Wine and Music: Oz Clarke on Radio 3’s “The Choir”

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My long-standing colleague and friend Oz Clarke was on Radio 3’s “The Choir” recently:

“Sara Mohr-Pietsch introduces this week’s pick of the choral world. Wine expert, author and occasional professional chorister, Oz Clarke chats with Sara about some of his favourite choral music.”

It’s not widely known – except to family, friends, and colleagues – that Oz was a singer before he became a full-time wine writer and broadcaster.

In his interview with Sara Mohr-Pietsch Oz speaks very sincerely about his passion and talent for singing. He also talks about how communicating about wine and music is similar and presents some of the same challenges.

The programme can be heard online at the BBC website.

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A message from Vic Mills at Project Front Foot:

“I hope this isn’t too early in the morning for curry? But I’ve a little curried cricket for you in the shape of the PFF January Newsletter.

Another busy month in and around Mumbai as the season approaches its mid-point.

No less busy in the UK as our refugee kit appeal gathers momentum (see page 9). If you can help in any respect with this do please get in touch.



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Wine and Music: “Port Wine Blues”

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“I’ve got to have it…” sings Ruby Smith. Me too, though probably not in the same quantity or frequency as her.

Ruby Smith was a niece by marriage to the great Bessie Smith, with whom she toured in the mid-1920s.

“Port Wine Blues” was composed by Bill Samuels and arranged by Gene Sedric. It was recorded in January 1947.

It can be found on this great Jazz compilation from Piccadilly Records.

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Whinging (Champagne) Poms: 19th Century England tours to Australia and Pommery Champagne

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It has long been widely believed that “pom” – the not always well-intentioned Aussie term for somebody from England, and often joined with the adjective “whinging”  – was an acronym from “Prisoner of His Majesty” or “Permit of Migration”.

But recently I came across a novel – indeed, sparkling – explanation for the word.
Anthony Meredith’s Summers in Winter: Four England Tours of Australia under Jim Lillywhite, Plum Warner, Gubby Allen and Mike Brearley (The Kingswood Press, 1990) mentions a champagne reception held for the England cricket squad on the upper deck of the P&O liner Orontes before it departed from Tilbury for Australia in September 1903.

Meredith writes, “it is said that the first Englishmen whom the Australians described as Poms were the cricketers of Lillywhite’s era, so noted were they for their consumption of Pomerey (sic) champagne”.

James Lillywhite (1842–1929), scion of the family that established Lillywhites sports store at Piccadilly Circus, captained an England team in two matches against a Combined Australia XI (with players from New South Wales and Victoria only) in March 1877, both played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The matches were subsequently recognised as the first-ever Test matches.

In the past I’ve enjoyed some older vintages of Pommery’s Cuvée Louise: the generous 1998; the bracing 1996 (I wonder if that exulcerating acidity has calmed down yet…); the excellent 1990; the slightly blurred 1989 (is it still going…); the austere blanc de blancs 1985; and the very good (as good as 1990?) 1981.

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Wine and Cinema: Valpolicella in “Letter from an Unknown Woman”

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BBC2 shows old and largely unknown films on Saturday mornings. In December 2016, Letter from an Unknown Woman was screened.

This 1948 melodrama was directed by Max Ophüls and stars Joan Fontaine, who had already been in two Hitchcock films, and Louis Jourdan, later to become well-known as the baddie Kamal Khan in the James Bond movie Octopussy.

In a restaurant, the Fontaine and Jourdan characters start to fall in love over a bottle of Valpolicella. Jourdan says, “You like it? It’s called Valpolicella. The first vineyard you see when you come down the other side of the Alps. The Italians say it’s such a good wine because the grapes have their roots in the valley and their eyes on the mountains.”

For more info on Valpolicella, see my article That’s Amarone.

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I hope that Devon Malcolm likes South African wine…

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More fun from the old magazines that I recently acquired from the library at The Oval cricket ground.

At this ground, on 20 August 1994, the fast bowler Devon Malcolm took 9–57 to help England to an eight wicket win.
And what was his reward for this fantastic achievement? A “century of bottles offered by Nederburg Cape Wines”. Malcolm is pictured with Colin Cowdrey, who, the caption says, “was the last recipient of this award in 1965”.

South Africa – then aggressively following its apartheid policy – was suspended from international cricket indefinitely by the International Cricket Council in 1970. It did not tour England again until 1994, hence the 29-year gap between Cowdrey’s and Malcolm’s awards.

The award, or at least the prize, no longer exists. Nederburg is a famous old name in South African wine but nowadays is an undistinguished supplier to supermarkets.

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A message from my friend Vic Mills:

“Snow on the ground and -5C here in Berlin. Time for a little winter Sunday sunshine with the PFF December newsletter.

Another busy month for the Dharavi Cricket Academy saw the distribution of the new season’s kit, our first matches, and a visit to the Mumbai Test. The highlight of our Rural Schools Initiative was the first kit handover by our friends at There’s something too for village cricketers with pictures that will astound and astonish.

Happy New Year


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They call me the International Wanderers…

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A short article on the International Wanderers in an old Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine caught my eye.
By any standard, this is an exceptional squad of players. It includes two England captains (Close and Greig) and two Australia captains (the brothers Chappell), as well as a captain of New Zealand (Turner).

I believe that the International Wanderers was an ad hoc team that toured Zimbabwe – or Rhodesia as it was then – and South Africa during the 1970s, I suppose in support of keeping cricket alive in South Africa, which had been suspended indefinitely from international competition in 1970.

But what was really of interest to me was the office address of the joint manager R. E. Thomas: 7 Church Road, Redditch, Worcestershire. This is now the offices of Kerwoods Solictors; indeed, it might well have been Kerwoods in the 1970s.

I grew up in Redditch (somebody had to…) and there was a doctor’s surgery in Church Road that was occasionally visited when a family member or I fell ill. It is quite extraordinary for me to learn that cricket tours to the forbidden land of South Africa were being plotted here.


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My review of “Essteesee” by @AngeHardyMusic published in the “Coleridge Bulletin”

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Award-winning singer-songwriter Ange Hardy is Somerset-born and continues to live there but had never heard of STC until she realised that he was the inspiration for the Coleridge Way, a 51-mile footpath opened in 2005 that runs from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth. Having fallen under STC’s spell, a Lottery-funded Arts Council grant was given to Hardy to enable her to compose and record her fourth album Esteesee.

The full review, which was published in the Winter 2016 edition of the Coleridge Bulletin, can be seen here.

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Leonard Cohen and 1982 Latour

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There was a marvellous reprint of a 1991 Adrian Deevoy interview with Leonard Cohen in the February 2017 (sic) issue of Q magazine.

I recall the original interview and I retain the copy of Q in which it was first published. Actually, I have a complete set, from 1 to 368. I have kept them because I enjoy rereading the old magazines. Perhaps it’s my age but I do think that the very early issues of Q were much better than anything it publishes nowadays. Kids today can’t write – bah!
In his introduction to the republished interview, Deevoy notes that the nice red wine that’s mentioned anonymously in the original article was Château Latour 1982, which Cohen gleefully told his interviewer was “three hundred bucks a bottle!”

Nowadays Latour 1982 would be at least $1,200+ and, for bottles in immaculate condition and of unimpeachable provenance, $2,000+. So over 25 years it’s increased at least fourfold.

As Cohen sang in “Boogie Street” (on his 2001 album Ten New Songs):

“A sip of wine, a cigarette,
And then it’s time to go…”

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