SIR IAN BOTHAM Launching my own wine range feels better than scoring a hundred at Lord’s
precisely in the morning and I would pick it up and say: ‘Morning John, what time would you like me up there?’
“The answer, without fail: ‘As soon as possible. And bring your thirst with you’.”
By then, as well as his work as a cricket commentator, Arlott had gained a reputation as a wine connoisseur with a weekly newspaper column devoted to the grape. And if their relationship had begun with a teenage Botham carrying his friend’s bottles up the stairs at Somerset, a decade down the line the cricketer found himself essentially doing the same thing again.
When Botham arrived at his friend’s house each morning he would be greeted by Arlott and boxes of wine. Wines that had been sent to him by producers from all over France that Arlott would then write a report on and send back to them. “My first task would be to take the wines that had arrived, which could be anything from six bottles to 36 – it really could be – and take them down to the cellar,” he says.
“Then when I came back up he would have this little wicker basket that could hold six bottles and he would have already written down from what he had seen what he wanted bringing back up from the cellar. Then we would taste accordingly what he wanted to taste. I don’t remember a spittoon then. He was very knowledgeable.
“I would then have lunch with him, which more often than not my wife would join us at and then in the afternoon I would pop back and see the family. Then at four o’clock I would pick him up and take him for a little drive around the island.”
If those memories are now tinged with sadness – Arlott died in 1991 aged 77 – they also instilled in Botham not only a love of the grape but the kind of knowledge of viticulture that he is now putting into effect with his own range of wines.
And he says that whenever he returns to the Channel Islands he has a very particular way of toasting the memory of his friend. “Whenever we used to go back to Alderney we used to go to the Rose & Crown up the hill and ALL ROUNDER: Sir Ian Botham alongside wine writer Richard Siddle; at Buckingham Palace with wife Kathy and grandsons Regan and James after being knighted in 2007; and letting loose for England at Lord’s in 1985 Basil the South African landlord would always have a very good selection of wines in there,” he says.
“I would have to get one with a cork. Then I would take the bottle, often with my father-inlaw, and go down to John’s grave where we would sit and drink it reminiscing about him. We would take the empty bottle home but always leave the cork. So there’s quite a few corks there now. Even to this day we do that.”
Richard Siddle is editor of drinks business website the-buyer.net
For more info on Sir Ian Botham’s range go to bothamwines.com