Steven Spurrier was hailed on Monday as the man with the best shoes in the wine business – as a unique list of journalists and wine professionals celebrated his 40 years in the industry.
Spurrier – who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, and has been Decanter’s consultant editor for 10 years – joined the wine trade in February 1964 as a trainee with London merchant Christopher and Co, before moving to Paris and opening his wine shop Les Caves de la Madeleine.
There he made his name with the 1976 tasting that pitted a California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon against some of the most prestigious wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux – and saw them win. This was an upset: the wines had been tasted blind by French experts who had based their reputations on their dismissal of the New World.
If tweaking the noses of the Bordeaux ancien regime made Spurrier some enemies, the general level of bonhomie at London’s Ransome’s Dock restaurant demonstrated his enduring popularity.
Proprietor Martin Lam, the favourite chef of the London wine elite, said he couldn’t believe the guest list when he saw it, and one of his waiters went away delighted after getting Michael Broadbent to sign his copy of his pocket vintage guide.
Celebrating with Spurrier were Jancis Robinson and her husband Nick Lander, Hugh and Judy Johnson, Michael and Daphne Broadbent, Anthony and Rosi Hanson, Oz Clarke, Jason Yapp, Tim Atkin, Brian St Pierre and about 30 equally eminent names.
If the riverside eaterie had suddenly fallen into the Thames, one guest said, the entire wine world would have gone with it.
Decanter publishing director Sarah Kemp caused a cacophony of foot-stamping and cheers in her after-dinner speech, first by mentioning the ever-dapper host’s immaculate footwear – and then by saying what an excellent travelling companion he was.
The centrepiece of the menu was ‘Litton Cheney’ lamb reared by Spurrier’s wife Bella on their farm in Dorset (the lambs – allegedly – had been called Maisie and Bertie). Spurrier had ‘emptied’ his cellar he said, to provide 1999 Chassagne Montrachet, 1995 Pol Roger, 1989 Leoville Barton, 1990 Beaucastel, 1985 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese, and Fonseca 1966.
Spurrier confirmed later that his shoes are not hand-made, ‘But I do get some of them in Paris. They are copies of the Bertolutti shoes and so have ideas above their station.’
He added, ‘It was a very good evening. We got through 72 bottles of wine between 43 of us, which wasn’t bad going.’
Written by Adam Lechmere