Happy New Year. May 2016 bring you happiness and health.
I’d bumped into Dan Jago a few times over the years before I met him proper at the Roederer Awards in September last year (I lost to Victoria Moore, but managed to play with her remarkable trophies for a while). By that time the word was out that he was to become the Chief Executive of Berry Bros & Rudd, which was a big deal, particularly so for their employees, many of whom are good friends of mine (indeed I’d just done three pints of Tribute with one of them, Mr Jago being the main topic of conversation).
I admit to a fascination as to how it all goes. There are very few people in the wine trade that know what they are doing and I have a feeling that Mr Jago is one of them. I have an obvious affection for BBR, and know what makes the place tick. My hunch is that this is a sharp move on both sides. We will see.
I thank Mr Jago for his answers. I knew there was something military about him…
What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?
It wasn’t wine that got me into wine. It was a clear dislike of and inability to commit academically to anything that meant I ended up getting a job at Andre Simon Wines in Belgravia in 1977 delivering wine and spirits on a butchers’ bike to the gentry of Eaton Square. Then, after nine years in the Royal Navy as a navigator, what drew me back to wine was remembering how much fun I had there and how passionate the people in this business were. Though of course there were bottles, too, that left their mark along the way.
What was the first bottle that took you closer to your maker?
If my father Tom represents my maker (well, half of anyway), then the most important bottle of my life was with him. Taken to see my elusive maternal Grandfather in Norfolk, I was 11. Apparently, he kept a good cellar. Didn’t seem to do anything else, but who was I to know? For lunch, where he only drank Worthington White Shield beer, he had decanted something. My Pa put some in his glass and after a bit, in mine too. He leant across conspiratorially and said, “Taste this, and remember it. This is a great wine.” I did and can still remember the cedar, spice, leather and cassis of that wine, even if I hadn’t learnt how to use those words to describe it, still less heard of 1949 Lafite.*(see below for the p.s.)
What was the best wine/bottle you have had this year?
As today is the third day of the year, allow me to refer to last year, 2015. Like a child in a sweetshop, I was given access to the Berry Bros. house reserves in advance of a dinner I hosted in December for a wonderful group of friends and wine writers, most of whom I am proud to describe as both. Spoilt for choice, I settled on a showy list of mostly old things I had never tasted. The absolute star, perfection at seventy years old, was a Berry’s London bottling of 1945 Leoville Barton. Like a Septuagenarian who danced all night with the prettiest girls at the party. Amazing.
*43 years later, in November, my Chairman Simon Berry asked my now 90-year-old father to lunch at Number 3 St James’s. Simon produced 1949 and 1947 Lafite that day for us – “I couldn’t remember which of the two vintages you said in your story about lunch with your Grandfather, so we’ve got both.” An extraordinary moment both personally and vinously, where with Pa there, I felt I had both grown up and was still a child, simultaneously.
Dan: thank you again.