Archive for December, 2015

Churchill on wine

December 18th, 2015

Winston Churchill and wine
By Joseph Temple

More than fifty years after his death, Winston Churchill, the larger-than-life prime minister who changed the entire course of the Second World War still galvanizes us with his words and his deeds. From the famous battle cries in 1940 to his prophetic Iron Curtain speech, very few leaders have possessed Churchill’s oratorical skills, which is why he continues to fascinate scholars and historians to this day. With a tremendous gift for the spoken word, no book of famous quotes is complete without at least a couple from this iconic British leader. Whether the subject is success, failure or socialism, Churchill can provide inspiration to future generations with a plethora of pithy observations.

Of course, anyone who has studied the man knows that when it came to alcoholic beverages, the prime minister was never one to abstain. Along with allegedly smoking up to ten cigars a day, he also became infamous for his drinking habits, which included a love for spirits—and only the finest wines from France to Bulgaria. So it’s not surprising that he would have a few things to say about one of his favorite libations. “In wine there is wisdom,” noted Churchill. “In water, there are germs.”

One specific wine that England’s great wartime leader could never go without was champagne. Drinking his first glass of Pol Roger in 1908 as a young cabinet minister, Churchill quickly made it his preferred brand and even named one of his racehorses after what he called “the world’s most drinkable address.” Considering the 1928 vintage to be the very best, Odette Pol-Roger, the grand dame of this champagne house gladly sent a case to the PM every single year as a birthday present. And following his death in 1965, all bottles shipped to the United Kingdom contained a black border on the label to mourn Churchill’s passing. With this sort of affinity, was it any surprise that he invoked the region when telling soldiers “Remember gentleman, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”

Churchill wine quote

In terms of dollars and cents, Peter Clarke in his book Mr Churchill’s Profession offers us some staggering insight into how much was spent on such a guilty pleasure. “In 1935 Churchill’s bills show four hundred pounds for wines and spirits supplied to Chartwell and just over one hundred for Morpeth Mansions, the Churchills’ London flat,” writes Clarke. “The total was thus £515, or ten pounds a week—about three times the earnings of a male manual worker at the time, or enough to employ half a dozen female domestic servants at Chartwell.”

With this sort-of unquenchable thirst, whenever Churchill decided to go abroad, he never traveled light—or dry! Before entering politics, the future prime minister would work as a correspondent for The Morning Post covering the Boer War. Of course, from his past experiences in Cuba and India, he made sure this trip was a well-lubricated affair by following the old Boy Scout motto of being prepared. Days before his departure to South Africa, Churchill placed an order that included six bottles of champagne, eighteen bottles of wine and another eighteen of ten-year old scotch. “When traveling to a potential war zone, one had to bring along creature comforts,” wrote author Simon Read.

And as England’s leader, Churchill was never timid when asking for these comforts either. One interesting story dates back to December of 1941 when as a guest of President Franklin Roosevelt, the prime minister was invited to spend the Christmas holidays at the White House, where the two leaders would plan out their strategy for the wars in Europe and the Pacific. Speaking to butler Alonzo Fields, Churchill gave an explicit order during his stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “I must have a tumbler of sherry in my room before breakfast, a couple glasses of scotch and soda before lunch and French champagne and 90 year old brandy before I go to sleep at night,” demanded Churchill at a time when rationing was about to come into effect across the United States.

Winston Churchill champagne quote

In today’s world, these drinking habits would no doubt result in several whisper campaigns and quite a few calls for the leader’s resignation. But it’s interesting to note how unapologetic Churchill was when confronted by both his friends and enemies about this subject. When General Montgomery said, “I don’t drink or smoke and I’m one hundred percent fit,” the PM told him “Well I smoke and drink and I’m two hundred percent fit.” Or the time when accused by a fellow MP of being “disgustingly drunk,” Churchill fired back by saying “My dear you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly.” Very few could match his wit—drunk or sober from before the Gathering Storm to after Triumph and Tragedy.

Across the world, streets have been named and statues erected in Winston Churchill’s honor. But in terms of wine, the greatest tribute came in 1975 with the introduction of Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill by Pol Roger, a blend that is “one of immense character, a robust structure of maturity and great class.” After all, as one of England’s most revered leaders, Churchill always told us that when it came to wine, his tastes were simple: “I am easily satisfied with the very best.”


Button, Roddy & Oliver, Mike. Wine – 101 Truths, Myths and Legends. Luton: Andrews UK Limited, 2013.
Clarke, Peter. Mr. Churchill’s Profession. London: A&C Black, 2013.
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Hammond, Carolyn. 1000 Best Wine Secrets. Naperville: Sourcebooks Inc., 2006.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
Paterson, Michael. Winston Churchill: Personal Accounts of the Great Leader at War. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 2005.
Read, Simon. Winston Churchill Reporting: Adventures of a Young War Correspondent. Cambridge: De Capo Press, 2015.
Vine, Richard. The Curious World of Wine: Facts, Legends, and Lore About the Drink We Love So Much. New York: Penguin, 2012.
Watkins, Richard & Deliso, Christopher. Bulgaria. Ediz. Inglese. Oakland: Lonely Planet, 2008.

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Ask Sid: Best Wine Gifts for the Holidays?

December 16th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Best Wine Gifts for the Holidays?

Question: I live in Victoria BC Canada looking for some special holiday wine gifts to buy to give to good friends and advisers all costing under $100 for each bottle. Please give me a knowledgeable tip for a quality white and a red Sid?

Answer: Like your hospitable idea of giving wine and especially your generous budget. Lots of candidates. I admire the 2013 Chablis Vaillons Cuvee Guy Moreau (80+ year old vines) from Christian Moreau at BCLDB specialty store in Victoria selling at $43.99 (or if you can still find it the more intense 2012) as a great value white for current enjoyment but even better with a few years more age. For the red I recommend the outstanding vintage of 2010 for Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo from Marchesi de Frescobaldi $54.99. A tip is to save 5% by ordering 12 bottles at the same price as BCLDB from Everything Wine ( who deliver free for orders over $200. You can give some away and keep some yourself for cellaring. This wine though 15 alcohol is packed with ripe fruit and received high marks from most wine critics including James Suckling who gave it 97 and picked it as his #1 wine for 2015. K & L Wine Merchants in San Francisco have it at the same price of $54.99 but in US funds. Enjoy!

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Mouton Rothschild

December 14th, 2015

Chateau Mouton Rotschild Bordeaux wine
By Benjamin Zingg, Switzerland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Mouton Rothschild was a Second Growth in the original 1855 Bordeaux Classification but by decree of June 22, 1973 it became instantly a First Growth.  I have been an avid follower of this property even before their elevated status and fortunate to have tried many of their old vintages. Some that were truly outstanding vintages included 1961, 1959, 1949, 1947 and 1945. However a couple of disappointing verticals of this property back to the late 1800s and early 1900s had some of us saying maybe that was why it was declared originally as a Second. I admire the history, their inception of chateau bottling, the museum, and the unique distinctive labels (Dali 1958, Chagall 1970, Picasso 1973, and Warhol 1975). I also like the classy drinkability of the wines as well as their more value priced Fifth Growth Pauillac neighbouring stablemates Clerc Milon & D’Armailhac (formerly Mouton-Baronne-Philippe). Enjoying presently the perfumed stylish 1999 and riper 2003 of this latter wine while waiting for the 2000 to fully develop. The former chateau is much improved over the last 30 years with an impressive solid 1996. Look for both of these properties. It seems trendy among wine pundits presently to perhaps unfairly criticize Mouton as the most inconsistent of the First Growths though all of them have had their ups and downs. Certainly this was true during the difficult 1970s for many chateaux including Mouton and the 1990 vintage too but not warranted recently. I tried several vintages of Mouton over the last couple of months including a vertical back to 1975 and these are some of my brief impressions:

2006 & 2005: Both vintages impressive for their depth of fruit and age ability so continue to hold them.

2001: Lighter and more forwardly and can open them now. Prefer years 2002-2004 with 2003 best of the three but all approachable though not for me the very top quality of 2000 or 2005-2006 vintages.

1990: Some tannins left so decant but a little too lean with less fruit than ideal. Prefer both Pichon Baron & Lynch Bages.

1988: Some mocha-cedar bouquet but still tannic and the last year of that classic style vintage.

1986: Tried this several times in 2015 with 100 point Parker high expectations but though very dark concentrated with big fruit it still shows primary  and not seductively singing out yet. Show potential but suggest waiting a few more years.

1985: Like the elegance harmony and charm. 1985 often an under rated vintage while here again so delicious with round complex textures.

1983: Some August rains in the region but the wine surprises with balance and stylish drinkability.

1982: Several bottles tried consistently show rich ripe and fabulous fruit deserving the vaunted reputation and the high marks of Parker 100. Enjoy but will hold well too.

1979: Colour holding but simpler and ready for drinking now.

1978: The 2 different Jean-Paul Riopelle labels are intriguing but the wine is lighter and pleasantly mature. Consume.

1975: Cellared lots of this at a cheaper purchase price acquired in the late 1970s. Monitored it over many years and it started out very tannic hard and dry until more recently. Now has mellowed somewhat but still in that powerful tannic style that has a true Pauillac bouquet but shows better still with food like lemon glazed roasted rack & loin of lamb with roasted cauliflower & puree with dehydrated grapes.

1970: On release was considered an excellent year (coming after difficult 1969 & 1968) but beware of poorly stored bottles now. Latest one was a well stored example that was really beautiful with tobacco, cedar and all that special Mouton bouquet and taste! Classic.

Mouton Rothschild barrel room

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Tulip, Flute or Coupe: Which glass do you prefer for the holidays?

December 11th, 2015

tulip, flute or coupe champagne glass, which one do you like?

By Joseph Temple

If you plan on popping the cork on a bottle of Champagne this Christmas or New Year’s, you’re not alone! According to several consumer studies, approximately one third of all sparkling wine sales occur in the joyful month of December. That’s probably because little celebrates the festive spirit more than an opulent bottle of bubbly! Whether it’s traditional Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or any of the many other sparkling wines produced around the world, that excitement of hearing a loud pop followed by your taste buds soaking in millions of little bubbles is almost tailor made for the holiday season.

With drinking fizz comes another vital decision you’ll have to make – which glassware to use?


If you’re looking for a retro chic, Great Gatsby-esque feel to your holiday party, you might want to invest in some old-fashioned saucer or coupe glasses. A shallow cup that widens at the rim, legend has it that it was molded from the breast of Helen of Troy and later Marie Antoinette to give a sensual experience to those who drank from it. Popular in France from the 1700s to the 1970s, Americans will most likely identify this glass shape with the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties, conjuring up images of both luxury and wealth.

Unfortunately, besides its throwback appeal, there aren’t many advantages to using a coupe. With a larger area exposed to air, not only does this increase the chances of spilling your glass but the bubbles and aromas will also dissipate much more quickly. And unlike a flute or tulip, it is difficult not to hold this glass by the bowl, which can heat the wine with your warm hands. So after you’ve built that champagne tower, you’ll need to drink it fast before it goes flat.


Like bubbles? Then you generally can’t go wrong with a tall and narrow flute—another staple of Hollywood extravagance. Due to a rough bead at the base of this glass, the bubbles will congregate and then quickly rise to the top.   Enhancing the smell and aromas, this style is especially recommended when drinking sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Cava since it shows off the bubbles better and will keep the drink colder for longer.

However, with older wines that need room to collect and develop, flutes may not be your best bet. Designed to retain carbonation, the smaller air space can result in many of the flavors and aromas of more complex vintages getting lost in the shuffle.


Perhaps technically the best glass among Champagne aficionados is the tulip. With a slim base and a wider bowl, you get all the bubbles of the flute but more room for the flavors and aromas to develop without losing carbonation quickly.

Which one do you prefer? Vote in the poll below or add your two cents in the comments section.



Golden, Jilly. (2014, October 14). Why we’re all using the wrong champagne glasses. Mail Online. Retrieved from
Smedson. (2014, October 24). Which Champagne glass shape is the best? Glass of Bubbly. Retrieved from
Zraly, Kevin. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2010.

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Ask Sid: Removing Red Wine Stains in Decanter & Glasses

December 9th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Ask Sid: Removing Red Wine Stains in Decanter & Glasses

Question: What should I do to remove red wine stains in the bottom of my decanters and some of my wine glasses?

Answer: First try a prolonged soak in very hot water with some vinegar, salt, baking soda, denture cleaner or mild powdered detergent. Finish the cleaning with a soft brush. Personally I use and am very happy with the results from Stem Shine an aroma free glass washing detergent that contains a glassware corrosion inhibitor. It is distributed by The Wine Enthusiast Companies in Elmsford New York and can be ordered on line at Works well on fine crystal too and the rapid evaporation is supposed to eliminate streaking. Good luck.

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