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Multi-millionaire offers poetry and fabulous wine

Poetry might not be the easiest thing to sell nowadays – unless you're offering a glass of 1982 Haut Brion or 1988 Richebourg at the same time.

Multi-millionaire magazine publisher Felix Dennis is treating his audience to the cream of his fine wine collection when he takes his new book of poems, A Glass Half Full, on the road this week.

Dennis (pictured) is worth in the region of £500m, with a stable of computer, sport and motorcycle titles, as well as men’s magazine Maxim, which is published in dozens of languages and is the top-selling men’s title in the US.

He’s also known for his philanthropy – the National Library for the Blind regards him as a long-standing patron – and for gestures such as the US$50,000 he gave the Compton Homies, a cricket team from the most violent neighbourhoods of Los Angeles.

During the poetry tour, called ‘Did I Mention the Free Wine?’ Dennis is offering some of the world’s best wines, including a Brune et Blonde 1997 from Guigal, one of the great Cote Rotie producers, a Volnay from Jean-Marc Boillet, Chablis Grand Cru, Condrieu, Chassagne-Montrachet and other sought-after bottles.

That is what he calls the ‘ordinary’ list. Then at each venue around the country, there will be a mixed case of ‘treasures’ – among them 1964 Lafite, 1982 Haut Brion, and the fabulously expensive 1988 Richebourg.

‘I’ve left some of the really good stuff behind,’ Dennis told decanter.com, referring to the Pétrus from 1982 and 1947, the 1992 Yquem, and the 1879 Taylor’s. He employs a sommelier who keeps his five houses (in Warwickshire, London, Mustique, Manhattan and Connecticut) stocked with wine.

The poems themselves have some similarity to Hillaire Belloc’s verse (Dennis dismisses most poetry written in the last 50 years). One, A Lullaby for Bottles, is a paean to laid-down wine.

The expansive publisher – who was addicted to crack cocaine until a few years ago, and who is dogged by lurid stories of his prodigious sexual appetites – claims the wine is a ruse to get people to listen to his poems.

But he’s also seizing the opportunity to introduce a captive audience to the delights of fine wine.

‘People will enjoy it, and it might spark an interest. Life’s too short to shovel supermarket plonk down your neck.’

The tour, which is entirely free, starts in London tonight and goes to 11 cities around the country. Call 020 7289 1616 for details.

A Glass Half Full is published by Hutchinson

Written by Adam Lechmere11 November 2002

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