Anthony Rose: 'Wine and sport are strange bedfellows'


I haven't entirely given up on my New Year's prediction that Boris will ignite the Cauldron on Friday with Olympic Flame, a sparkling rosé made by RidgeView in Sussex. Even if it doesn't come to pass, one English rosé fizz flying the flag for the 'Isles of Wonder' will be the deliciously tangy 2008 Hush Heath Balfour Brut Rosé, £36-£39, Waitrose, Wine Pantry (020-7403 3003). It's one of dozens of quality wines selected from the Primrose Hill wine merchant Bibendum's range to wash down the fancy hospitality fare at London's six Olympic venues over the coming weeks.

Famously, the Olympic marathon runner Deena Kastor is said to have enjoyed a glass of wine the night before a marathon to relax. On the face of it, wine and sport are strange bedfellows, although Oxford and Cambridge universities lobbied to have wine tasting ratified as an official sport. There is the Marathon du Médoc, too, in which 8,000 runners, mostly in fancy dress, lurch their way around some of the most famous châteaux in Bordeaux, where they are fed local delicacies washed down with claret from 23 wine tasting stops along the route.

Yet if wielding a discus or javelin is reason enough to go red in the face, there's no reason why spectators shouldn't enjoy a glass or two of vino. It's more than wishful thinking on the part of Prestige Ticketing, the hospitality company, which along with dozens of fine wines from brunello di montalcino to Australian pinot noir supplied by Bibendum, is offering 100,000 lucrative hospitality packages from £295 to £4,500 per person. NHS volunteers will be on hand to deal with hangovers.

Bibendum has also been commissioned to supply the three official Olympic wines, a red, a white and a rosé. Strangely, this is the first time ever that the IOC has permitted a bespoke Olympic wine, which comes in plastic, airline-style, full and quarter bottles with a twist-off capsule. The equivalent of three and a half million quarter bottles will sell for £4.80 a pop at Olympic venues. South Stellenrust, the Fairtrade-certified South African winery which provides the white and rosé, receives a fair price for the wine plus £36,000 given directly to the workers.

And the wines? The Olympic White, a 2012 Chenin Blanc, is clean, fresh and innocuously apple and pear-like. The Olympic rosé, a pinotage, shiraz and merlot blend from the same source, is Day-Glo pink in colour with a light, off-dry, berry-fruit quality that's equally inoffensive.

The surprise package is a gluggable, cherryish shiraz tempranillo from Miolo in Brazil's southern wine region of Campanha, an apparent nod towards the XXXI Olympiad in Rio in 2016. The three wines may not set the pulse racing like Usain Bolt, but they're crowd-pleasers none the less.