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By Peter Dean

Having a wine epiphany is the surest way of starting a wine portfolio. It’s a Eureka moment where you suddenly realise that the reason that people have wine caves, cellars and the like is not because they are fabulously wealthy (although to be fair that does help) but because it makes blinding sense. If you want to get your hands on great wine, then buying it when it is first available means that you can actually get hold of some, you should be able to afford it, and can squirrel it away so that it can be drunk when it should be drunk.

A general rule of thumb is that we all drink wine that is way too young. If you buy your wine from a supermarket then it’s guaranteed that this is the case. Most wines not only benefit from ageing but are made so that the flavours, tannins and acidity will only work together in harmony after a given set number of years in the bottle. And we are not talking mega-bucks here – drinking say a Bordeaux blend from South Africa that costs £15 today will drink like a £100 bottle of claret in ten years time, and as for a £100 bottle of claret bought now, well…

My wine epiphany came a decade ago at a dinner party when, as bottle after bottle of perfectly aged and stored wine came and went, I suddenly realised that I knew far less about wine than I had previously thought. There was vintage Billecart Salmon demi-sec champagne, a 20 year-old Riesling from the Mosel, all honeyed and unctuous, a Barolo and a Brunello di Montalcino from the same year so we could compare and contrast, there were Bordeauxs and dessert wines. All of them were drinking like wines I had never tried before.


I decided there and then that from that moment on I would buy and drink much, much more wine (always responsibly of course).

Ten years on I have some 200 or so cases, and drink delicious wine on a regular basis. Some might say too regular! Not only does it mean I can drink superb aged wines but it is great fun collecting and I can easily subsidise the hobby by selling off a few cases that have risen in value, should I ever want or need to. That last bit will never happen of course.

There are a number of key lessons I’ve learned. First one is that collecting wine should be enjoyable. If you’d rather get trashed on a wine box then fine but maybe save serious wine buying for a few years yet.

So what wine should you buy?

It seems very obvious but you need to start by working out what wine you like to drink. And this is where the fun starts… you need to start drinking more. If you already have a wide knowledge and have a very clear idea then fine, but if you don’t I recommend you start by buying a few mixed cases. Also worth bearing in mind is will the wine that you currently like be the wines that you want to drink in 10-20 years time? It is why it’s advisable to buy a range of New World and Old World, white, red, fizzy, stickies. Oh, and don’t plan your cellar so that all your wine is ready to drink at the same time.

I would also recommend you start buying wine from specialists. There are decent wines to be bought on the high street but as a general rule you will get better wine, more guidance and often better value in the long run by buying from a specialist merchant or wine club. Think pret-a-porter versus bespoke tailoring.

I rang up a few wine merchants and chatted to their sales team about what I wanted to achieve. You would be surprised how little you need to spend and how much guidance you can get. I started out with Lay & Wheeler, a traditional wine specialist (who have since been bought by Majestic). I met up with a sales guy who bought along a few bottles of wine and we drank and started talking about them. I then bought a mixed case and continued talking to him about which wines I liked and didn’t care for. From then I started going to some of their tastings and he would recommend wines.

Start with one merchant and then branch out. I now also buy from Justerini & Brooks, Fine & Rare, Cru and Berry Bros and they all have their specialities, meaning that they have allocations from the wine-makers and can get you the good stuff as it becomes clearer what good stuff you are actually after. They also all do tastings of newly- released wines so you can be sure that you like what you are buying. Try and avoid wines that come with a lot of hype.

Buying from merchants means that you can elect to buy wine ‘in bond’ so you only pay the VAT and duty when you decide to ‘draw it down’ and drink it – the price is 20% ‘cheaper’ until that point. They or you can store it in a bonded warehouse that will cost about £10 a case per annum. Don’t try and store wine at home for any length of time, unless you have a cellar or a refrigerated cave.

Merchants also will have cellar-buying schemes so that you can give them a monthly budget and they can start building a cellar for you, again with plenty of guidance. This is an excellent method if you are young, have less disposable income but years ‘in the bank’. Expect supermarkets to start this – Waitrose started its own scheme this month.


An alternative, or extra string to your bow, is to join the Wine Society. This club regularly wins wine retailer of the year and for good reason. It is a non-profit making wine society that sources excellent wine and is very customer-focused. You can buy wines for £5 or £500 a bottle, it matters not. What is important is that you can try mixed cases and start honing down what it is you are after. Its range of own label wines come from great wineries and their storage rates are the cheapest in the business.

Another place to buy wine from, and a way to realise why it is worth buying wines young and on release, is to buy aged wines from a wine auction. These are brilliant fun but it is advisable to go with someone who knows what they are doing or take advice before you bid on an online auction. You can get some great bargains, although you cannot be 100% sure how the wine has been kept. A toe-in-the-water approach is best.

Places to avoid – merchants that are too small, less established and promise wine as a good investment. On the whole wine is not a good investment unless you are going to drink it. True, you can make money from wines going up in value but don’t make this your primary aim. Like all good small print, investments can go down in value just as much as they can go up. There’s nothing that some merchants love telling you more than a bottle of Lafite 1982 went up in value by 12,000%. This is very rare!

Going on a wine course, be that a one-off session or a weekly event is also time well spent. The Wine Society does events, as does wine magazine Decanter, and there are more general bashes such as London Wine Week where you can broaden your tasting horizons. Another great way to broaden your knowledge is to use which allows you to track prices of any wine in the world. This is brilliant if you drink something in a restaurant, say, and want to get hold of a bottle. The Pro version is worth the subscription but try the free portal and see how you get on.

If you start small, stay focused and put a bit of effort in, you will be rewarded handsomely. I think it is one insurance policy that will always pay dividends in the future, and just hearing the cave humming away at night is a sure way to get some sound sleep.

Berry Bros & Rudd –; Fine + Rare Wines –;

Justerini & Brooks –; Lay & Wheeler –

Wine Society –

By Peter Dean Having a wine epiphany is

By Marie Scott

Way down south, at the very tip of Greece that dangles into the blue depths of the Mediterranean Sea, lies the Pelopponese peninsula. Remote and starkly beautiful, it exudes a quiet tranquillity, but those who remember their history will know that this is where the Greek War of Independence raged in the 1800s, where Lord Byron joined the Greek forces against the Ottoman Empire, and where Admiral Codrington led a mighty sea battle that sealed the fate of Europe.

Travel, they say, broadens the mind. It also jogs the memory, bringing back vague recollections of half learned lessons about far-away places with strange sounding names that suddenly are brought vividly to life in situ. No more so than here, where the combination of stunning scenery, our most romantic poet, a legendary British sea hero, and a worthy cause provide a scenario that fires the imagination.


Unhappily, the British have largely forgotten this particular battle – there were so many, after all – but it is very much remembered in the region, with annual celebrations on the date of the battle. Victory freed Greece from Ottoman rule and effectively safeguarded the rest of Europe from Ottoman expansion. So this decisive battle of 1827 is marked each October 20 in the small local town of Pyros, on the shores of the Bay of Navarino, and each year the allied forces of France, Russia and Briton send representatives to honour the occasion.

It is one excuse for visiting this part of Greece, very much off the beaten track of tourism but undoubtedly going to become more popular as the local airport at Kalamata extends its international flights. This will bring greater numbers to one of Europe’s important environmental developments at the impressive Costa Navarino.

Encompassing 130 hectares (some 320 acres) to date. this is the on-going manifestation of one man’s dream. The man was Vassilis Constantakopoulos, a local lad made extremely good in the world of shipping containers. He had worked his way up to become a master mariner, founding his own container shipping company, Costamare Shipping, in 1974, which grew into one of largest in the business.

Whilst building this major operation, he kept the dream of one day creating a special place in his homeland of Messinai on the Peleponnes, a place to be built entirely to environmental standards. And this is now manifold in Costa Navarino, still a work in progress, that is epic in size and aspiration.

From landscaping and plant diversity to living roofs and water sustainability, energy efficient window panes and recycling of waste, everything aims to reduce the resort’s carbon footprint and to be in harmony with the locality. It is awesome.


I was particularly delighted at one aspect of this concern, which extends naturally to the creatures of the area. Logger head sea turtles have come here to lay their eggs for millennia and Costa Navarino nurtures them, protecting the beach where they make that laborious treck to lay their eggs in the sand, and monitoring them, in partnership with the Sea Turtle Protection Society.

For humans, it seemed the nurturing is just as good, with facilities that combine pleasing design with natural elements, at a level of luxury that under other circumstances might prompt some sneaking feelings of guilt. Here, not only can one rest easy in knowing that everything is provided to the highest environmental standards but that it are also bringing much needed employment to the region.

Cut off from the mainland by the Corinithian Canal, the Peloponnese, once the seat of power in the country, has slumbered for many years, existing on agriculture and fishing, with the bright lights of Athens and other cities luring locals away. Vassili Contantakopoulos’s vision was not just about building an environmental resort but bringing visitors to the homeland he loved and providing employment and new life to the area.

Referred to as the Captain by staff, he died in 2011 but had lived to see his dream becoming reality. It continues to develop under the stewardship of his sons, and is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most ambitious environmental projects.



It is also a perfectly wonderful place to stay. It encompasses two hotels already, The Romanos and the more family-orientated Westin, each with their own separate facilities, plus some exclusive residences. There is every kind of sport on offer, swimming pools in all directions, loungers beside them and under the trees, walks to take where philosophy is discussed, boats trips out on the bay.

There are no less than 20 restaurants on site, where we enjoyed a variety of fish just in from the sea, and some great steaks, Greek specialities, and seriously extravagant sweets. Be warned, it is all too easy to indulge in the expansive fare that is offered – but the spa and gym may offset the effects.

An amazing Natural Hall, with all manner of film shows and information on environmental issues and nature, will beguile children as well as adults. There are two fine golf courses. And there’s more, there’s more…

If that all makes it sound like some sort of Aston Towers, please be disabused. There is so much space and greenery that it is easy to be secluded, to commune privately with Nature and to enjoy a solitary drink at one of the many bars. But as a desire to commune with fellow guests may develop, a nightcap at the splendid Branco cocktail and oyster bar is worth a try. Who knows, it could even lead to dancing the night away? That’s an environmentally-friendly way of combating all that scrumptious food.

Marie Scott travelled with Aegean Airlines to Athens, and was a guest at Costa Navarino Romanos


By Marie Scott Way down south, at the

Time was when a gentleman might have one dinner jacket, one fountain pen and one watch that would last him if not a lifetime then certainly till he might not feel the need for any of them any more.

The jacket would have been ordered when black tie occasions became part of a man’s lifestyle; the gift of a gold nibbed pen could mark exam success or business promotion; and a good watch would replace the junior league version and be a practical, reliable piece of equipment by which to tell the time. It certainly was not jewellery.

But it is in the realm of watches that the pleasure of acquisition is most rampant. No man with pretensions to style can be without an extensive wardrobe of watches – day watch, evening watch, sports watch, water watch, vintage – there is one for every eventuality, and every bank account.

Whatever the technological advances, a watch remains man’s number one piece of jewellery. And at this year’s annual watch fest in Basel, the watch gnomes of Switzerland and their followers had surpassed themselves in terms of design originality and brilliant technology. Here, we cannot delve into the mysteries of moonphases, chronometers, tourbillons and other intricacies of the watchmaker’s art, but we can drool over a few wonders.


Take, for example, Blancpain’s impeccably elegant red gold new addition to its Villeret collection. With roman numerals and a clean face, a legible date positioned at the bottom  it reveals not only the time but the wearer’s discerning taste. What’s more, there is no  havering about when the date is changing. This Grand Date Complication model changes  on the dot of midnight. 


Like a Savile Row suit, Patek Philippe watches have a timeless elegance that sees them  handed on to following generations. Yet, there are plenty of updated designs in their latest  collection, including the new hand-wound Gondolo 8-day in white gold that stands out  from the crowd.

Mathey Tissot_Web

Graff, that top diamond house, weighs in with its Diamond Master Graff Grand Date Duel Time Tourbillon. This boasts 329 diamonds that add up to a sizeable total of 13.7 carats, the face paved with diamonds, set on rose or white gold. With this on his wrist, a man should be accompanied by a stout friend.


Lifting a Savile Row cuff to reveal a dazzlingly bling timepiece would once have been considered exceedingly naff but nowadays even the more reserved of British men are prepared to embrace a touch of razzle dazzle here and there. And bejewelled treasures there were aplenty at Basel, designed to please the increasing numbers of men eager to embrace such expensive baubles.

For those who like to be able to see the very guts of their watches there are plenty that will help to while away the time as an alternative to staring at a mobile. Independent specialist in tourbillon complications, Antoine Preziuso provides back and front exposure to show just how complicated is complicated.

The Renaissance Orange Tornado by Aerowatch is another with a view of ‘constant rotation of the various interacting wheels and pinions’ in a black steel case.

If it is over-the-top you are after as an alternative to the classic, seek out Ulysse Nardin, responsible for a collection that tells many a story on its watch faces. The latest shows Hannibal marching over the Alps, complete with elephant and warriors, sculpted in white gold. Lest such art smacks of the vulgar, know that this is a watch of impeccable craftsmanship, priced at well over the £100,000 mark.

Flamboyantly macabre are watches from ArtyA, an independent watch brand that uses skulls and bones throughout its collection. The latest effort has hand sculpted skulls dancing around the dial, with a skull in the centre.

For jazz fans, look to Oris. Their latest clean-faced style, without numerals, takes inspiration from jazz great Thelonius Monk, noted for his avant-garde style and his catch phrase ‘Monk Always Knows’. This phrase is engraved on the back of this limited edition watch, just 1,000 pieces produced.


For telling the time simply and clearly, Tudor’s North Face is anything but simple in its qualities, a no-nonsense timepiece in black and white. And British brand, Breitling’s Transocean Chronograph 2015 marks the company’s 100th anniversary of inventing an independent pushpiece to separate functions, in a limited edition that is going to be a collector’s item.

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Time was when a gentleman might have

By Marie Scott

The word Icon has become much over-used in modern parlance, rather like Hero. But it might well be attributed to the three tailors featured here, who have each retained considerable stature over the years. Interestingly, they are all based outside of Savile Row.

Edward Sexton came into the spotlight in the Swinging Sixties, as the technical wizard working alongside Tommy Nutter. During that decade and into the 1970s, he came to mix with a new younger clientele seeking bespoke clothing and unstuffy service. Like Tommy, he mixed with the showbiz crowd, with newly enriched sportsmen, and others keen to embrace more interesting, even flamboyant men’s styling.

And he has continued to attract such clients, not just as customers but as friends, both male and female. Now based in the bijou thoroughfare of Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge, he remains passionate about tailoring, is something of a work-acoholic, and eager to get to work every day.“I love it,” he says. “I don’t think l have worked a day because I enjoy it so much. I certainly have no intention of stepping down.”

Like many tailors of his generation, he came into tailoring straight from school. His father had been a tailor, his mother a dressmaker, so even before leaving school he was helping in workshops in the school holidays and always wanted to be in the trade.“When I was 13, it was the time of the Teddy Boys, of drape suits and tapered trousers. I used to hide from my mother to taper mine.”

This early interest in style has stayed with him, evident in his own appearance and fed by his engagement with the new and with young trends. Early training at Kilgour, French & Stanbury, and Welsh & Jefferies, coupled with a healthy business in moonlighting, honed his early talent.“I was married, had a young family, and I kept busy. It all helped develop my own style, which I have retained over the years. It is based upon a riding hacking jacket, waisted, with a flared skirt, long.”

And this is the look he took with him into partnership with Tommy Nutter. Swinging London was at its height, rock stars, the artistic crowd, and other young men wanted to look good, and to have bespoke tailoring that embraced the new fashions of Carnaby Street and Kings Road. Cometh the hour, cometh Tommy and Edward.

“It was lots of fun,” he says now, with a grin. “We worked very long hours but were very successful. We got to know everyone on the scene.”

They developed a totally different look to the traditional Savile Row style – and became celebrities in their own right. Their shop on the Row set the trend by opening up their shop window and having window displays – hitherto unknown exposure here.


“We changed Savile Row,” he maintains. “There started to be through traffic, we attracted passing trade. It broke down the old tradition of customers having to be recommended.”

As is the way of things, the partnership eventually split in the mid ‘70s. The on-going problem of leases in the Row finally saw Edward leave there and set up business in Beauchamp Place in 1990, an exclusive little road hard by Harrods, with couturiers, restaurants, and others catering to a well-heeled clientele.

And here he is today, still attracting a star-studded cast of customers, male and female. He has branched out into ready-to-wear and has an online presence, but bespoke remains his joy and his mainstay. His workroom is full of young apprentices, who he loves training – “its important to pass on knowledge”. And he engages with the young fashion scene and with street fashion.

“I went with my daughter into Primark recently and was really interested in some of the patterns, the ways they have of cutting there. I’m still learning!”






By Marie Scott The word Icon has become

By James Turner

Champagne is gushing all over the place as the London season builds up a head of bubbles. For many, many years, this annual summertime jamboree has been a frenetic combination of sporting events and formal do’s where mothers have tried to offload their daughters, all accompanied by a veritable tsunami of fizz.

A ‘London Season’ website, however, provides a somewhat more limited list of engagements. This is registered to the Al Tamimi Investments Company, a Dubai-based holdings company, which appears to be preoccupied with balls, etiquette, and more balls.

Modelled on the Queen Charlotte’s Ball, that once saw young debutantes ‘coming out’ and being presented to the Queen, similarly grand occasions have been taking place around the world, in Shanghai, Dubai, Morocco, Oman, Italy, and India, as well as in London, organised by the ‘London Season’ body. They are providing the opportunity for a new generation of international would-be ‘debs’ to strut their stuff. The Queen brought the London deb presentations to an end in 1958.

Just in case some may feel their social skills are not quite up to the mark for these new presentations, the website also offers a ‘London Season Academy’, to provide tutorage in etiquette, under the expert guidance of a clutch of minor royals.


Happily, it doesn’t all add up to just a load of balls but benefits a number of charities, and, as in the mission statement on the site, is destined to ‘carry on British traditions and promote etiquette’.

Rather more rumbustious fare may be found at The Derby, a Season fixture on June 7, traditionally seen as a Londoner’s day out. Charabancs set off from London at an early hour for the Epsom racecourse, and trains are packed with more punters, intent upon having a Jolly Good Time, and occasionally looking at the horses.

Henley Royal Regatta, along the Thames on July 2 – 6, is rather more refined. It provides the setting for messing about in boats and sees gentlemen resplendent in boaters and blazers, with a variety of parties where the champers flows.

Royal Ascot, June 17-21, is a favourite with tailors, as new punters each year order morning suits for the occasion. They are required attire for the Royal Enclosure, as part of strict code of dress rules. Alas, many young ladies attending the event now look more appropriately dressed for a disco than Ascot, but it remains a wonderful occasion for both sexes to show off and consume much champagne.

seasonhuntsmanBy contrast, the Chelsea Flower Show, May 20-24, attracts those more prone to Barbours and wellies, though ladies may go for the Laura Ashley look. Glorious Goodwood, July 29 – Aug 2, is said to be the world’s most beautiful racecourse and is noted for its relaxed elegance. Panama hats and linen suits or jackets are the preferred style for men, with Pimms an alternative to champagne.
Wimbledon, June 23 – July 6, calls for cotton slacks and straw hats if fine, or all-encompassing macs and umbrellas if wet. By virtue of its Royal enthusiasts, the Guards Cartier Queen’s Cup polo at Windsor Great Park, May 20 – June 15, is particularly glamorous in casual dress.

The arts are covered by Glyndebourne Opera Festival, usually black tie, and stretching from mid-May to August 24, and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, June 8 – August 17, which encompasses a variety of styles to take in perceived arty tastes.

All of these and a host of other events in and around London over the Season have accompanying parties and gala evenings. And then, the whole shebang traditionally came to an end on the Glorious 12th of August, which marks the start of the shooting season. In the old days, the gentry returned to their country estates for shooting parties. Plainly, the gentry is not what it was, and though a new breed of shoot enthusiasts has emerged, the 12th no longer means everyone decamps to the country. The Season continues to swing well into autumn.

By James Turner Champagne is gushing all over