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Champagne and comic moments at Bill Baker’s funeral

Vintage Champagne in magnums flowed before and after the funeral of wine merchant Bill Baker in the magnificent cathedral of Wells in Somerset.

Yesterday’s ceremony was puncuated by moments of comedy that the much-loved bon viveur, who died at the end of January, would certainly have appreciated.

‘There was a hiatus at the very beginning of the service as the organist frantically extemporised,’ Jancis Robinson, a close friend of Baker’s, writes. ‘The dean looked a bit worried and we all wondered what was going on.

‘Turned out they had never had to get such a wide coffin – and ten pall bearers – through the door of the cathedral and it just wouldn’t fit. Cue search for a trolley etc. Bill would have loved it.’

Robinson estimated there must have been 600 people in the great 12th century church. Baker’s son and daughter read eulogies, and there was ‘wonderful’ singing from the choir of Wells Cathedral School.

‘Limitless’ magnums of Pol Roger 1998 were served afterwards, Robinson reports, adding that she and her companions toasted their departed friend in the car park beforehand with a magnum of Dom Perignon Rosé 1990.

‘Plastic cups in a car park is probably not how winemaker Richard Geoffroy envisaged this wine being drunk but we felt as though we were at least keeping the quintessentially greedy and discerning spirit of Baker alive.’


Written by Adam Lechmere

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