A drink for all seasons: Why the British are more romantic than anyone about wine

In his final column, our outgoing wine columnist Harry Eyres celebrates the romance and splendour of national wine scene — and the British wine merchants who make it.

One of the pleasures of writing this column for the past five years has been appreciating and charting the constant evolution of the wine scene: realising that brilliant Pinot Noirs can be made in the Mosel valley, as well as in Burgundy, the Sonoma Coast and Central Otago; seeing a floral, Côte-Rôtie-esque style of Syrah emerging in Australia; Italy and Spain revealing more riches, including from lesser-known grape varieties such as Fiano, Aglianico, Godello and Mencia; and even southern England emerging as a seriously good producer of sparkling wine.

I celebrate the dedicated producers who battle the elements and pests to make this possible. However, I also want to celebrate, in the last of this run of columns, the unique and magnificent British wine trade, the importers, wholesalers and retailers who scour the wine world to bring its glories to our tables.

“The wine trade in Britain is — in part — seen as a gentlemanly calling”

The British, I think, are more romantic about wine than any other people (much more so than the French or Italians) and British wine merchants tend to be passionate, often very clever hedonists and obsessives.

The wine trade in Britain is — in part — seen as a gentlemanly calling, whereas, in France, it is rather different, as I remember from the looks on faces when I told French friends my father (one of those clever romantics) was un marchand de vin.

Our wine trade, from the grandeur of the St James’s carriage outfits (Berry Bros & Rudd, Justerini & Brooks) to splendid regional merchants such as Tanners of Shrewsbury and D. Byrne of Clitheroe, to specialist importers such as Alpine Wines, to Waitrose and Majestic, is the most expert and open-minded there is. Let’s enjoy and make use of it while it continues to thrive.