Wine on telly: 'The Firm', tomorrow night
Wine on telly again: BBC4, 9 pm, Mon Feb 16th. It's the first of a three part series on wine, and it begins with a year in the life of the UK's oldest wine merchant, Berry Bros & Rudd (http://www.bbr.com/). I've just watched my preview DVD, and I really enjoyed it.
The film focuses its narrative on the two regions that make up 80% of the turnover of BBR, Bordeaux and Burgundy [although later we are told that Bordeaux makes up 70% of turnover, which infers that Burgundy is of less importance], and sets this theme against the backdrop of gathering economic gloom. 'The world has changed', says chairman Simon Berry, filmed in the 308 year old cellars of the St James' St shop. 'It's a more complicated world right now, but wine is still a good investment', he adds with more hope and salesman's instinct than certainty.
The scene changes. We are now in the real heart of BBR - its Basingstoke headquarters. There we meet Simon Staples, described as the world's biggest buyer of investment-style Bordeaux wines, although the narrator doesn't make it clear whether this refers to Staples' £60 m en primeur budget or his considerable frame.
We follow Staples to Bordeaux, where the feautured producer is Cos d'Estournel. It's the 2007 en primeur campaign, and there's a conflict between what BBR think customers are willing to pay, and what Jean-Guillaume Prats thinks his Cos is worth. The BBR guys think £30 a bottle; Prats, who comes across as greedy with his pricing (he clearly thinks Cos is a first growth), sets the price at 65 Euros. Staples buys 10 cases, as opposed to 2000 in 2005. 'Wrong price, wrong time', says Staples.
We meet Jasper Morris doing some repairs to a dry stone wall. In Burgundy, the featured producer is the wonderfully reserved and gentle David Clark, the ex-Williams engineer who has followed his passion by making red Burgundies from humble appellations that punch above their weight. 'There is much more of a human touch in Burgundy', says Jasper, and watching David Clark at work is so much more appealing that looking at Cos' hugely expensive, rather over-elaborate new cellar renovations. I especially enjoyed seeing David's home-made crawler that allows him to sit down as he works the low-trained vines by hand.
Finally, we see a private dinner for top customers at BBR, with Jean-Guillaume. Simon Staples gets them to blind taste 1870 Cos. The first customer thinks it's 1982. Other guesses are 1989, late 1940s, 1955 and 1964. Jean-Guillaume comes closest with 1928/9. It's fun.
The program finishes with headlines of economic collapse. Cue Simon Berry to remind us all to invest in wine again.
Overall verdict? Brilliant stuff, well filmed. Jasper, Simon S and Simon B come across really well, and you should make every effort to watch this if you can.