Wine helps to spread literacy


On Thursday night in the beautiful Guildhall library, £2.3 million was raised at the annual London Wine Gala for the literacy charity Room to Read. 

This was helped enormously by input from three members of the UK wine trade. Last year’s focus on the wines of central Italy was such a success that we decided to treat everyone to some of the finest wines from the country’s glorious northern wine regions and David Gleave MW of Liberty Wines assembled a dazzling array virtually single handed. The wines are listed below. 

Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners very generously donated a dinner for 10 in their glamorous new Thames-side offices at which the food will be prepared by a chef from Michelin-starred Chez Bruce and the wines will include grand cru burgundies, first growth bordeaux and a sweet wine of the successful bidder’s birth year. Browett, who could not be there on Thursday night, effectively left a reserve bid of £10,000 and was mightily surprised to learn that, thanks to feverish bidding and memories of a particularly fine dinner in the Berry Bros & Rudd boardroom donated as an auction lot at a previous RTR London Wine Gala, the lot went for £100,000. ‘I will have to open some very serious wine for them!’ he commented.

And the third wine merchant to make a very material contribution to educating girls in the developing world was Zubair Mohamed of Raeburn Fine Wine in Edinburgh. He is very close to the Soldera family of Case Basse outside Montalcino. You will remember how they lost almost all of their 2010 vintage thanks to the actions of a disgruntled ex employee. The Solderas have decided to offer their 2010 exclusively in double magnums to be auctioned, rather than sold commercially, in aid of charities that benefit children and young people.

Zubair persuaded them to donate the very first of these double magnums to our London gala and invited Monica Soldera to attend the event. He told me that they were hoping to raise £5,500 for it. But the bidding took off like wildfire, two bidders competing for the prize. So when it had reached £40,000 I asked Monica, who was sitting next to me, whether she would donate a second double magnum so that £80,000 would be raised and she sportingly agreed. Room to Read’s founder John Wood spelt out to her after Hugh Edmeades’ spirited live auction that this sum would be enough to pay for 354 years of girl scholars. The elegant Monica is seen (left) in the picture above with John Wood and me, beaming after the auction.

So, a good night for the world all in all – especially since RTR are so canny in minimising overheads. Credit Suisse, for instance, underwrote the dinner. John Wood’s flights and hotels are given by the likes of Rosewood and bankers’ airmiles and so on and so on. This was London’s financial folk at their best. And the wine trade showed pretty well too.

These were the wines that helped to put everyone in such a generous mood.

2011 Franciacorta Brut La Scala, Bellavista
2016 Gavi di Gavi Montessora, La Giustiniana
2015 Derthona Timorasso, Walter Massa
2012 Lessona, Proprieta Sperino
2009 Barolo Bricco delle Viole, Vajra, in handsome magnum
2011 Barolo Margheria, Massolino
2006 Barolo Cicala, Poderi Aldo Conterno