Sir Ian Botham made his name on the cricket field and these days he's making some big-hitting wines, writes Christine Austin

There was no play at Lord’s Cricket Ground on the day that Sir Ian Botham launched his new range of wines, although there was considerable activity on the pitch as the grass was mown to millimetre precision.

And precision was very much in mind as we sat down to lunch, accompanied by a range of wines that Sir Ian insists are not ‘celebrity’ wines.  ‘I have been involved in every step of the development of these wines.  I decided on the style of wines I wanted and we set out to make them.  They actually let me loose in the wineries! All but one of the wines are blended, and I have been involved in creating them  so that they are wines that I would want to drink.’

Long-time Yorkshire resident Sir Ian has been involved in wine for a long time. Many years ago he teamed up with fellow former England captain Bob Willis and Australian winemaker Geoff Merrill to launch a range of wines under the Botham, Merrill, Willis label.  The Shiraz 2011 and the Cabernet 2009 are available at York Wines at around £19 and are well-made, elegant wines.  But Sir Ian’s new range of wines is different since it is just the first step in what could be a much wider selection. ‘This is not a walk in the park’, said Sir Ian, ‘I want to be doing this in twenty years’ time, exploring different areas for different wines.’

This first release is all-Australian, but there are plans afoot to extend to Spain, New Zealand, Argentina and even, maybe, include an English sparkling wine, all under the Botham name.

There are three levels of wines on offer which is good because all the wines in the top level have already been snapped up by London merchant Berry Bros & Rudd. This top level, known as Sir Ian Botham, priced at around £42,  consists of an Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2017, a Barossa Valley Single Vineyard Shiraz 2013 and a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.  They have all been made in partnership with significant winemakers from each region.  The Chardonnay, made with Marty Edwards of The Lane Vineyard is stylish and bright, with touches of peach and a definite streak of citrus.   As an example of Sir Ian’s influence on the wine, after blending and tasting, he asked Marty to put it back in barrel for a further six weeks to add more body but despite this extra ageing the oak is subtle, and well under the fruit.  The Barossa Shiraz comes from old vines and has deep, dark plum and black cherry fruit with notes of anise and spice while for the Coonawarra Cabernet Sir Ian headed to his pal Geoff Merrill for a superb blackberry and mint-edged wine.

Since these top wines will probably end up on restaurant lists only,  we should be pleased that there are two other levels that should make it to the marketplace.

The All-Rounder is a trio of wines,  Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, all from the 2017 vintage.  It is the Chardonnay which stands out for its balance of stone fruit flavours with fresh apple and grapefruit notes brought by a 30% addition of Margaret River fruit.  The Cabernet is also distinctive for its dark red fruits and the light touch of mint that lifts the favour profile.  This has 30% of Coonawarra Cabernet in the blend – another indication of Sir Ian’s influence in the blend.  Retailing at around £8, these wines could become firm favourites for the wine quality alone, not just amongst cricket fans.  They are genuine all-rounder wines.

The mid-range of wines, retailing at around £12 is a series of wines simply called “Botham’ and they are distinguished by reference to a particular Test series.

The Botham 76 Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2017 continues the theme of bright, fresh styles of Chardonnay.  Blended from two vineyards, one close to the sea and the other 10 km inland, there is a balance of citrus and stone fruit that is elegant yet zesty on the palate. I found myself sipping this refreshing wine all through the speeches on that hot day at Lord’s.  The Botham 80 Series Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is stylish and structured, with blackcurrant and red plum fruit and a layered complexity which will evolve over the next 5 years, although I found it delicious that day, served with lamb.  The Botham 81 Series  Barossa Shiraz 2017 was brought out alongside a chocolate torte which was a good match although I might prefer this powerful damson and blackberry-filled wine, edged with chocolate and spice paired with a big savoury meaty dish. Fine-grained tannins give this wine a gentle food-friendly style.

All these Botham wines were specially shipped for that lovely lunch, but there are plenty more on the water and they will soon start to appear at a wine shop near you.  I will keep you posted re stockists.  You can order direct from the website – www.bothamwines.com.

 

Dine with Sir Ian Botham

If you would like to taste these wines, in the company of Sir Ian Botham, whilst dining in the Long Room at Lords then I have a pair of  tickets to a special dinner to be won.

The dinner will be prepared by celebrity chef Daniel Clifford and will be held in the historic Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground, in London on November 28. The winners will sit on Sir Ian’s table, taste his wines and hear him speak about his experiences in creating them. You will even have the chance for a photo with Sir Ian.  All you have to do is answer the question below and send your answer to me, at Christine@christineaustin.co.ukbefore September 15.  Please include your name and address, and confirm your willingness to travel to London for this spectacular dinner.  I will put all  correct responses into my electronic ice-bucket and pick out the winner at random. There is no travel or accommodation offered with this competition.  Usual Yorkshire Post competition rules apply.

Question:

How many runs did Ian Botham make in the second innings of the 1981 Third Test at Headingly?

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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