BL16 - Page 61

This page and opposite: A
vintage celebrating Botham’s
legendary victories in the
1981 Ashes series; (top)
Botham first learned about
Australian wines on frequent
trips to the continent in the
1980s with the England team;
Botham introduces his wines
to friends at Lord’s
Australia’s most celebrated winemakers,
many whom he’s known for years. They
include Geoff Merrill, who has worked
with him to blend an intense and
focussed Cabernet Sauvignon from the
Barossa Valley for one of his top-tier
‘Sir Ian Botham’ wines. Botham also has
a range of regional specialities under his
‘Series’ label, and critically-acclaimed
entry-level wines under the ‘AllRounder’ label.
Each has been a true partnership.
Botham met Marty Edwards of The Lane
Vineyard in a hotel lobby in Adelaide,
where Marty was armed with three
different barrel samples for him to try.
The first two weren’t right at all. “But he
did that deliberately, because the third
was absolutely delicious,” Botham
remembers. Even so, while it was
delicious, it was not quite right. “So I
Botham had plenty
of chances to learn
about Australian
wine as a cricketer
told him I thought it needed another
six months in the barrel. You know, to
round it out, make it a bit broader. More
like the style of Chardonnay I like to
drink.” This was a bold request.
Marty Edwards isn’t just an awardwinning winemaker in his own right,
famed for a linear, focussed style of
wine. His first career was in the
Australian Special Boat Service. “If I’d
known I was talking to a former member
of the Special Forces, I might not have
been so determined,” Botham laughs.
But Botham was right. This year the
Chardonnay was placed in the definitive
Top 100 Australian Wines List by
leading critic and Australia expert,
Matthew Jukes.
It’s a pugnacious, determined
confidence familiar to anyone who
followed Botham’s first career in cricket.
Or his second career as a commentator.
He remains one of the greatest allrounders of all time, with 5,200 Test
Match runs and 383 Test wickets. His
Botham Series wines recall those Tests,
particularly the ’81 (Shiraz) where he
was Man of the Series, scored 399 runs,
took 34 wickets, held 12 catches and
captained only the second side in
history to recover from following on to
win a Test (with bookmakers offering
odds of 500/1 against them), eventually
recovering The Ashes.
He’s still an uncompromising voice
in cricket. At a recent wine event hosted
at the Australian High Commission in
London, Botham pulled no punches
about the return to the game of Steve
Smith and Dave Warner at this year’s
World Cup after using sandpaper on the
ball. “I hate cheating, and that’s what
they did. They cheated”
On stage, Botham cheerfully answers
all the cricket questions. Yet off stage
one of his friends says, “He’ll always
answer the questions, but I know he gets
a bit frustrated. He just wants to talk
about wine these days. It’s his passion.
He’ll talk about the cricket. But he
always wants to bring it back to wine.”
Soon he’ll have his chance. Botham
points out that this Ashes Series will be
his “last involvement in cricket
commentating”. And now it’s not just
him, as winemaking is a family
business. At the BBC Good Food Show
last year, a visitor came up to the Sir Ian
Botham Wines stand and asked the rep
if Ian was “really involved, or just put
his names on the wine?” “Oh I can
assure you my husband is very much
involved,” replied the rep, Lady (Kath)
Botham. “But if you have any technical
questions, you might have to ask my
daughter,”, motioning to Sara. “She’s
more of an expert there”. The last time
we meet, Sara and her (wine merchant)
husband Darren have just had their baby
Arthur. It’s possible Arthur will grow up
talking about his “winemaker grandad…
Sir Ian Botham”.

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