Yesterday afternoon, as reported here, a very
moving memorial mass for 53-year-old wine merchant Patrick Sandeman of Lea
& Sandeman was held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street
A photo session at Texture restaurant with my World Atlas of Wine co-author Hugh Johnson (just back from Paris,
having collected a prize for his tree book) had to be cut short so that I could
get there with a chance of a seat in this
vast Victorian church. As it was, I got practically the last seat, round a
corner at the very back, more than 20 minutes before the start of the service. I think even Father Edward Corbould OSB, who
led the 90-minute service, was surprised by quite how many hundreds of people
were crammed into his church that sunny afternoon.
Each of Patrick’s three children, all in their twenties and including his
doppelganger son Ed (in media buying), gave a reading with wonderful eloquence.
We were also treated to memories from Sebastian (Beau) Reid, who had known him
since prep school (where he had advertised himself as 'sherry royalty', apparently) and Alex Smith, who had introduced him to his wife when she
was Katie Fuller. Beau’s particularly risqué story about a skiing trip and two
bottles of what he called cherry brandy (surely eau-de-vie de kirsch rather
than the Prince Charles sort?) gave us all the chance to laugh and clap. Alex, ex
Percy Fox but now in horse racing, reminded us enviously how much effort Patrick
put into keeping in shape.
The Lea & Sandeman team, including Patrick’s partner Charles Lea, all wore
buttonholes. What was particularly impressive was that only about a fifth of
those who attended were in the wine trade; Patrick clearly had a very wide and
loyal acquaintance, including many members of the next generation, friends of
his children, who viewed him as a friend. His active role as godfather to eight godchildren was fully acknowledged, as was his firm commitment to the Catholic faith.
I shared a hymn sheet with Ian Harris, head of the Wine & Spirit Education
Trust, who has, I can exclusively report, a particularly fine singing voice. I
also found myself next to wine enthusiast Charlie Berman, who works in finance
and so kindly supported our Wine Relief
dinner in 2005. I reminded him that it was at that dinner that he warned us
about a phenomenon of which we had never previously heard: sub-prime mortgages.
On the way out, I signed the slips that had been given out with the order of
service, along with a collage of photographs of Patrick with his family,
explaining I was representing Nick (currently promoting The Art of the Restaurateur in Australia), Julia and Tamlyn, all of
whom were particularly fond of Patrick.
Most poignantly, uniformed representatives of the Vintners’ Company flanked the
doors of the church on the way out, one of them holding the velvet cap with
swan’s feather and the silver swan medallion of the Swan Warden, worn by Patrick
in the photograph above.
We all swarmed about in the street outside the church before walking across Grosvenor Square, past
the superannuated, fortified American embassy, to One Mayfair, the deconsecrated
church, now event space, in North Audley Street. Here we were entertained to
far better champagne, wine and food than is usually the case in these circumstances:
Larmandier-Bernier, Bon Gran Viré-Clessé 2004 and the
and Jo Mills were over from Rippon in Central Otago expecting to spend the week
promoting their New Zealand wines with Patrick. Roberto Guerrini of Fuligni had come
specially from Montalcino (Patrick’s friend Pucci of Castello del Terriccio
having had a mass said for Patrick in Rome last weekend). And of course there
were several representatives from Jerez. Patrick’s mother had had to cut short her
usual early autumn stay in Jerez but was unable to make it to the
post-mass reception. She had already lost Patrick’s brother Christopher in a
car accident in Spain when he was in his late teens.
There were young Averys and Lebuses, and much older members of what used to be
called The Under Forty Wine Trade Club -
many of whom are now old enough to hold office in various livery companies. The
fourth estate was represented by Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin MW, Anthony Rose, Joanna
Simon, Jane MacQuitty, Natasha Hughes and doubtless many more I missed in the
One thing I learned was that it was Patrick’s widow Katie who first introduced
him to skydiving, giving him a course in the 1990s as a present. She was the
most vivacious hostess in a most appropriate setting – half church, half
nightclub – for a most appropriate celebration of a particularly hospitable and
On the way out, I happened to be collecting my coat (pink, spotted, as previously
advertised) at the same time as the serene and sympathetic Father Corbould. One
of the many young men who had been lurking on the steps outside enjoying a smoke came up to him and asked admiringly, ‘are you the guy who led the service?’
‘Yes, I’m that “guy”,’ he admitted wryly.
I’m sure he’d never been addressed by that appellation before, but then the whole thing was a
most extraordinary occasion. Apparently the only stipulation Patrick had ever made about his funeral was that Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell should be played. It was. Very loudly.