Britain’s favourite newsman tells LUCY SHAW about his love of Burgundy,
Champagne breakfasts and the difficulty of stopping after one glass
I felt as though I’d been taken to the Elysian fields for good,’ says Sir Trevor McDonald. His hazel eyes peer through those signature specs as he talks of the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that ignited his interest in wine. ‘One of the tragic things about wine is that once you’ve drunk better wine, it’s terribly difficult to go back.’
In his 35th year at the helm of ITN, the 68-year-old thrice- Newscaster of the Year is a national institution. Knighted in 1999, Sir Trevor is keen on keeping up appearances. This is, after all, the man who refined his Queen’s English in the West Indies by listening to the BBC World Service. He confesses to a love of Champagne breakfasts.
‘I get told off for opening Champagne at 11am on Sunday but I get around it by saying it’s midday in Paris.’ He also has a penchant for cigars. ‘I always like to enjoy a cigar with a glass of wine – they go wonderfully well’. Doesn’t the cigar impede the taste of the wine? ‘I think it probably does’, Sir Trevor replies, clearly unperturbed. One gets the impression
McDonald is in love with the ceremony of wine as much as the wine itself. ‘The Italians have a real reverence for it. In Montalcino I’d order a half decent Brunello and they’d decant it for me and hold a flame up to it. I’ve no idea how effective it is but it looks marvellous. You feel like you’re treated like a proper wine drinker.’
McDonald admits his wine knowledge is patchy; more driven by regions than producers. But his desire to learn more is obvious: ‘There’s an auction at Sotheby’s I’m planning to attend. I’ve been salivating over the catalogue for days.’ He is also in the process of building a cellar in the 19th-century converted vicarage he shares with his second wife Josephine and their son Jack.
‘The problem with that is that it’s never just a glass. I get home at 11pm and then look at my watch and it’s approaching midnight and I’m on my fourth glass’
His wine epiphany came in the early 1970s when he had his first taste of Yquem. ‘I was bowled over. It was sensational – the kind of wine you should go down on your knees for in reverence to its greatness.’ Having grown up on rum and coke in Trinidad and Tobago, it wasn’t until he crossed to British shores in 1969 that he discovered wine.
‘Looking back on what we drank then, it was all pretty awful: Liebfraumilch and Mateus Rosé.’ Moving to ITN in 1973 little changed things. ‘There was a bar across the street and most people could be found there day and night. My co-anchor Reggie Bosanquet had to be dragged out at five minutes to ten and persuaded to sit down. How we used to carry on working I’ll never know.’
Assignments in Europe afforded Sir Trevor the opportunity to become more discerning and he developed a passion for Burgundy. ‘I buy at the higher end of the scale. I’ve decided that’s the thing I want to spend my money on.’
He reels off the names of his favourites like a roll call of Oscar winners: Echézeaux, Mersault, Chambolle-Musigny, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Unable to name a preferred producer, though, he concedes somewhat awkwardly that, ‘I haven’t got to the point yet of knowing the domaines.’
A judicious call to his preferred supplier Burgundy specialist OW Loeb reveals that recent purchases include G Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, Château de Puligny-Montrachet, Javillier Meursault and Arlaud Gevrey-Chambertin. ‘I’m very much a Burgundy man,’ he says. ‘They are so much more refined and sophisticated than clarets.’
In January this year, the seductive pull of the spotlight lured Sir Trevor out of retirement to anchor the 10pm news for the first time since 1999, in a contract rumoured to be making him £1m a year (though he is said to already be in talks with ITN over stepping down). Sir Trevor seems to have enjoyed being able to indulge in wine more during his two-year break from reading the news.
‘I discovered how quickly your stocks dwindle when you’re home in the evenings.’ These days Sir Trevor waits until he gets home to crack open a bottle. ‘The problem with that is that it’s never just a glass. I get home at 11pm and then look at my watch and it’s approaching midnight and I’m on my fourth glass.’
Despite his clearly comfortable position, McDonald delights in being treated, securing plenteous gifts. He scores regular party invites through diplomatic thankyou notes and cherry-picks friends with stellar cellars: ‘When I plead poverty, Laurent-Perrier help me out,’ he adds. Honestly – some journalists…
I’m very much a Burgundy man,’ he says. ‘They are so much more refined and sophisticated than clarets’
Written by Lucy Shaw