Thank you so much, all those who attended our Barolo Night on 3 November. Thanks to you, we
found ourselves with a surplus and are donating £1,000 to alleviate the terrible current suffering in the Philippines and £1,000 to Room to Read.
We all have our pet charities. Ours, for obvious reasons, is Wine Relief, the
wine-related fundraising initiative of the massive, UK-based, national biennial
fundraiser that is Comic Relief, whose aim is to make lives better in the UK
and in the world's most impoverished continent Africa, and Room to Read, the
admirably-run outfit founded in 2000 by our friend John Wood whose aim is to
spread literacy throughout the developing world. The picture shows him delivering books by low-overhead yak in the early days in Nepal.
After a high-flying career as a Microsoft executive, he has done a quite
extraordinary amount to bring education to literally millions of children in
Asia and southern Africa. When Room to Read build libraries or schools, they
always do it in conjunction with the local community so that they have a vested
interest in making it all work. They publish hundreds of children's books in
local languages, and they favour girls with their scholarships on the principle
that literate mothers will ensure that their children learn to read. Already there
are Room to Read pupils at university in locations where they might not even
know how to read if the organisation had not existed. And the rate of growth is
extraordinary. John Wood is particularly proud of a graph that continues to show
that Room to Read is growing faster than Starbucks. But they keep overheads to
an absolute minimum and shamelessly use freebies for travel, accommodation and
Wine has played quite a significant role in the development of Room to Read.
Wine galas - well-lubricated dinners followed by conventional auctions and John
Wood's unrivalled ability to coax pledges out of well-heeled diners - constitute
one of the principal fundraising mechanisms. I have had the privilege of
talking about the wines at Room to Read events in London, Hong Kong, Singapore,
Sydney, Shanghai, San Francisco and New York.
Last Thursday saw the most successful London wine gala ever raise a staggering
total of £1.8 million in a single evening, helped by considerable matching funds
that John Wood had cleverly secured in advance. Big thanks to Berry Bros, who
kindly donated some delicious wine. The theme for the evening was South Africa
with a heart-rending presentation by RtR's director from that part of the
world, Chris Mothupi, who was brought up by his grandmother and rarely
saw his mother, who worked as a maid in Johannesburg. We therefore enjoyed a selection
of Berry Bros' top South African wines after Bonnaire Grand Cru champagne:
Chamonix Chardonnay 2009 Franschhoek
Mullineux Family White Blend 2011 Swartland
Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir Barrel Reserve 2011 Elgin
Chamonix Troika Bordeaux Blend 2010 Franschhoek
And in Hong Kong, Watsons kindly sponsor the wine. Hong Kong holds the record
for the greatest amount raised on a single night and great things are expected from
next year's Hong Kong wine gala on Thursday 6 March. But rivalry, encouraged by
John Wood, is keen with the Singapore chapter, who will be holding their 2014
wine gala on Friday 14 March. I much look forward to attending both. It would
be great to see you there - if you have a bulging wallet and a generous soul.
And thank you again, all those who bought tickets to our Barolo event.