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Week in pictures: 20-26 January

This week in pictures features Patrick Schmitt MW at the National Gallery, Douglas Blyde at the Bocuse d’Or, Louis Thomas tasting whisky on Burns Night, and Don Julio teaming up with Skepta.

Vega Sicilia/Berkmann Cellars

On 23 January 2024, db editor-in-chief Patrick Schmitt MW joined Vega Sicilia to commemorate over a century and a half of excellence in winemaking, at the same time as the National Gallery, London, celebrated 200 years of excellence in art, and Berkmann Wine Cellars celebrates 60 years at the heart of hospitality.

This historic occasion brought together some of the finest wines and most exceptional Spanish artworks under one roof. The evening was hosted by the CEO of Tempos Vega Sicilia, Pablo Álvarez, and the Group Technical Director, Gonzalo Iturriaga de Juan alongside Berkmann Wine Cellars’ CEO Rupert Berkmann and Purchasing Director, Alex Hunt MW.

Speaking at the anniversary event, Rupert Berkmann said “it is a privilege to be hosting such an event with our esteemed producer-partners, Tempos Vega Sicilia, and to commemorate the founding of Berkmann Wine Cellars by my father Joseph Berkmann in 1964 – when the trade looked very different from today”

Pablo Alvarez, CEO of Tempos Vega Sicilia, described Vega Sicilia as “160 years young”, saying that as the owner of the estate, “we will be looking to improve the quality for the next 160 years.”

Bocuse d’Or 

The Bocuse d’Or is colloquially known in the restaurant industry as “the culinary equivalent of the Olympics.” To raise money to get a UK team to the podium for the first time, and for The Cancer Awareness Trust, Raffles London at The OWO hosted a £1,500 per person fundraiser dinner and auction. This was catered precisely by the head chefs from all eight of the UK’s three Michelin starred restaurants, brought together for the first time in one kitchen, with wines poured, but not chosen by, by their sommeliers.

The idea for the dinner arose from the mighty Clare Smyth, President of Team UK, and the only British female chef to be awarded the full compliment of stars for her Notting Hill restaurant, Core by Clare Smyth, now replete with a whisky bar.

Realised by Marco Zampese of Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, canapés including a smoked duck doughnut with celeriac and black truffle were paired with the only English wine of the entire event, being Hillside No. 3, a sparkling pour from boutique Oxfordshire winery, Hundred Hills.

Other pairings orchestrated by Christophe Gallot, Director of Sales, Berkmann Wine Cellars proved controversial. For example, given the restaurant’s arguably myopic stated policy generally excludes non-French wines, Peterhead megrim sole fillet with truffle flavoured mousse baked in puff pastry with vin jaune and langoustine sauce by Alain Roux of The Waterside Inn, was allocated a mature Italian in the form of Gavi di Gavi (Broglia Vecchia Annata 2015). Meanwhile, the customary match of English sparkling wine with the hand-dived Orkney scallop with citrus beurre blanc and caviar by Jean Philippe-Blondet of Alian Ducasse at The Dorchester was declined – to the surprise of the chef. Representing the meal’s only red wine choice, 60-day dry aged, grass-fed beef with evocatively shaped Chinese artichokes by Matt Abé of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay met Ridge Geyserville 2020.

Hopefully with a nod to the UK’s bounty of homegrown liquid assets appearing in the glass beside their cooking, to make their entry a true flagbearer, UK team, Tom Phillips, executive chef of the newly opened Restaurant Story which has gained a storey, and commis chef Harry van Lierop from the Ledbury, will go on to represent the UK at Bocuse d’Or Europe in Trondheim, Norway on 20th March, supported by coach, Ian Musgrave, executive sous chef at The Ritz London who achieved seventh place at last year’s Bocuse d’Or World Final.

Preceding a set by Louise Redknapp (formerly of “Eternal”), lots to fund the UK team’s progress, and The Cancer Awareness Trust, in acknowledgement of food’s role in healthy living, which is something the UK team is keen to foster, included a VIP home cooked dinner party by the UK team and Smyth.


Cask Trade Burns Night Whisky Experience

Senior staff writer Louis Thomas attended Cask Trade’s Burns Night celebration held atop Tower Bridge. Tasting drams from Speyside, the Cotswolds and even Israel, as well as plenty of expressions finished in wine barrels, all while enjoying the view over the Thames, it was a fitting way to mark Damp January in style.


Don Julio 1942

(L to R) Adam Strawford, Jude Carmichael and Skepta attend the premiere of “Tribal Mark” a film by Skepta, with Don Julio 1942 and Everyman Cinema

Stars showed up to celebrate the launch of Skepta’s first film Tribal Mark. A coming-of-age short film and the first instalment in a wider cinematic universe centered around the Black Secret Service.

The film is co-directed and executively produced by Joseph Adenuga, known globally as Skepta, long-time collaborator Dwight Okechukwu and their production company 1PLUS1 Production. Tribal Mark was made by a 90% minority ethnic cast and production team, a first of its kind in British cinema.

The afterparty saw guests enjoying tequila cocktails from Don Julio 1942, and a DJ set featuring music from the film, including the theme track Jangrova by Skepta, ODUMODUBLVCK and Idris Elba.

Mermaid Gin

Team Mermaid Atlantic have completed the 3,000 nautical mile row across the Atlantic in the World’s Toughest Row.

The three team members, all native to the Isle of Wight, Xavier Baker, co-founder of The Isle of Wight Distillery, producers of Mermaid Gin, Chris Manion, owner of i-surf and Paul Berry, Ventnor longshoreman and firefighter, crossed the finish line at English Harbour, Antigua having been at sea for 43 days and 17 hours and 58 minutes.

The team arrived in Antigua having rowed from La Gomera, Canary Islands last night at 22:35 local time. The team finished third in the trio category and have raised over £15,500 for three marine charities, with donations still coming in via GiveWheel

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