Sir Ian Botham’s wine range tasted and rated
Having been the first member of the drinks press to taste Sir Ian Botham’s new wine range, db editor-in-chief, Patrick Schmitt MW, brings you his views on the famous cricketer’s latest venture.
As previously reported by db, all the wines in the launch line-up hail from Australia, and have been arranged into three tiers, with, at the entry-level, the Botham All-Rounder (RRP £8), then The Botham Series (RRP £12) and the Sir Ian Botham Parcels (RRP £30).
Although Botham has selected fruit from right across Australia, including Margaret River at the far west of the country, he has decided to work with just three grapes for his inaugural range: Chardonnay for the whites, and then Shiraz and Cabernet for the reds, all of which are made as varietal wines.
He has promised db that there are more wines to come, including an Argentine Malbec, New Zealand and Australian Pinot Noirs, and a Provençal rosé. Other possibilities include a Marlborough Sauvignon, South African Chardonnay and an English Sparkling.
Despite his high regard for India’s cricketing feats, he told db that he isn’t planning on launching a wine from this country, although he has toured the nation’s Nashik vine-growing region.
The Botham-branded range of wines have all been crafted with Sir Ian’s involvement, be that the components of the blend for the entry-level All-Rounder range, to the choice of winemakers for the top-end Sir Ian Botham selection.
Botham – who is a long-time wine lover – has already been involved in wine-related projects, although always in Australia.
Most notable is his position as part owner of the Botham Merrill Willis label, which saw him and former cricketer Bob Willis joined forces with McLaren Vale winemaker Geoff Merrill as many as 19 years ago.
More recently, he held the position of brand ambassador for Hardy’s wines, itself a sponsor of the English cricket team.
All the wines have been produced in partnership with Benchmark Drinks and can be purchased online here.
For more detail on the wines, including tasting notes and scores, read on…
The Botham All-Rounder Chardonnay 2017
The entry level white in the range is made from Botham’s favourite white grape: Chardonnay.
Using wine from right across Australia, this Chardonnay was blended by Botham to meet his taste for ripe styles, be they white or red.
Speaking exclusively to db, Botham said that he had created the wine from a choice of 450 different Chardonnays, and had insisted the final blend contained 30% white wine from Margaret River in Western Australia, which is famous for its high-quality Chardonnays, often with flavours of stone fruit, such as peaches and apricots.
The rest of the wine comes from a range of parcels in South Eastern Australia.
Considering this is a white that retails for £8 in the UK, it is a high standard of Chardonnay, with lots of peach and apricot fruit along with a touch of apple and grapefruit, giving it a fresh sensation on the finish. It’s not an especially complex wine, but has an appealing youthful fruitiness and balancing acidity. Certainly a good introduction to Botham’s tastes.
The Botham All-Rounder Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Included in the entry-level range from Botham is a Cabernet Sauvignon, which, like all the wines in the All-Rounder line-up, is a blend of wines from parcels across Australia.
This one uses fruit from South Eastern Australia, including 30% from Coonawarra, one of the country’s most famous and sought-after sources of Cabernet.
The wine has a pleasing mix of black fruit, from blackcurrant and cherry, along with a touch of dried mint – perhaps related to that Coonawarra component. Despite Botham’s love of full-bodied wines, this Cabernet is medium-weight, with ripe fruit, but without being heavy or sweet, and has a nice dry gently tannic finish. A good balanced youthful Aussie Cab.
The Botham All-Rounder Shiraz 2017
With this, the third and final wine in the All-Rounder range, Botham appears to have hit a sweet spot, in terms of style and value for money. With attractive ripe black and blue fruit, this is a juicy wine, but without being too rich, and finishes with a bright plummy lift, a hint of spice, and a touch of dry tannin. The best of the All Rounders in our view.
The Botham 76 Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2017
Moving up in terms of price and quality, the next three wines in Botham’s new line-up are all regional expressions of Australia’s signature grapes – Chardonnay, Cabernet and Shiraz.
This tier, price at £12, has been named the Botham Series, with each wine celebrating a year that Botham performed a remarkable cricketing feat.
Starting with the 76 Series Margaret River Chardonnay, this represents the year he first scored 1000 runs in one season and played grade cricket for the illustrious Melbourne Cricket club.
As the name shows, this Chardonnay is sourced entirely from Western Australia’s Margaret River region, using fruit from two specific vineyards, one closer to the sea for more citrus flavours and the other further inland to bring more stone fruit characters.
The result is a structured, bright, medium-weight style of white wine with ripe fruit. Combining flavours of lemon and apple with apricots and melon, along with a note of peanuts from lees stirring and barrel maturation, this is a wine with many layers, and enough power to serve with a range of foods.
The 81 Series Barossa Shiraz 2017
Representing the year that Botham led England to victory in the Ashes, later dubbed the ‘Botham Ashes’, this red hails from several vineyards in the Barossa, and has, like the other wines in the line-up, been blended by Botham to create a wine he would be happy to serve at home.
This is another lovely and typically Australian expression of Shiraz, with masses of black fruit and an attractive plummy and gently spicy edge, although, unlike the All-Rounder, this has a touch of chocolate from barrel influence, and more power and persistence due to the superior grape sourcing, with some old vine fruit employed in the blend.
The 80 Series Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Named to represent the year that Botham became the first player in test history to score a century and take 10 wickets in the same match, the 80 Series Cabernet comes entirely from Coonawarra, which generally produces a relatively restrained style of red wine from this grape.
And, this wine certainly has plenty of classic fairly cool-climate Cabernet characters, from blackcurrant to mint and cedar. Indeed, it is typical of its source region, and has a medium-weight feel, with some dry fine-grained tannin to ensure a dry, mouth-watering finish. It is youthful and ready to drink, but has potential to evolve and gain complexity with another 3-5 years in the bottle.
Sir Ian Botham Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2017
While the All-Rounder tier represents a blend of wines right across Australia, and the Botham Series comprises a selection of wines from particular regions, the range-topping Sir Ian Botham wines are made up of special parcels, made in partnership with renowned Australian winemakers.
So, the Sir Ian Botham Chardonnay hails from one of the greatest places for this grape in Australia – the Adelaide Hills – and has been made with one of this region’s most respected names, Marty Edwards from The Lane Vineyard.
The wine is delicious, with a mix of peachiness but also citrusy brightness, along with a touch of toasty, slightly smoky oak, and a hint of lemon curd. It is still youthful, with layers of distinct flavours, and, although hard not to drink now, has the potential to age and improve.
Botham told db that he asked Marty to put the wine back into oak barriques for a further six weeks to give the Chardonnay more creaminess, making it a top-end white in keeping with the cricketer’s liking for fuller styles of wine.
Closure: Natural cork
Sir Ian Botham Barossa Valley Single Vineyard Shiraz 2013
Hailing as one might expect from the heart of the Barossa, Sir Ian blended this Single Vineyard Shiraz with Nick Badrice, head winemaker at Dorrien Estate, using fruit from its Estate Koch Road parcel, which is just south of Tanunda, and contains vines over 30 years of age.
The result is a wine with inviting scents and flavours of black cherry and ripe plums, complemented by a touch of vanilla and coffee notes from maturation in French oak. It is juicy but not fat, and gently spicy while ripe, and, although concentrated, it has a nice lift on the finish. Delicious.
Closure: Natural cork
Sir Ian Botham Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
The final wine in the current line-up is sourced from Botham’s great friend and winemaker Geoff Merrill, who the cricketer has worked with for almost 20 years under the Botham Merrill Willis label, shortened to BMW.
In fact, Botham admits that the Cabernet he was shown by Merrill for this range-topping red was so good, it was the only wine in the line-up that the cricketer didn’t “tamper” with.
And one can understand why, with this particular offer being a highlight in the range, combining intense blackcurrant fruit, and a hint of mintiness, along with notes of dark chocolate and cedar.
Although it is a powerful wine, it doesn’t show too much sweetness, or alcohol warmth, and has a mouth-cleansing fine dense tannic structure. It may be from the 2014 vintage, but it still seems youthful, with plenty of years ahead of it to evolve and develop further complexity.
Closure: Natural cork