Thursday 07 February 2008
In 1981, a friend sent me Bill Baker's wine list, and I was immediately aware of the powerful personality who had prepared it,
writes Harvey Cole [further to the obituary by Anthony Rose, 5 February].
Apart from the amazing variety on offer – including clarets from most of the vintages of the 20th century, in quantities from one to 155 bottles – each wine-growing area was introduced with an apt, if often recondite, quotation indicating a widely inquisitive mind. Each vintage received a pithy and informative one-line summing up. There were also the amusingly deprecatory opinions about selections which had disappointed. One unfortunate, single battered bottle from a poor vintage, appearing in his list for the third time and progressively marked down, attracted the plaintive question: "Is there no price at which somebody will take this rotten bottle off our hands?"
I placed an order and a week or so later, on a snowy December evening, there was a ring on the door. Opening it, I was confronted with a solid wall of four cases of wine, held in a pair of massive hands, with the head of Bill Baker just visible above them, "I happened to be passing this way," he said, "and thought I might just as well deliver these myself."
I became a small (if regular) customer, and whenever I phoned and Baker answered himself, he always remembered what I had bought and had time for a (highly opinionated) chat and invariably wise advice. If you were lucky, when collecting an order yourself, you would be taken to visit the nearby caves at Hallatrow in the Mendips where his enormous stocks were stored in corridors excavated during the war for military material. Half an hour there was more illuminating than most guided tours through famous vineyards.
Bill was a marvellous example of the way in which a passionate and informed love of wine can widen and deepen the experience of life. Truly, in vino civilitas.
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
International Women’s Day: 'When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch' - feminist quotes from female icons to inspire you
Exclusive: New evidence links the murders of Stephen Lawrence and a private investigator
Dead woman's body found sitting in a car after six years after direct debits ran $54,000 bank account dry
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
White people become less racist just by moving to more diverse areas, study finds
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 3 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
- 4 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
- 5 Dead woman's body found sitting in a car after six years after direct debits ran $54,000 bank account dry
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...