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British Bottle Service Debuts at Wimbledon

Plus, the Hermione sails again, powered by wine, and the wine industry comes together to support the arts in a $2 million way
Andy Murray is ecstatic to learn that Wimbledon will finally serve some local wines.
Photo by: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Andy Murray is ecstatic to learn that Wimbledon will finally serve some local wines.

Posted: July 2, 2015

For the first time in the tournament's history, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is serving English wine to guests in the hospitality suites for the Wimbledon Championships. Bolney Estate, located on the edge of the South Downs in West Sussex, will be pouring their 2014 Pinot Gris. "Being such a quintessentially English institution, it only seems right that English wine is being served," head winemaker Sam Linter told Unfiltered. "To us, it shows how the quality and reputation of English wine has improved in recent years." It is a relief Bolney Estate still has enough wine to pour after they lost nearly 5,000 bottles of red, white and rosé, valued at about $120,000, to thieves in February. Since then the winery has heavily bolstered security with closed-circuit television cameras and response alarms covering the whole site. It's another sign that the popularity and value of English wine is on the rise. If you want a glass of bubbly while watching the tennis action, Lanson is the official supplier of Champagne for the tournament. Tennis and wine lovers unable to wrangle their way into a hospitality suite will be enjoying Novak Djokovic's favorite Jacob's Creek wines, which are being poured elsewhere on the grounds.

The Hermione Sails Again, Powered by Wine

It was a gesture worthy of the elegant and extravagant Marquis de Lafayette himself. On April 12, Bob and Marilyn Fisher bid a cool $150,000 for 88 bottles of Bordeaux, 2010 vintage, one from every 1855 classified growth, all in the name of a Franco-American cause: the voyage of the Hermione.

Francophiles will recall that Lafayette, a young, charismatic nobleman, defied his king to bring weapons to the "American insurgents" on a ship he financed himself. He became George Washington's aide-de-camp, then later played a pivotal role in securing French support. Arriving in Boston on the Hermione, this time officially, he brought news of French reinforcements. Both Lafayette and the Hermione distinguished themselves in battle, right up to the blockade that forced the British to retreat.

Twenty years ago, French master craftsmen began building an exact replica of the Hermione, a rather long and costly project for France—the current price tag now sits at more than $20 million—but the Bordelais have thrown their support behind it.

Pleased with their winning wine bid, the bottles engraved with the Hermione logo, the Fishers hadn't paid attention to the fine print. The auction lot included a wine tour in Bordeaux, "On the footprints of Pres. Thomas Jefferson." Nights at Château Lagune, Pontet-Canet, and Pichon Baron. Private dining at La Lagune, Batailley, Pontet-Canet, Lafite Rothschild, d'Issan, Pichon Baron, d'Yquem. Tastings and visits at Haut-Brion, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, Palmer, Lynch-Bages, Montrose. "It's the trip of a lifetime," Bob told Unfiltered. "We are flabbergasted." As for the Hermione, she arrived safely in New York harbor this week, just in time for Independence Day, before touring down the East Coast.

Popping Corks for the Arts

Unfiltered loves it when the wine industry can pitch in to support the arts, and the numbers are in from Kansas City, Mo.'s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art third annual ShuttleCork fund-raiser: More than $2 million raised for the museum to date. On April 30, the first day of the two-day event, named for the massive Claes Oldenburg badminton shuttlecock statues on the museum grounds, guests attended private winemaker dinners held in six of the Midwestern city’s most elegant homes. Dinner attendees enjoyed cuisine from top area chefs, including Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners Carl Thorne-Thomsen of Story, Michael Smith, Ted Habiger of Room 39 and Michael Corvino of the American Restaurant.

The dinners were paired with wines from outstanding West Coast vintners, many of whom, including Paul Leary of Blackbird, Andy Peay of Peay, Bettina Sichel of Laurel Glen, and Matt Dees of Jonata, were on hand to present their wines. “The guests love the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the winemakers,” ShuttleCork cofounder Mary Bloch told Unfiltered. At the Grand Tasting the following day, with 25 wineries pouring, attendees wandered the halls of the museum and bid on silent and live auction lots, including a 21-year vertical of Opus One that sold for $38,000.

The toasting to the arts continued on the East Coast as the wine and arts love-fest moved to New York. Last week, Luce della Vite, the winemaking collaboration born of Italy’s Vittorio Frescobaldi and California’s Robert Mondavi, auctioned off 20 lots of their wines at Christie’s to raise money for the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), an institute dedicated to artistic exploration. “My family has been supporting the arts since the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century, and we are happy to continue this tradition,” Lamberto Frescobaldi, Vittorio’s son and current winemaker for Luce, told Unfiltered. The $57,100 raised at the auction went to BAC’s Cage Cunningham Campaign, honoring the artistic contributions of composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Evan Byrne
Serralunga d'Alba, Piemonte, Italy —  July 3, 2015 5:50am ET
If any wine lovers are going to be visiting London during Wimbledon fortnight, then be sure to track down some of the excellent sparkling wines made in England: Chapel Down, Camel Valley, Gusbourne, Hattingley Valley, Hush Heath, Nyetimber, Ridgeview to name a few.
They are available in various outlets, notably Waitrose (upmarket grocery sotres) and Berry Bros & Rudd - the oldest wine merchant in the UK, and worth a visit on its own.
Try them and you'll be even happier than Any Murray is...

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