TV’s ‘silver fox’ couldn’t be more serious about wine, as Lucy Shaw discovers on a tour of not one, but two cellars at his country home
I’m in Phillip Schofield’s cellar drinking a 1982 Canon. Our interview has ended and before having his photo taken, he decides it would be a good idea to crack open a claret to enjoy during the shoot. We were given strict instructions by the PR to be in and out of his Henley home in an hour. Two hours on and we haven’t taken a single picture.
Since Decanter last spoke to the 46-year-old presenter of daytime TV’s star turn This Morning a decade ago, he’s been busy amassing a 7,500-bottle cellar of superstars that would quicken the pulse of most wine lovers. Wooden cases are stacked floor to ceiling like Jenga blocks, and at every turn is a big name – Pétrus, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angelus, Le Pin, Lafite, DRC, Yquem – it’s hard to think of a top wine that isn’t represented. ‘It’s the only thing I’ve got into that I’m still passionate about,’ Schofield admits. ‘Over the past 10 years it’s become even more of an obsession.’ He couldn’t be more serious about wine; every bottle is logged and he faithfully keeps tasting notes for every wine he drinks. It’s a far cry from the days of presenting children’s TV with furry sidekick Gordon the Gopher.
The country house Schofield shares with his wife, Steff, and two teenage daughters has two cellars: one under the house for ‘everyday drinking’, reached via a staircase that appears out of nowhere from under the floorboards; and a ‘long-haul’ cellar under his garage. He’s going to need a third at this rate. Standing in his impressive garage cellar, it strikes me how at odds his wine obsession is with his fluffy public persona. When it comes to wine, this man means business.
Schofield’s taste leans heavily towards the Old World – ‘there’s nothing finer than a classic Bordeaux or a beautifully elegant Burgundy’ – but he does play a little in the New World. ‘I have a four-bottle allocation of Araujo in California, which I take every year. It took three years to get three bottles. The next year someone died so I got an extra bottle – it’s dead man’s shoes.’
The self-styled ‘silver fox’ has established himself among wine’s movers and shakers, and enjoys invites to the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux and decadent dinners at the likes of Latour. Having previously concurred to save face, Schofield is now confident about stating his opinion at tastings after witnessing mistakes from the top of the wine tree. ‘I took a bottle of the 1962 to Latour, and Frédéric Engerer, the MD, didn’t know what it was. That was great!’
Even though he doesn’t buy to invest – ‘I’ve never bought a bottle I intended to sell’ – Schofield keeps an eye out for bargains. ‘The city boys are all going bust so their wine is flooding the market. They drove us into this mess so we deserve the pickings of their wine.’ And in today’s delicate financial climate, he sees his cellar as his safety net. ‘If my world falls apart, my wine collection will be my pension.’
His wine heartland is Bordeaux, but he dabbles in Burgundy through Rousseau and DRC, favouring Gevrey-Chambertin, and the Rhône – Guigal’s single-vineyard Côte-Rôties are among his favourites. Despite having more than he could possibly drink, Schofield saves his top bottles for special occasions. He’s not the type to kick back and enjoy a Latour 1982 with a movie mid-week. ‘You’ve got to open your best bottles in the right frame of mind. Wine is so emotional. A friend of mine died and I thought, sod it, I’m going to open something amazing. I did and it was dreadful. A Mouton 1982. I may as well have had a coffee.’
Does having to wake up so early for work deter him from midweek drinking? ‘Steff isn’t a red wine drinker, so if I open a bottle during the week it’s going to be me drinking it. I can’t remember the last time I re-corked a bottle and drank it the next day.’ He’s healthily blasé about the Government’s nanny-state stance on drinking. ‘I don’t care what the government says about drinking. I’m fed up of being patrolled by the fun police.’
His most memorable bottle was enjoyed last year with Jancis Robinson MW, whom he cheekily calls ‘her majesty’. Schofield had organised a Cheval Blanc vertical at culinary alchemist Heston Blumenthal’s Bray pub, The Hinds Head. ‘The waiting staff staggered over from The Fat Duck with Riedel glasses’, he recalls. ‘I’d been saving this bottle of 1947 for a decade. I remember bidding for it over the phone in a lay-by in Wolverhampton. I’ve never felt more pressure than I did about opening that bottle. Thank God it performed beautifully.’
What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a wine? It was for a bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947. I don’t do prices, it’s vulgar
What wine did you drink last night? Guigal’s La Mouline 1995
What’s your desert island wine? Who would you drink it with? A magnum of Ausone 1959 – I can smell it now… I’d drink it with Katherine Hepburn
Written by Lucy Shaw