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By Robin Dutt

It might be thought that if there were to be a statue to the legendary dandy Beau Brummell anywhere, it would be in Savile Row. But not a bit of it. He holds court across Piccadilly from the Row, in Jermyn Street, where the Regency buck and his cronies were wont to parade, running up bills at shirt makers, strutting their style on the way to their clubs.

Jermyn Street rivals the Row in being an exclusive centre for gentlemanly style. The Row may have all the tailors, but Jermyn Street has the shirt makers, shoemakers, leather specialists, and sundry other purveyors of goods and services to the young – and not so young – men about town.

And with Brummell particularly noted for his fine linen and fastidious attention to style details, this seemed as appropriate a spot as any in which to position a fine figure of the Beau, dressed in his finery, as perceived by sculptor Irene Sedlecka, and erected in 2002.

The street retains its concentration of shirt shops, though only a few now provide the fully bespoke article. Ready-to-wear has moved in. Unlike Savile Row, Jermyn Street has always had a more open approach to developments and incomers that has certainly made it less exclusive but more varied and vibrant.

This willingness to embrace diversification is evident in the shirt shops themselves. Turnbull & Asser, for example, sells a variety of accessories, knitwear, and luggage, in addition to shirts and tailored lines. Hilditch & Key not only has ties, pyjamas and boxer shorts, but also sells many nightgowns and dressing gowns as well, and has its own hat shop, Bates.

Across Piccadilly in Sackville Street, Sean O’Flynn is one of the few entirely concerned with making bespoke shirts, within the bespoke atmosphere of a tailoring house. Just off Jermyn Street, in the Piccadilly Arcade, Budd also continues to concentrate upon shirts but the size of the shop doesn’t really allow for much else. However, its bespoke making facility is on-site.

Grosvenor Shirts is a new addition to the Jermyn Street hierarchy, with made-to-measure and ready mades, and stylish accessories. And lone woman shirt maker, Emma Willis, has injected considerable pizazz both with her bespoke and readymade shirts and in a high profile approach to marketing. Her ‘Style for Soldiers’ charity, taking bespoke shirts and walking sticks to disabled soldiers, has earned her considerable respect.

The only family owned shirtmaker remaining on Jermyn Street is Harvie & Hudson, with Masters Harvie and Hudson in charge, the third generations to run the company. The classic English style is favoured here, and they design their own cloth patterns; bespoke shirts cut on the premises.

Two other names are worthy of mention – Charles Tyrwhitt and Thomas Pink. Their shops provide good quality, readymade shirts, helping to inject much colour and fresh designs onto the street, and attracting a younger, style-conscious customer. They both also offer a made-to-measure service.


New Emporium

Grandaddy of this shirtmaking enclave is Turnbull & Asser, maker of shirts to the gentry since 1885, Royal Warrant holder to the Prince of Wales, and favoured by celebrities and style figures over the years.

The shop in Jermyn Street has been the centre of its international trade but now a new headquarters has been opened just across Piccadilly, in Mayfair, providing grand displays over four floors for its extending range of merchandise. But the Jermyn Street shop, steeped in its history, continues. For this autumn, the new collection comes from new Head of Design, Dean Gomilsek-Cole, who has taken inspiration from T & B’s penchant for bold use of colour and patterns. Brilliant stripes, influenced by the colours of medal ribbons, are designed to be teamed with brightly patterned ties, and differently patterned pocket squares. Some of the patterns are taken from 1930s archives, evidence that all was not doom and gloom then. White cutaway collars, to be worn with big knotted silk ties, are style pointers.

Bespoke test

Another grand old company, only slightly younger than Turnbull & Asser, Hilditch & Key continues to make bespoke shirts, in addition to having an extensive readymade selection. The minimum order for made-to-measure is six, and the first ‘sample’ shirt will take approximately six weeks from when measurements are taken. Customers are then asked to wear and launder this one for two or three times, so that if any adjustments are required, they will be made to the rest of the order, which takes a further eight weeks. During the dog days of August, when a quiet sales period might have been expected, the shop in Jermyn Street was overrun with customers, some tourists but many home trade gentlemen enjoying a shopping stroll on a warm summer’s day.

Showing how much the street has changed from its heyday as a bastion of male style, H & K attracts a steady flow of ladies. They come for the extensive collection of ladies shirts the company makes, well tailored, in cotton. “It stops them ‘borrowing’ their husband’s shirts maybe,” said Director Michael Booth.

“It stops them ‘borrowing’ their husband’s shirts maybe”

Bengal Special

For Budd, top shirt maker in the Piccadilly Arcade just off Jermyn Street, bespoke remains the cornerstone of business. Like other shirt shops in the area, they have long since moved into ready-to-wear shirts as well, but the bespoke service remains of paramount importance, backed up by having a bespoke cutting facility on-site.

“Our Mr Butcher is head of bespoke, and has been making shirts here for over 45 years,” said shop manager Andrew Rowley. “At one time, you couldn’t get any young people interested in learning the craft, but that’s all changed in recent years. We now have two young men that Mr Butcher is training, so our bespoke service and its quality are secure.”

The Budd special is a Bengal stripe that has a satin stripe with the addition of a fine black line, giving something of a 3D effect, available in a range of colours, always in stock. In response to the move to more casual styles, a new Irish linen shirt with soft collar and cuffs and square bottom is proving very popular, while West Indian Sea Island cotton is the top selling line, in all sorts of colours and patterns.

Collars & Cravats

shirt_threeWearing a navy spotted cravat with a zinging pink gingham shirt, Sean O’Flynn shows how a shirt can be worn open-necked and look smart as well as stylishly casual. “Yes, I ‘ve always worn cravats,” O’Flynn said. “A classic shirt style with the neckline open can look a bit untidy, and the cravat is slightly less formal than the tie. When I was a kid, Gerald Harper and Jason King were two TV stars who always wore cravats, so perhaps that influenced me! And now Jason King’s son is one of my customers.”

On a recent Today radio programme, the likelihood of the cravat making a comeback was discussed, with no less an exponent than Nicholas Parsons – though that might not be the ringing endorsement needed to win over a younger market. O’Flynn, bespoke shirtmaker who began learning his craft at the very centre of men’s style in the 1970s, Huntsman, and then later at New & Lingwood, started his own company in 2005. He is within the Meyer & Mortimer building in Sackville Street, sharing many of his customers with the various tailors in the bulding and with others in Savile Row.

“…the cravat is slightly less formal than the tie”

“Customers generally leave styling pretty much to me. We usually go for the West End cut, quite fitted. It varies of course. I help them choose the fabrics – and they are going for more colourful designs. Most do wear them with ties. For those who don’t want a tie, I make this design with a smaller, rounded collar, so that if it is buttoned up, it looks quite neat. Customers like shirts that are dual purpose – which can be worn with or without a tie and still look good.

Youngster Appeal

Grosvenor Shirts opened on Jermyn Street earlier this year, having first established itself in Mayfair. Jermyn Street has the advantage of providing a separate made-to-measure service in the basement, which has made a significant difference to sales.

“Customers really like it,” said Martin Kyran of Grosvenor. “It means they can take their time in selecting fabric and looking at style options, then having their measurements taken. There are literally hundreds of fabrics from which to choose. The shirt is then made up at our UK plant, usually a three week service from start to delivery.”

This is a young company that prides itself on a youthful outlook – so much so that it aims to catch customers young, making shirts for two-year-olds upwards. However, don’t expect a shirt for Junior at half the price of one for Dad. It is a popular misconception that because garments for children are smaller that the price will be proportionately smaller. However, production is fiddly and can take just as long as that for the adult version.

The Feminine Touch

Emma Willis, the lone female head of a Jermyn Street shirt shop, is not just a pretty face. She brings considerable experience that ranges from selling shirts door-to-door around city offices to setting up her own shirt making business and opening her shop on Jermyn Street some 15 years ago.

“Younger customers are going for a more tailored fit”

It offers bespoke and ready-to-wear shirts, in the shop and online, and the collection is also available on Mr Porter.

“Younger customers are going for a more tailored fit,” she reports, “with a firm collar line that keeps its place when worn unbuttoned.” The latest addition is a range of cashmere cotton shirts and cashmere polos for this autumn.

By Robin Dutt It might be thought that

Forget the frenzy of buying presents. Instead, approach the season of goodwill in a spirit of mild anticipation – anticipation of not only finding something that might suit a dear aunt or a difficult girlfriend but something that will delight you.

It is said that the best presents to give are those that one would like to keep oneself. So why not keep one, or two? Chancing upon a particularly delightful scarf, or a positively rare book and keeping it as a reward for all the rest of the shopping search is surely the best way of getting through what most men see as an operation akin to pulling teeth.

One of the great advantages of modern technology is the rise and rise of online shopping. But there are drawbacks to the simplicity of click and pay: the bracelet that looks delightful on screen may turn out to be a mere bauble lacking in quality and style on the flesh; a desired pretty pot plant turns out to be too big to house; the Christmas hamper is lost in the post. Click and pray might be the maxim. Though more and more of us are opting for online buys, the hardcore of last-minute, frantically-searching shoppers remains. And in truth, in the selection of really important gifts, it is difficult to replace the personal touch and sight of going into a shop and selecting.

Here is a mixture of on and offline options that are new or novel or just plain impressive. Good hunting.

Treat from royal fish

Can we indulge in caviar? It is increasingly worrying to decide what is and what is not ethical to buy, environmentally acceptable, cruelty free, healthily certified, politically sound. The study of labels printed in 6 point in the gloaming of a chic shop or supermarket aisle is evidence of widespread concerns about shopping wisely. With the mighty sturgeon but one of the many species at risk because of human demands, exports of Beluga caviar from the Black Sea are still restricted though no longer banned. Farmed caviar is available from a number of countries and very nice some of it is too, but with worries about methods and sustainabiliy in some quarters, perhaps better to opt for a homegrown product.

royal_fishBy special dispensation from the Queen, Exmoor Caviar is allowed to own sturgeon. It is not a well known fact that Edward ll was a great fan of caviar, and decreed early in the 14th century that any sturgeon found in the kingdom were Royal Fish, and therefore belonged to the Crown.

So prior to setting up his sturgeon farm in Devon, entrepeneur Ken Benning had to get the Queen’s approval. This was given in a letter from the Queen stating that she would not exercise the royal prerogative. And so Exmoor Caviar is the only producer of caviar farmed from sturgeon in the UK.

Caviar fans can not only enjoy its quality but know that it has the approval of top chefs, is ethically sourced, and the fish have a happy life. Swimming in fresh Exmoor Spring waters, its caviar eggs carefully extracted to ensure no pain (as, alas, in other regions of the world), and all of the fish used when finally cut up, the Exmoor Caviar sturgeon might be said to have the life of Riley.

So a few of these little pots, with a starting price of £19.99 for the 10g size, will make a good start to the present buying and present keeping. Ken Benning thinks the best way to eat it is “placing the eggs on the back of the hand with a mother of pearl spoon and then bringing directly to the mouth allowing the exquisite and subtle flavour to shine through.” To each, his own way.
Available from or at Selfridges.

“…it has the approval of top chefs, is ethically sourced, and the fish have a happy life.”

Best of new tech

In the grand setting of the St Pancras Hotel one summer’s day, the sound of a full orchestra filled the room. But though it sounded for all the world as if it was live, right there, it was in fact emanating from a dCS system.

new_techThe cognoscenti will know this British audio name, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Over a quarter of a century, it has progressed from developing advanced radar systems to providing units for recording and mastering studios around the world, including the BBC, Sony and the Emil Berliner Studios.
“…mastering studios around the world, including the BBC, Sony and the Emil Berliner Studios.”

Along the way, it has been responsible for a variety of groundbreaking innovations, all researched, designed and made in the UK. So for the man who really wants to hear the music, not just the melody, this is the name to look for. It may be a bit big for gift wrapping but the dCS flagship Vivaldi four-box system provides peerless sound and build quality in the most advanced technology. A snip at around £67,000 – without speakers.

The multi-tasker

multi_taskThis nifty little gadget is surely one for anyone’s stocking. It is a Bluetooth speaker, power bank, radio and torch all rolled into one. Measuring just 26cm x 11cm x 10cm, it has AUX input from any audio device with headphone connector, and it can be used to charge a phone or other device, thanks to its power facility. Called the Z1 Box Speaker, price £59.95, it is available from, and there are a range of other neat ideas on this site.

Take to drink

Bottles are the answer. Perfume for women and alcohol for men used to be the thing but now it is just as likely to be containing scent for men and booze for women.

drinkOn the drinks trail, Johnny Walker was prescient enough to bring out a special limited edition Ryder Cup bottle this autumn ahead of the European win against the US. Each is individually numbered, with a fine Blue Label blend whisky inside, and would be treasured by any golf fan who receives such a gift. Price £225 from selected retailers and at
That fine whisky Glenfiddich has teamed up with top smoked salmon name H. Forman & Son to provide the sort of hamper destined to hit the spot for connoisseurs of both.

A bottle of Malt Master’s Edition Glenfiddich is packed with two and a half pounds of Forman’s smoked salmon in the “Double Scotch” gift hamper. This brings together two family owned businesses, the whisky backed by 125 years of family-run distilling in the Highlands, the smoked salmon from a slightly younger family enterprise, dating from 1905. Both have long been giving pleasure all around the world.
The hamper is available from Forman’s at, price £124.95.

A favoured after-dinner drink around this time of year is port. There is port and then there is Taylor’s 1863 Single Harvest Port. That year is regarded as the last great port harvest before the blight of phylloxera devastated vineyards throughout Europe.

Aged in wood for over a century-and-a-half, it is a piece of wine history and a very rare treat for port connoisseurs. Presented in a bespoke crystal decanter in a sleek wooden casket, it is priced at £3,000, through Berry Bros.

Another rosé champagne joins the collection of fine pink ones now available. This one comes from the oldest champagne house Gosset, and is the Petite Douceur Rosé, an extra dry wine that comes in a pretty pink box and costs £60, exclusive to

drink_threeSomething of an acquired taste but once acquired very much appreciated, traditionally peated Highland single malt whisky has a very distinctive flavour, and a new one from the Ardmore distillery might just be the thing for someone wishing to extend their study of whiskies.
The Ardmore Legacy is lightly peated and available from October, price £29.99. Its pack shows a golden eagle, a rare bird which may be seen flying above this distillery on the edge of the Highlands. Ardmore works with the RSPB to support these birds of prey and the recently
re-introduced white tailed eagle.

Suitably festive is the cheery Grand Marnier liqueur. This year’s limited edition bottle takes inspiration from the striped Breton tops worn by French sailors, as in its striped banding. The rich orangey liqueur has been a favoured after-dinner drink since the early 1800s, taken up on the tables of royalty, and now popular as an important cocktail ingredient. It is the most widely exported of all French liqueurs, with a bottle sold every two seconds, the company reports, around the world. The limited edition bottle is available now from Harvey Nichols at £26.05.

In support of the environment

Drinkers are putting some of the world’s most important forests at risk. The widespread switch to screw tops for wine means cork forests are in danger of being destroyed – and with them the wide diversity of wildlife that lives in them. What is more, the cork industry has employed some 100,000 across the Mediterranean alone, and the cork itself is obviously more environmentally sound than metal or plastic screws.

So, demand corked bottles, or rather, a bottle with cork stopper, and enjoy the contents safe in the knowledge that you are helping the planet.

And to help the home grown wine industry, seek out English wines. Contrary to some belief, there are fine wines produced here, particularly whites, which have been winning international awards. But they are somewhat hamstrung by the UK tax that is added, making it hard to compete with bulk bought imports. Nevertheless, they continue to persevere, produced by people passionate about their vineyards.

For the festive season, find Bacchus, a white with less than 1g residual sugar – so might be seen as healthy – at £10.15 a bottle. This comes from Brightwell, a family owned winery in the Thames Valley that produces brandy as well as wines, from hand picked grapes. And for a good fizz, there’s Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvee 2011 at £29.99 or their Kings Cuvee 2010 at £65.

“…there are fine wines produced here, particularly whites, which have been winning international awards.”

drink_twoPeople are increasingly aware of trees and forests and what they do for us. On a recent Radio Four Today programme, the case for giving greater protection to trees in general and to ancient trees in particular was made by the wonderful Rob McBride. This veteran of many tree campaigns, and noted lecturer and photographer, is now campaigning to have protection for such amazing specimens as one oak that dates back to William the Conquerer. Too many are still being chopped down by developers.

A new book supports his cause, combining beautiful photographs with information on our ancient woodlands, and how we may preserve and develop them. ‘Irreplaceable Woodland’ by Charles Flower will delight anyone interested in the environment. It is published by Papadakis, ISBN 9781906506537, through GMC Distribution, at £25.

For girls who love to twirl

For a very special girl, this fairytale tutu will make any daddy the very best of Santas. Coming in its own striped gift box out of which the froufrou springs, it comes from Angel’s Face, priced from £35 up to £65, and available in 40 bright colours. Go to for this and other great little girl ideas.

The bright, the bold, the best

Today’s businessmen need to be hip and this bright yellow briefcase should brighten the board room. By Ettinger, with a nifty iPad pocket in the lid, it costs £2,288, and may have personalised initials added.

The timely status

Watches are the modern man’s status symbol, a symbol of taste and wealth, and increasingly bought to join a wardrobe of watches. So the gift of another rare or special timepiece is sure to be appreciated even by the man who has many.

Bremont is just such a watch, something of a rarity in being an English luxury level brand, and appropriately enough produced by a company run by brothers Giles and Nick English, in the beautiful English countryside of Henley on Thames. Established in 2002, it follows in the long tradition of great British horologists, from John Harrison in the 18th century through to George Daniels, who died in 2011 and was recognised as the world’s best watchmaker.

Latest development for this brand is a link with luxury whisky Chivas Regal that saw a charity auction of a special edition collection this autumn, in aid of The Prince’s Trust. Twelve watches were produced , incorporating the Chivas crest, and these will undoubtedly become collectors items. A gift tin containing a bottle of Chivas 12 year old blended Scotch whisky, and featuring elements of complex Bremont engineering on the tin, is available from Sainsbury’s at £27. One of the limited edition specials would cost rather more.

Evidence of the resurgence of British watch brands was apparent in the successful watch show that took place in London this summer, focused on British brands. One of these takes its inspiration from Savile Row – Savro by Kennett Timepieces, price £250.

The key to success

Small boys love finding a Ferrari in their Christmas stocking. Big boys might love finding the keys to this super yacht as the ultimate indulgent present. Sales of luxury yachts are on the up again, so for a bespoke vessel like this one from Hunton Powerboats there may be a bit of a wait – but some symbolic keys with this picture should suffice for the time being. Hand built to order in Hampshire, the price starts from around the £600,000 mark,

Forget the frenzy of buying presents. Instead,

By Marie Scott

Among the many events taking place this year to mark the centenary of the Great War, a small town in northern France that was the site of General Haig’s headquarters has been staging its own commemoration.

Montreuil sur Mer, within an ancient citadel that overlooks rolling countryside over which many battles have been fought, built up an impressive museum of artefacts, relating to the First World War. Very much a personal archive, it focused upon how local people and the military billeted here lived their lives during the height of the war, when Haig and his men were quartered within the walls of the citadel. A soundtrack of old songs the soldiers sang gave a poignant background.

Then one sunny weekend this September, the town marked its liberation in the Second World War by Canadian infantry – one of the first towns to be liberated following the D-Day invasion. Decked out with tricolours and some Canadian flags, it played host to a contingent from Canada and laid on a programme of parades and military displays.

These efforts emphasise the strong commitment to remembering and respecting the past by the French, all the more impressive considering the size of the town. With a population of just over 2,000, it has seen
many armies come and go in its long history, the battlements dating back to the 12th century, and has been rebuilt after successive conquests and destruction over the years.


Now, it is a peaceful, charming little place, brimming with flowers, boasting not one but two restaurants that are Michelin-starred, and plenty of other inns and restaurants for visitors. Off the beaten track, served by a rural railway line to Etaples, it is a quiet backwater that yet manages to attract a constant flow of British visitors. Many come because this is where The Wine Society has its French headquarters.

The Society is a splendid organisation that is the world’s oldest wine club and one entirely owned by its members. For the princely sum of just £40, each member receives a life share in this cooperative, and may buy from the extensive range of wines and some spirits bought and stored on their behalf by the society’s knowledgeable team.

Established in 1874 at the Great Exhibition in London, it remains true to its original aim of buying quality wines to make available to members only at the best possible price.

And this is what brings a steady stream of buyers to the Montreuil centre, where Brits are to be seen loading up car boots with wine bought at the considerably more attractive rate of French duty tax. Here, at any one time, there is a wide variety of two to three hundred wines in stock, ranging from good drinking qualities to rather more exclusive vintages (with hundreds more online). The Society maintains that the saving on a case of wine is at least £20, considerably more on others.

What better excuse for a trip over to France? Taking the car on the Eurotunnel in the morning, you can be tucking into a nice meal at Froggy’s Tavern in the centre of Montreuil at lunch time, where you can even take in one of the bottles just bought from the society and not be charged corkage. Montreuil encourages members to come again, with complimentary aperitifs here and there, and special hotel rates.


Eating and drinking aside, if you will, this is simply a delightful place to visit. Though no longer ser Mer, since the estuary silted up, there are still coastal walks nearby, and all too many historic battlefields to visit. Its cobbled streets provided the inspiration for the setting of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, and a Son et Lumiere of the classic takes place within the castle grounds each summer.

There are some nice old hotels but particularly convenient for the Society shop is the Hotel Hermitage, a somewhat gaunt looking building that was a hospital run by nuns, dating back to 1200. Suitably plush and modernised now by owners Best Western, it has the society’s building just across its courtyard.

Tempting alternative might be the luxury Chateau de Montreuil, a lovely old manor house that benefits from having one of the Michelin-starred restaurants. After a pleasant day ambling around Montreuil, what better way to end it than with a gourmet meal and fine wines at this restaurant, safe in the knowledge that your indulgence may be followed by just a short toddle up the stairs to bed. Bonne nuit indeed.

What better excuse for a trip over to France?

By Marie Scott Among the many events taking

By Marie Scott

Port is essentially an English tipple, nurtured from the 17th century on by a succession of English families.

It’s funny, how drinks retain certain associations and reputations. Champagne, for example, is still seen as the special drink of celebration, though it has long since passed into more widespread imbibing, needing no excuse for its consumption.

Sherry was traditionally to be taken with the vicar or a maiden aunt at Christmas time, a respectable aperitif to be consumed sparingly, when in fact it is a splendidly moreish beverage.

Gin was Mother’s Ruin, typified in Hogarth’s famous cartoon of Gin Lane, but long since made respectable by the addition of tonic, and now the base for any number of popular cocktails.

And port, port wine, still conjures up a cartoon figure of an old gentleman having a heavy weight accidentally dropped upon gout-suffering toes, when there is no proof that port was any more responsible for gout than any other rich fare, and is enjoyed by an increasingly discerning youthful fan base.

Port from Portugal is essentially an English tipple, having been very much nurtured from the 17th century on by a succession of English families that shipped it to England from its home port of Porto. Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Gould, Graham, Sandeman, Taylor… these and other names testify to the English connections of this fortified wine.

Early on, English shipping representatives were sent out to the Douro valley to sample good red wines. The practice of fortifying the wine with brandy to preserve it during its shipping to England turned it into a stronger, sweeter drink that found its own favour, and which came to be known as port wine. The English reps eventually began settling in the valley, buying vineyards, and descendants of some of those families remain responsible for much port production today.


Drifting along the Douro river, rows of vines in serried ranks across steep, rolling hills on either side, on a warm spring day, it is easy to imagine how it might have beguiled those early English merchants. Now a World Heritage site, it combines dramatic scenery with a remote, otherworldly quality that the rigid ranks of vines encourage.

To visit the Quinta de Vargellas estate is a rare treat, whether or not a port aficionado. We happy few of guests, invited by Taylor’s Port which owns Vargellas, travelled alongside the Douro river to arrive at the hilltop estate house, a bastion of elegant comfort that dates back to 1894 and feels for all the world like an English country home. This is at the centre of what is recognised as one of the most prestigious estates in the valley, and where a cavalcade of distinguished guests has stayed over the years. And where they, and we, enjoyed some of the finest port wine to be had.

Tasting Taylor’s Vargellas 2001 Vintage Port in these surroundings is not to be sniffed at, though we did certainly appreciate the ‘nose’ of this one. Deeply rich and fruity, it joins the galaxy of Vargellas vintages that have preceded it.

Their Late Bottled Vintage Port, LBV, was Taylor’s answer to demand for a quality, ready-to-drink variety for everyday consumption. Health & Safety might not approve of everyday, but this has proved very popular since it was introduced in 2009, bottled after being aged in the wood after four to six years, then ready to drink once bottled. Vintage varieties are bottled after two years in the wood and then aged in the bottle.
The First Estate Reserve wine is a reminder of Taylor’s early history, as the first English port shippers to go along the Douro valley to buy wine and the first to purchase a property here in 1744. A good classic port, it is ideal with a good rich cheese, such as Stilton.

And at the end of a splendid dinner at the Quinta de Vargellas, mostly comprised of produce grown on the estate, we savoured the delicious indulgence of a 20 year old Tawny Port. This will go equally well with a pudding or cheese and is intended for immediate drinking. We were happy to oblige.

In Britain, port has long been a traditional after-dinner drink, a favourite at gentlemen’s clubs, and a Christmas special. In recent years, its popularity has been steadily increasing, a younger generation appreciating its nuanced flavours and grown-up sophistication. And now, it has invaded the cocktail circuit, the new-ish pink port proving a popular base. An earlier ‘cocktail’, the port and lemon that ladies might sip in High Street wine lodges or pubs, seems mercifully to have fallen by the wayside.

Adrian Bridges, the ball-of-energy who is CEO of Taylor’s, has been instrumental in fostering this increased interest in port here and in other markets. He flits back and forth between Portugal and the UK, setting up seminars and tastings, encouraging visitors and overseeing Taylor’s commitment to traditional methods as well as bringing in modern ones where desirable.

port_wine_threeThis is one of the estates where not only hand picking of the vines but feet treading is also maintained. All Taylor’s vintage ports are produced in this manner. But moving with the times in order to supply a wider market, the company has developed a special machine to replicate, as near as possible, the effect of the human foot.
“The sensitivity of the human foot makes it ideal for this task,” Bridges points out. “It ensures that extraction is gentle but complete and that the wines have the perfect balance of concentration and finesse.”

The modern fermentation vat they have developed uses mechanical ‘toes’ to gently work the grapes in similar fashion. But the human aspect continues for the premier wines.

An army of pickers descends upon the estate each autumn, and like so many busy ants, they toil across the vineyard slopes, picking the grapes. That’s by day; by night, the same pickers become treaders, indulging in a collective knees-up to music in the wine troughs, the lagares, wide stone tanks from which the precious liquid is drained.

This has been going on since wine production began, generations of pickers returning each year from throughout the region. And to ensure the night-time ‘dance’ goes with a swing, music is supplied, now by an electric organ rather than the traditional accordion and drum – another modernisation.

It may seem a jolly time is had by all, and perhaps may be seen as something of an annual holiday for villagers in much the same way that hop picking was once the holiday for Cockney Londoners. But this is hard work and long hours. Bridges appreciates the labour, having started his love affair with port – and his wife – by working on the vine harvesting when a young man.

This early experience lead on to an encyclopaedic knowledge of port’s production and history, and to a marriage to the boss’s daughter, Natasha. Clearly a marriage made in heaven. She is now Head Taster.
The Douro valley is still largely off the beaten tourist track – so go now, before it becomes more popular. The attractive old town of Porto is the starting point, housing a gaggle of port lodges, so offering the temptation to sample plenty of ports here before exploring the hinterland.

And the best way to appreciate the Douro valley and its stunning scenery is to travel by boat along the winding Douro river. Alas, we didn’t have time for a cruise but a mini trip was enough of a taster to suggest a return visit would be required. That was confirmed by the numbers of quintas and hostelries dotted along the way that provide opportunity for more tasters of the region’s speciality.

It’s just the sort of holiday a red-blooded man with a penchant for full-bodied wine might enjoy. Not to be missed is the delightful Vintage House Hotel on the banks of the river that organises port and food tastings, a small gem of a place from which to tour the countryside and its various vineyards.

A number of companies provide luxury cruises of varying lengths. Some voyagers might get a thrill from sailing on the very barge that took the Queen along the Thames on her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, The Spirit of Chartwell. Others can just enjoy the peace and quiet and beauty as they navigate what was once a most perilous, raging river on which to transport those early pipes of port.

Tamed now by locks, the rapids claimed the lives of many crewmen in the old days, travelling on the traditional rabello, flat-bottomed Douro boats. No wonder the wine needed to be fortified with brandy. Now, all the modern traveller needs to see him through the journey on his luxury cruiser is a nice glass of port.

By Marie Scott Port is essentially an English

By Marie Scott

The city was quiet, too quiet. On the broad streets, there was only the occasional glimpse of a solitary figure. Where was everyone? They were inside of course, out of the glare of the sun and the 40-plus temperature.

In a city where zillionaires are ten a dirham, deluxe-deluxe the norm and bling the watchword, no one walks. Dubai citizens live in an air-conditioned bubble, moving seamlessly from building to car without taking a breath of hot air.

En route to the Maldvies, Dubai is a convenient stopover, a handy break in what otherwise is a very long flight. And let’s face it, though it hardly has the appeal of Paris, Bali or even Brighton, its phenomenal rise and thrusting success make it a place worth visiting, if only once.

And indeed it lived up to expectations. The buildings are amazing, the opulence overpowering, the sheer determination of the place not to be gainsaid. To create this out of what was barren desert but a few short years ago is testament to the drive and far-sightedness of ruler, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

Other countries in the region look to the success of this city with some envy. It has managed to combine being a world class financial centre, with phenomenal property expansion, and also in attracting increasing numbers of tourists.

In the two short days we were there, we went on an evening cruise around the harbour, visited the much vaunted Dubai Shopping Mall, toured the Palm, and went dune bashing.

The cruise showed off the untrammelled riches, with skyscrapers that copy others around the world – only bigger. A Big Ben lookalike is considerably taller, the New York Chrysler tower not only bigger but with a twin. With more space between them than other cities can accommodate, all these towers can be appreciated, especially lit up around the harbour at night.

dubai_twoThe shopping mall is a shopping mall writ large, and though it boasts more shops and more footfall than any other shopping mall in the world, it just doesn’t have the cachet of London, nor Paris, Milan or New York. We retreated to the calm of Fortnum & Mason’s adjoining establishment for ice cream.
It isn’t possible to see the Palm, of course, when on it, as that can only be done from the air, but the scale of the buildings bears witness to the scope of this development. Not a tempting place to live maybe, but impressive.

To cater for tourists, all kinds of entertainment has been laid on, from camel riding to skiing. We opted for the dune bashing escapade, a trip into the desert in a four-by-four, driven by a would-be Formula 1 maniac. This cheery chap revved the vehicle up and down dunes with heart-stopping speeds and manoeuvres, teetering on the brink of precipitous declines, in imminent danger of somersaulting down. It was quite splendid.

It is an amazing place to visit and has more deluxe hotels than anywhere else, boasting the only 7-star on the planet. Go to for more information.

The buildings are amazing, the opulence overpowering, the sheer determination of the place not to be gainsaid…

Here & There

Qatar could be the next popular choice on the Gulf now that other countries in the region are seen as somewhat risky. Like Egypt, it offers year-round sunshine on its 500km coastline of sandy beaches, plenty of architectural and cultural attractions, cruises on the traditional dhow fishing boats, and with a six and a half hour direct flight, is not too long-haul. There are not many holiday packages as yet, but promotion by Qatar is stepping up, so expect more for next year. Meantime, there are plenty of 5-star luxury hotels and direct flights to Doha from the UK. Go to

Looking ahead to Christmas and fancy a family or group get-together somewhere but home? Unique Home Stays has a portfolio of luxury pads throughout the UK that can accommodate up to 14 guests. By the sea, in the country, near town, these are high quality properties for self-catering rentals. Go to

With the average cost of a wedding in the UK now put at a tidy £20,000, a special wedding package for Barbados should seem a snip. With ceremony, flowers, cake, live band, coordinator, hair and make-up etc all included, plus luxury accommodation for from 12 to 16 people, it may be the answer to a bride’s prayers – and, given the saving, to fathers’ too. The Bellevue Plantation House, with all the wedding arrangements, may be booked for £8,900 for a dozen, £10,140 for 16. See more details at

Those keen to go off the beaten tourist track can head for the remote parts of Bhutan, tiny country in the Himalayas that promises a variety of experiences for the intrepid traveller. The Takstand Monastery, cliff-hanging in the Paro Valley, is famed as the Tiger’s Nest; there is much rare wildlife; medicinal springs; and traditional events in the summer months. Bhutan Tourism Council says tourism is flourishing, so don’t expect to be the only visitors in town.

Tahiti – the ultimate paradise island. It may be far away in the Pacific Ocean but nowhere is beyond the reach of British holidaymakers, and as a new drive to attract them gets underway, this promises to be the destination for next year. A number of companies offer package deals to the islands, including and from as little as around £2,500 including flights.

By Marie Scott The city was quiet, too