3 St James’s Street in the last 37 years, chances are it’s passed through the hands of Allan Perry. On Friday 27th April, No.3’s ebullient, wise-cracking Cellar Manager, nicknamed Amyl, called time on a career that has lasted nearly four decades. During this time, he has seen five chairmen come and go, tasted a wine from every vintage since 1870 and watched as Berry Bros. & Rudd has grown from a relatively small – and still quite parochial – West End wine merchant, to an international business with offices in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. Though it has modernised considerably in the past few decades, the company still retains some of the Old-World charm you’d expect from a business founded in the 17th century.

That said, it probably didn’t feel particularly charming when a 20-year-old Allan first walked through its black-green doors on Friday 28th March 1981. Before he answered an advert in the South London Press – a St James’s Street wine merchant that was looking for a cellarman – his experience of the wine trade didn’t extend much further than Victoria Wines: “I thought it’d just be a shop, like an off licence or something, so when I first walked through the doors, I was blown away,” Allan says.

He was met by a man in a pinstripe suit, who barely looked up through his horn-rimmed spectacles before asking in an intimidating drawl, “Can I help you, sir?” Allan was told to take a seat to wait for a director to come down and interview him. Led to The Parlour at the back of the shop, which back then reeked of old cigars, the street-wise 20-year-old must’ve made an impression because, “the same day I got a call from his secretary asking if I could start on Monday”.

Nowadays, 20-year-olds are considered precocious if they’ve moved out of home, but No.3’s newest cellarman had already been in London for three years, working in a chemical factory – from which he gets his nickname – and a few bars. Before that, when he arrived from his native Liverpool, he slept rough while looking for employment. I’m surprised to hear he was born by the Mersey, not only because of his south-London twang, but also the large “MUFC” tattoo on his right forearm. “Oh yeah, I’ve my foster father to blame for that. He was from Manchester and used to take me down the East Lancs Road from Liverpool to Old Trafford aged eight – I’ve been hooked ever since. You can change your religion but not your football team.” Being a QPR fan, I nod in grim agreement.

“You can change your religion but not your football team.”

It must have been intimidating then for a young man with his background to walk into that environment. “It was. The shop was dark, cold and gloomy then and there were just two guys who worked up there – Gill Gagen and Richard Colman – who looked like they were born in pinstripes and were always immaculately turned-out.” The only room off the shop – now the Merchant’s Room – was where the switchboard was located. “It was managed by a lady called Sue Wren, who worked here for 40 years,” says Allan. “The switchboard was manual so whenever she transferred a call, she did it by hand, unplugging one line and moving it to a different socket.”

Elsewhere, pen and paper were as high-tech as things got: there were more than 150,000 bottles of wine in the cellars back then, and each one’s location had to be carefully noted. The wine arrived twice-weekly on a flat-bed truck, “There was usually 10 pallets with 40 cases of wine on each one, which had to be unloaded by hand – it used to take two hours to get the whole job done.”

Cases of fine wine weren’t the only things Allan was obliged to lift in his new role. Soon after he joined, a particularly drunk aristocrat – let’s call him “Lord Perch” – popped in after a long lunch at a nearby club to pick up something to take home. “He walked in swaying and said, ‘I’m just going to take a seat’, sat down on the old No.3 coffee scales and promptly fell straight backwards, arse over tit. Gill, again barely looking up from his high sloping desk, said, ‘Can you help Lord Perch to his feet? He appears to have lost his footing.’ I couldn’t believe it – I think his grandson’s still a customer.”

All that lifting constituted thirsty work, and the cellarmen used to have two barrels of beer delivered a month, one bitter and one lager, to keep them refreshed throughout the day – “there was 44 pints in each barrel, they usually lasted about two weeks.” Beer-breaks were a tradition: “We used to have four a day, the first was at 10am – which wasn’t officially a ‘beer-break’, but you’d have one anyway.” Unfortunately, due to the presence of moving machinery in the vicinity, health and safety inspectors put paid to their daily refreshment in the early 1990s. But, luckily, the Red Lion pub in Crown Passage still survives for a post-work grip – “that place hasn’t changed at all, I still see punters from the early days”.

“We used to have four beer-breaks a day, the first was at 10am”

Legend has it that there is a secret passage leading from the cellars into the Red Lion. Sadly, Allan is quick to dispel this rumour: “There are probably loads of small tunnels that have long-since been filled. There was always talk of one that ran under Pall Mall to St James’s Palace. In the early 1990s, when they were doing building work at 62 Pall Mall, they uncovered it. It was really well-constructed and it even had a small washroom and toilet off it. It was bricked up after about 50 metres though. CID came round to check that we couldn’t stroll through into the palace.

In Henry VIII’s day, the Palace’s tennis courts were located on St James’s Street, with artesian wells running under the building to deliver the water supply. A particularly big one was discovered a few years ago during the refurbishment of the Pickering Cellar. It’s now covered with glass so that customers using the cellar’s WC can look down into the inky depths. “I wanted to put a skeleton down there holding a bottle, that would have really given them a fright,” says Allan.

The presence of customers in the cellars is a far-cry from Allan’s early days. With most of the stock now in Basingstoke, No.3’s cellars have been opened up to more than 1,000 events a year. “We used to not see anyone for months, now we help lost customers find their way back to their tables every day,” Allan says. Given the combination of good wine and two and a half acres of labyrinthine cellars, this is perhaps not unsurprising.

Few customers – or, indeed, staff – have had the privilege of tasting the same quantity and quality of wines as Allan, who has to check every bottle which is opened from the house reserves. “I tasted an ’82 Le Pin which blew my mind and had a bottle of ’28 Fonseca Port which was superb, really incredible, and I’m not a big Port drinker.” Of all the wines he’s handled and tasted, the sweet ones are the oldest. “We opened a bottle of 1832 Tokaji a few years back. It was amazing to think of where this thing had been, it was like drinking history. About 1998, the company put one of these tiny bottles up for auction; it was bought for six grand.”

“There was always talk of a tunnel that ran under Pall Mall to St James’s Palace”

Allan doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of your typical wine connoisseur but his knowledge and experience is astonishing. He insists that, despite its sometimes-fusty image, Berry Bros. & Rudd has always been an inclusive place, welcoming of anyone with a hunger and desire to learn about wine. There have been many eccentric personalities over the years, but one – Norman Shelley – sticks in his mind. “He was an old chippy who drove in everyday from Somerset to repair things around No.3. A lot of the time he’d be fixing the floorboards in the shop, which would constantly need replacing. In order to make new boards look old, he’d mix together tea and coffee and paint them. He used to make his own scrumpy and bring it in to work. I once asked him what he put it in and he said: ‘You know, the usual stuff – spiders, frogs’ heads’. It was lethal.”

Come May, the smooth-worn, grey York flagstones of No.3’s cellars will miss Allan’s familiar tread. So what’s next? “I want to visit more of Britain, see what these islands have to offer.” But first, we’ll see you in the Red Lion, Amyl…

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Berrys' Wine Blog by Sophie Thorpe - 3d ago

The Union Jack hanging outside No.3 St James’s Street today

As Harry and Meghan prepare to say “I do”, we have rustled up five wines and spirits suited to a royal celebration

The King’s Ginger: Too clichéd? We think not – Harry may only be sixth in line to the throne, but this  liqueur is as fiery as the Prince’s fine locks, and good enough for any occasion. Try it with tonic and a slice of orange for an excellent, supremely refreshing apéritif.

We tend not to need an excuse to plump for bubbles, but tomorrow’s nuptials will do. If you haven’t already stocked up on our scrumptious Wine of the Week, then either of these English sparklers are worthy of toasting the happy couple.

2011 Berry Bros. & Rudd English Sparkling Wine by Gusbourne Estate: Yes, we’re biased – but the first English wine to make it into our own-label range is undeniably superb. Loaded with citrus and green-apple fruit, you’ll find one flute-ful is not enough.

Hambledon, Classic Cuvée Rosé: This Hampshire pink is one of our personal favourites – it offers bright red berry fruit with added layers of toast and lemon.

And from across the pond…

2016 Au Bon Climat Wild Boy Chardonnay: In honour of the once-wild prince, this utterly delicious Chardonnay is made by California’s very own “wild boy” Jim Clendenen, exclusively for the UK market. Expect pure fruit, elegance and a slight nuttiness.

2014 Birichino St Georges Zinfandel, Old Vines, Nonagenaires: Influenced by the two saintly Georges that look after these old vines, this Zinfandel will be perfect for the post-“I do” barbecue – bright and juicy with plenty of structure.

NB All of our recommendations are – at the time of writing – available to buy in both our London and Basingstoke shops

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Berrys' Wine Blog by Barbara Drew - 5d ago

Photograph: Joe Woodhouse

Champagne, Cava, Prosecco and English Sparkling Wine – there are plenty of options when it comes to fizz, but what about Crémant? Here Wine and Spirit Education Specialist Barbara Drew explains why this traditional method sparkler deserves a place in your fridge this summer

Champagne is traditional method sparkling wine that is made and matured in the Champagne region, covering the towns and villages in Northern France around Rheims, Epernay and Äy. As a wine it has achieved great commercial success due to a combination of factors: a cool climate that leads to delicate, complex flavours in the wine; chalky soils that are perfectly suited to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; a long history in which to build its reputation and perfect its winemaking; and plenty of marketing clout.

There are, however, other regions in France that share many of these factors, but lack the marketing reach or fascinating history that have helped cement Champagne as the wine for celebration. In truth, Champagne is just one of the myriad regions that make delicious sparkling wine.

As Champagne is a protected term, it cannot be applied to wines from any other region. In fact, so strict are the Champenois that one can no longer even reference the method used to make this wine – “Champagne method” – having instead to use the vaguer term “traditional method” or the slightly classier “méthode traditionelle”. These terms refer to the fact that the bubbles are created by a second fermentation in bottle. After this process the wine spends time resting on the yeast cells, lending a yeasty, brioche character to the wine. (For more on this, look out for my forthcoming post on how to make sparkling wine.)

But this same method is used to make wines from as far apart as the Loire, Alsace, Bordeaux and the Languedoc, each region lending its own style to the wine. They all bear the name “Crémant” which literally translates as “creaming”, after the softer, “creamier” mousse (ie smoother texture of the bubbles) created by the traditional method. And – thanks to their less fashionable name – these wines often offer great value.

Crémant d’Alsace tends to be rich and textured, while Crémant de Limoux often has a bruised apple character. Each uses a combination of the classic Champagne grapes (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) along with a mix of local varieties: a splash of Savagnin in the Jura, or a proportion of Pinot Blanc in Alsace.

The most common styles of Crémant:

  • Crémant de Loire: with a huge range of grapes to choose from, this can come in a range of styles, from floral and fruity, to stony and flinty
  • Crémant de Bourgogne: probably the closest in style to Champagne, though often with less yeastiness and slightly fresher apple fruit
  • Crémant d’Alsace: often slightly nutty due to the addition of Pinot Blanc, Alsace is the second best-selling fizz in France after Champagne
  • Crémant de Jura: with the addition of the local grape Savagnin, this can often have a smoky, orangey flavour with piercing acidity – an excellent match for food
  • Crémant de Bordeaux: often overlooked in favour of the still wines from the region, both white and rosé Crémant are produced here
  • Crémant de Limoux: the local grape Mauzac adds a bruised apple character to the wine while the slightly warmer climate in the South of France means softer acidity as well, so an excellent gentle apéritif

If you include Champagne in the mix, that’s a sparkling style for every day of the week…

The Berry Bros. & Rudd Crémant de Limoux is our wine of the week; find out more about it (and stock your fridge for summer) here.

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The Tap & Bottle at Flat Iron Square, home to the Berry Bros. & Rudd pop-up wine bar

Today marks the start of the Big Smoke’s annual celebration of wine, and with hundreds of events and offers on around the city, we highlight the ones we’ll be making a beeline for

This year’s London Wine Week “hub” is Flat Iron Square – drop by for jeroboams of Pol Roger, white Port and tonic from Graham’s, and – last but certainly not least – the first ever pop-up wine bar from yours truly. We’ll be pouring flights, glasses and bottles in our two-day takeover of the Tap & Bottle. Elsewhere around the city, there is plenty going on. Here are a few that made our short-list:

  • Drop into Sager + Wilde on Hackney Road for a mini incarnation of their iconic cheese toasties paired with a glass of wine (£5)
  • Sample classic wine and food pairings at Noble Rot – first up is Muscadet and oysters, then Jura and Comté (£6-10)
  • Step away from the Marlborough Sauvignon and explore New Zealand’s diversity in three wines at Brixton favourite The NZ Wine Cellar (£5)
  • Each branch of the hallowed Hawksmoor is offering a different food and wine pairing – the Air Street outlet (which is conveniently close to No.3), for example, is putting on a glass of Lustau’s thrilling Manzanilla with langoustine scampi (£9). We’ll see you there…
  • Track down your chosen Vinoteca for a trio of rosés to herald summer’s arrival (£5)
  • And – if you don’t have a street party set up – head to the London Wine Week Hub to watch Harry and Meghan tie the knot. There will be plenty of fizz, cake and bunting, we’re told.
The nitty gritty
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Photograph: Jason Lowe

As the British Library dedicates a season of events to food, Sophie Thorpe finds out how science is changing the way we eat and drink

“I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés,” Nicholas Kurti declared in 1969. Today, food and drink – despite its everyday importance – remains relatively unexplored territory.

The human brain developed thanks to the three Fs ­– “feeding, foraging… and something else”, Charles Spence told us at the beginning of a panel discussion titled Taste and Technology. The aforementioned Mr Spence, a leading experimental psychologist specialising in neuroscience-inspired multisensory design, was joined by Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society at UCL, and Francisco Migoya, Head Chef at Modernist Cuisine and author of Modernist Bread. This illustrious panel was meeting as part of the British Library’s Food Season, discussing the question – as Mark put it, “Will science take us further towards a delicious meal?”

This is Francisco Migoya’s exact purpose, aiming to look “under the hood” of food and reveal his findings to consumers in his books. He started along this scientific route quite simply because, he confessed, he had “pastry envy”. He searched for the reason behind his imperfect pâtisserie, and now seeks to do the same for all food.

For a long time, science and food were seen as apposite – the use of technology was feared by consumers – and in some ways it still is. “Processed” has developed negative connotations, but (much like wine) all food is processed – peeling and chopping a carrot is processing it. Often food that would be branded as “processed” is demonised for its levels of salt and fat, yet a tasting menu at a smart restaurant can contain similarly unhealthy levels of these products – but the price somehow makes it socially acceptable, Mark Miodownik noted.

As Mark pointed out, the nervousness around “messing with” food – using technology to create dishes – is nonsensical. The traditional methods that people perceive as artisan and old world, are in fact technology. It’s just that “new technology is this thing we don’t trust”. Candles are technology, after all – just old technology.

Francisco pinpointed the change in public perception to the early 2010s’ and the rise and fall of molecular gastromony – a foam-and-gel-fed fad that is, fortunately, long gone, but made a scientific approach to food fashionable.

Mark explained that the industry’s current focus – with a lot of money behind it – is the pursuit of meat substitutes. With the drive towards vegetarianism and veganism, as well as the impact our carnivorous ways are having on the environment, billions of pounds are being funnelled into recreating the humble bacon sandwich – minus the pig. So far, few have succeeded (although Hackney’s Temple of Seitan took London by storm last year when it opened the first vegan “fried chicken” shop).

Francisco argued that the most dedicated vegans wouldn’t go near imitation-meat, and that perhaps the quest shouldn’t be for something meat-like – but something totally different. He lamented that we wanted to eat the same things – often without the core ingredients, which is nigh impossible. “That’s the problem with gluten-free bread. Gluten is the thing [in bread],” he explained.

Improving a meal, however, doesn’t need to be limited to the food on the plate. How about the plate itself? Or the cutlery you use? Mark and Charles had undertaken a study in which people were blindfolded and put different spoons in their mouths (actually the same stainless steel spoon, electroplated with different metals – to cut out variables in shape and weight). The participants could easily tell the difference between copper, gold, zinc and stainless steel, and – when tested with a dollop of cream on each spoon – the different metals had a distinct impact on the taste of the cream. Should this be something restaurants embrace – whereby the cutlery becomes not part of the décor, but the taste experience?

Clearly, more research is needed. Mark feels that food (and by extension drink) isn’t taken seriously enough in research, when there are clear purposes to scientific exploration of taste. For example, taste malfunctions are a huge predictor of disease, and if we could create a way to test changes in our sense of taste, we could diagnose many diseases earlier. More importantly, as Francisco pointed out, “innovation is not always in the end result, it’s in the process”.

Though the discussion lingered on food, much of what was said applies to wine too. Charles mentioned that digital noses and tongues had been created, designed to detect cork taint. From closure-types and preservation systems, through to fake and fault detectors, or glass alternatives, there are doubtless plenty more developments to revolutionise the wine industry. And perhaps, one day, we’ll discover the secret to a perfect soufflé.

A side note

For wine-lovers with sensory envy of their pets, there was some good news. According to a pivotal study in 2014, dogs are not the superior sniffers we were originally led to believe. We can apparently follow trails just as well as our canine friends, determine the difference between identical twins just by their scent and discriminate one billion different smells. We even use our sense of smell in everyday encounters, much like other animals. No excuses when it comes to your next blind tasting, then…

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Recently across our social media channels we’ve been championing some of our personal wine favourites, as reviewed by our in-house team. This week it’s the turn of Alexis Self to cast his view on a bottle of 2015 Old Plains Longhop Cabernet Sauvignon, from Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges

Our antipodean cousins are famed for their straight-talking ways and, when it comes to a South Australian Cab Sauv, it’d be hard to get one more direct than Old Plains’ 2015 Longhop. Hailing from Mount Lofty Ranges – I bet you can guess why they called it “Mount Lofty” – this is a big, fresh and fruity red wine made from parcels of old vines planted by Italian immigrants after the Second World War.

I had a date to watch the football with an extremely anxious Liverpool fan and wanted something that would comfort and warm on a particularly frosty “spring” evening. Unlike the Liverpool defence, Old Plains Longhop is unlikely to collapse in the face of sustained Italian pressure, though we weren’t having to deal with Edin Dzeko and Daniele de Rossi up in our grills, but two pizzas from Franco Manca.

Apart from my friend’s permanently agitated state (and the threat this posed to his white carpet with a glass of red wine in-hand), this was as near-perfect a combination as I could wish for – football, tasty wine and pizza. The Cab Sauv did indeed soothe and delight, and I’m certain will do so whatever the weather.

It served us well with some pizza on a chilly Wednesday night but its rich blackcurrant, blueberry and dark chocolate palate will be just as sublime with some barbecued meat and potato salad come summer (if it ever does come!). And, unlike most English football teams, this one will see you out with a finish as long, comfortable and assured as they come.

To try this wine yourself, click here.

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Berrys' Wine Blog by Barbara Drew - 1w ago

Photograph: Joe Woodhouse

As we officially kick off all things summer this week, we dive into opening the first of our 12 essential summer wines – our Own Selection Reserve Rosé. We ask Wine and Spirits Education Specialist Barbara Drew to don her rosé-tinted spectacles and explain the different ways of making wine pink

Looking out the window at the driving rain, with my feet wrapped in woollen socks in a heated footwarmer, it is hard to believe that summer may be just around the corner. However, optimism prevails and, whilst we wait for the sun to make an appearance, now is a good time to get the fridge stocked with wines for summer drinking – more specifically, rosé.

Rosé wine has, for many years, had something of a bad reputation, being seen as “merely” a quaffing wine, suitable only for picnics and high summer. But this is to do the wine a disservice. Likely created as a way of producing a lighter, refreshing style of wine from red grapes, rosés can run the range from delicate and mouth-watering, through to robust and age-worthy, and the finished style depends very much on how the wine is made.

There are essentially three options for making rosé wine. Option one is called direct pressing. Here, the winemaker starts with freshly picked red grapes and presses them firmly enough that a tiny amount of colour bleeds through into the juice (almost all grapes, no matter what colour the skin, provide colourless juice). This method gives the lightest style of wines, with the barest hint of pink; think Sancerre or Provence rosé. They are often quite delicate in terms of flavour, and usually quite juicy and bright (in acidity), as a result of the grapes growing in cooler climates. Choose these wines when looking for a refreshing barbecue drink, or something light and fruity for a warm summer’s day.

The second method is “short maceration”. This is essentially a shorter method of making red wine. Red grapes are crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skins for anywhere from six hours to up to four days. During this time, colour is extracted from the skins, lending these rosés anything from a vibrant pink colour to a rich, ruby hue. Some, in fact, are hard to distinguish from “true” red wines. However, these all share a vibrant fruity character, a medium to full body, and are often slightly higher in alcohol than those made by “direct press”. Think rich, warming Navarra rosados, full-bodied Tavel rosés, and spicy, deep wines from Bandol. These wines tend to have stronger flavours than the direct press wines, and occasionally a hint of tannin as well, making them excellent food wines, to accompany anything from spiced mackerel to a lamb tagine.

Finally, rosé wine can be made by blending a tiny amount of red wine in with a white to give a vibrant, bubblegum pink. This is generally only permitted outside Europe, but the key exception to this rule is Champagne. Many houses, from Laurent Perrier to Billecart-Salmon use this method to produce their rosés, resulting in salmon-pink wines, with soft red-fruit aromas, and a slightly fuller texture than many non-rosé wines. Far from being the preserve of special occasions and romantic holidays, rosé Champagnes are one of the most versatile wines around, their fruit flavours balancing the occasionally austere acidity of this most northerly sparkling wine. Lighter styles such as Legras’s rosé are the perfect match to smoked salmon canapés, whilst a more robust wine such as the Bollinger rosé is perfect for warming, meaty mains – even if the weather fails to delight, these wines surely will.

To celebrate our our launch of all things summer – why not try our Own Selection Reserve Rosé.

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Berrys' Wine Blog by Barbara Drew - 2w ago

Photo credit: Joe Woodhouse

As we officially kick off all things summer this week, we dive into opening the first of our 12 essential summer wines – our Own Selection Rosé. We ask Wine and Spirits Education Specialist Barbara Drew to don her rosé-tinted spectacles and explain the different ways of making wine pink

“Looking out the window at the driving rain, with my feet wrapped in woollen socks in a heated footwarmer, it is hard to believe that summer may be just around the corner. However, optimism prevails and, whilst we wait for the sun to make an appearance, now is a good time to get the fridge stocked with wines for summer drinking – more specifically, rosé.

Rosé wine has, for many years, had something of a bad reputation, being seen as “merely” a quaffing wine, suitable only for picnics and high summer. But this is to do the wine a disservice. Likely created as a way of producing a lighter, refreshing style of wine from red grapes, rosés can run the range from delicate and mouth-watering, through to robust and age-worthy, and the finished style depends very much on how the wine is made.

There are essentially three options for making rosé wine. Option one is called direct pressing. Here, the winemaker starts with freshly picked red grapes and presses them firmly enough that a tiny amount of colour bleeds through into the juice (almost all grapes, no matter what colour the skin, provide colourless juice). This method gives the lightest style of wines, with the barest hint of pink; think Sancerre or Provence rosé. They are often quite delicate in terms of flavour, and usually quite juicy and bright (in acidity), as a result of the grapes growing in cooler climates. Choose these wines when looking for a refreshing barbecue drink, or something light and fruity for a warm summer’s day.

The second method is “short maceration”. This is essentially a shorter method of making red wine. Red grapes are crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skin for anywhere from six hours to up to four days. During this time, colour is extracted from the skins, lending these rosés anything from a vibrant pink colour to a rich, ruby hue. Some, in fact, are hard to distinguish from “true” red wines. However, these all share a vibrant fruity character, a medium to full body, and are often slightly higher in alcohol than those made by “direct press”. Think rich, warming Navarra rosados, full-bodied Tavel roses and spicy, and deep wines from Bandol. These wines tend to have stronger flavours than the direct press wines, and occasionally a hint of tannin as well, making them excellent food wines, to accompany anything from spiced mackerel to a lamb tagine.

Finally, rosé wine can be made by blending a tiny amount of red wine in with a white to give a vibrant, bubblegum pink. This is generally only permitted outside Europe, but the key exception to this rule is Champagne. Many houses, from Laurent Perrier to Billecart-Salmon use this method to produce their roses, resulting in salmon-pink wines, with soft red fruit aromas, and a slightly fuller texture than many non-rosé wines. Far from being the preserve of special occasions and romantic holidays, rosé Champagnes are one of the most versatile wines around, their fruit flavours balancing the occasionally austere acidity of this most northerly sparkling wine. Lighter styles such as Legras’ rosé are the perfect match to smoked salmon canapés, whilst a more robust wine such as the Bollinger rosé is perfect for warming, meaty mains – even if the weather fails to delight, these wines surely will.”

To celebrate our our launch of all things summer – why not try our Own Selection rosé.

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With celebrations of all sorts in the air and on our minds, we ask Head Chef Stewart Turner to craft us a cake to mark a milestone in Berry Bros. & Rudd’s own recent history – our London shop’s first birthday

In May our “new” shop which will probably always be considered new until it at least gets past a hundred, marks its first birthday. So as with any milestone we need to have cake and possibly a little champagne to celebrate.

A baked vanilla and white chocolate cheesecake with caramelised white chocolate and early summer berries may seem a little of a left field choice for a celebration cake, but this has a real wow factor and is a thing of beauty just like our new shop, not to mention that it is absolutely delicious and one of my own favourite cakes to make.

This recipe has been a staple in the kitchen at Berry Bros. & Rudd for the past ten years. Reasons for this are that it’s so versatile, and can be used as a dessert or canapé and has even been a wedding cake for one client. Simply beautiful also when paired with rhubarb, berries or tropical fruit.

Baked white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

850g cream cheese

245g caster sugar

5 eggs – beaten

1 vanilla pod – split and seeds scraped out

80g white chocolate – melted

80g sour cream

80g double cream

10 digestive biscuits

60g melted butter

To serve

400g strawberries – halved or quartered

Shards of caramelised white chocolate – recipe below

Strawberry coulis – recipe below

Pre- heat the oven to 145°C. Blitz the biscuits into crumbs in a food processor, then tip them into a bowl, add the melted butter and give it a thorough mix. Press this mix evenly into the base of the lined tin using the back of a metal spoon to give it a smooth surface and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, caster sugar and vanilla, then beat in the eggs, take a third of this mix and beat into the melted white chocolate, then fold back into the rest of the cream cheese mix. This will stop the chocolate from setting and lumps forming. Stir in the sour and double cream.

Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and place in a deep baking tray surrounded with ice cubes (this is optional but really helps regulate the temperate for the perfect cook). Then bake in the oven for about 40 minutes; it should be just set firm on the edges but with a slight wobble in the centre. Allow to chill for a couple of hours, before placing in the fridge for several hours to firm up. Once chilled, remove from the tin and place on a serving dish.

To serve, place the strawberries and chocolate shards artfully on the top with some spots of coulis and enjoy with the remaining coulis on the side.

Caramelised white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 120°C. Break up the white chocolate into small, evenly sized pieces

Spread out the white chocolate onto a shallow non-stick baking tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and stir and spread around the chocolate with a spatula, repeat this process every 10 minutes for 30-60 minutes, until the white chocolate is deep-golden brown in colour. During this time, the chocolate may turn lumpy and have a ‘chalky’ appearance – this is normal, so keep going.

Allow to cool and then fridge until ready to use.

Strawberry coulis

300g strawberries, hulls removed – chopped

40g caster sugar

Heat the strawberries in a large pan until they start to break down. Add the sugar and continue to cook the fruit for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Blend until smooth, adding a splash of water to the mixture if necessary to loosen. Strain the coulis through a sieve and set aside to cool. Chill in the fridge until needed.

For the Champagne

Match with any one of these four fine fizzes…

Champagne R&L Legras, Blanc de Blancs

Berry Bros. & Rudd Blanc de Blancs Champagne by Le Mesnil, Grand Cru

Champagne de Sousa, Brut Rosé, Grand Cru

Champagne Mailly, Blanc de Pinot Noir, Composition Parcellaire, Brut

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Japanese blossom. Credit: Sophie McLean

As we enter into May and the last of the sakura begins to fall – we take a look at why Japan could be the next big thing in the world of wine – a growing industry where the quality of wine and the volume of exports are increasingly blossoming

On a snowy winter’s day in St. James’s, a dedicated troupe of tasters gathered at Japanese restaurant Ginza Onodera to work through a series of “new Japanese wines”. The snowy context couldn’t have been more appropriate for a country whose harsh winters provide one of the many challenges of growing grapes. And yet, Japan’s ski-resorts are also where many of the vineyards are located – planted at high altitude for optimal growing conditions.

Wine has been made in Japan for over a thousand years (Medieval monks believed grapes to be of medicinal merit), but until recently it has not made much of a leap overseas. In the past, wines made in the country didn’t necessarily come from native grapes – they would use grape concentrate, imported from abroad. New regulations set out in 2004 have made it easier for smaller, boutique wineries to exist, while more recent legislation ensures that grapes for Japanese wine must be home-grown. Consequently, the quality and quantity of the Japanese domestic winemaking scene is rising and the foundations for progression are primed to bloom.

Wineries exists in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and at today’s tasting we are guided through the current trailblazers. Yamanashi, south of Tokyo, surrounding the area of Mount Fuji, is dubbed the “heartland” of Japanese wine production. Here, wineries such as Lumiere and Katsunuma are making good quality – distinctly rice-y and ripe in flavour – sparkling wines from the original Japanese grape, Koshu. Koshu, for the uninitiated, is believed to share the same pink grapefruit compounds found in Sauvignon Blanc. The popularity of these particular wines is not altogether surprising, given the Japanese predilection for bubbles –  a fact backed up by recent reports that Japan is set to take over the UK in sales of Champagne.

Yamanashi, a large area renowned for the quality and richness of its wines, is also home to Ch. Mercian – a forward thinking winery whose skin-contact white wine “Koshu Gris de Gris” is causing quite the style stir. The Marufuji Winery’s “2016 Rubaiyat Koshu sur lie” is another wine and style on everybody’s lips – almost like a Viognier or Muscadet, the “sur lie” gives it a plug of plumpness, to providing something that is rich, mouth-filling and elegantly oily. Over and above oak treatment, more alternative methods (perhaps inspired by the rise of things like orange wine elsewhere) is something that is being deployed with success, to grab one’s tastebuds and attention. “There is a very small natural wine movement in Japan” says Sarah Abbott MW, host of today’s proceedings. One that will no doubt continue to flourish as awareness of these styles continue to grow.

“Grace Wine” also based in Yamanashi, makes a variety of styles from different grapes. Today we taste its Cabernet Franc – a grape that we are told has the greatest potential in Japan, thanks to its suitable climate. This one is made by Ayana Misaura, a female winemaker with “a delicate touch”, so says Abbott. In Nagano, better known for its ski resorts and the 1998 Winter Olympics (I have the t-shirt to prove it), the Suntory Shiojiri Winery is producing top quality Muscat Bailey A. A red grape, dear reader, that once tasted, will never be forgotten. This, unusually, has a real caramel flavour to it – and something akin to Asian plum, or a Japanese sweet. This is a low-yielding grape that was bred in the Niigata prefecture of Japan in the 1920s – and is a hybrid of Vinifera and Lambrusca grapes without the “foxy” undertones. This one is made with Mizunara oak – one that is native to Japan and high in vanillins – famed also for its use in Japanese whisky. The Muscat Bailey A is dubbed “respectable fun” – it is silky and soft, and (New World) Pinot Noir-esque. A must-try for anyone with a vinous curiosity – and interesting perhaps to those of a Beaujolais Cru persuasion.

From the Yamagata prefecture, we are introduced to a Zweigelt. This area was established for winemaking in the 1800s – it is further north in Japan surrounded by “epic landscapes” of huge mountains and rivers – including the Mogami River and each year they host a grape festival here. The Zweigelt is fresh, elegant and cherry red in colour – reminiscent once again of the famous blossom on Japan’s cherry trees.

From Hokkaido we taste Domaine Takahiko’s Pinot Noir. An island prefecture situated at the very north of Japan it has a more moderate climate than elsewhere, with increased rainfall (it is known as Bai-wu, or the “plum shower”). The wineries here are presented to us as young and dynamic – with miles yet to go. This Pinot Noir is bright red with plums and black cherry (blossom). It has high acidity which fits with the growing season character, and a nice spice with pepper and subtle tannins.

Of all these and the various other wines we taste, the resounding personality is elegance. There is no obvious fruit-smacking power as found in some other northern Hemisphere wines, but instead a sharp, knife-edge finesse. The tasting notes evoke aromas and flavours specifically found in Japanese products and cuisine, marking them out as deft and unique in the glass, and a reflection perhaps also of this country’s overall quietly confident yet equally delicate persona. On exiting the building and stepping back out into the freshly-landed snow – the environment, for both the weather and the wines, seems most befitting: pure, clean and bright.

To browse our range of Japanese whiskies, click here.

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