Saturday, 6 February 2010

West London Wine School

Wednesday was a big night. My flat mate, Jimmy Smith, launched the West London Wine School at the Big Yellow Cellars in Fulham. A franchise of Newcastle Wine School, Jimmy set up the company in November after First Quench, his employer, became the latest tragedy of the recession.

He managed to charm Steven Spurrier into coming down to officially open the school, but there wasn't a red ribbon in sight, just lots of Champagne. Fresh from the Australia tasting, Spurrier rocked up in a sharp suit with Ron Brown of Maverick Wines.

Spurrier's speech was an ode to Michael Broadbent, who he described as the founder of wine education in the UK. It was fascinating to listen to my contributing editor paying such a tribute to a fellow wine writer. You forget that figures in the wine world at the top of their game have their own idols they look up to, and Spurrier made it clear how much respect he has for Broadbent as an educator.

The end of the speech touched on the need to pass the baton to a new generation to keep wine education thriving. Enter Jimmy Smith, a walking wine encyclopedia, with the enthusiasm of a puppy and the passion of a Frenchman. If anyone can fly the flag for wine education and make it exciting, accessible and most importantly fun, he can.

It was slightly surreal seeing Steven Spurrier open the school. I felt proud of Jimmy and all he's achieved. It takes cojones to start a business in the middle of a recession – hats off to him for taking a risk.

After the last guests evaporated, a group of us stayed behind, opened a Gevrey Chambertin and toasted the new company. We kicked about until midnight savouring the last drops and enjoying the moment.

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