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Wine List: Why summer race days call for Champagne

Like so many events synonymous with British summer, Newmarket’s July Festival would be incomplete without Champagne, writes Hamish Wakes-Miller, manager of Cambridge’s Majestic store

Champagne is synonymous with Newmarket's July Festival says Hamish Wakes-Miller (57071185)
Champagne is synonymous with Newmarket's July Festival says Hamish Wakes-Miller (57071185)

I have three passions in life: wine, beautiful women and horse racing. In July we can celebrate the treble.

Having briefly brought out my Panama hat for the warm Craven Meeting back in April on the Rowley Mile, we now endure the stop-start to the English summer and planning outside events with trepidation for the frequent precipitation.

However July brings elegance, class and style to Newmarket racetrack. We are spoilt to have the charming old July Course with fresh ground and outstanding viewing, as well as the bonus of some long summer evening post-race concerts. The paddock and the winner’s enclosure at the July Course are so beautifully manicured with stunning flowers and heaving, heavenly scented hanging baskets.

The intimacy is elevated as the jockeys walk from the weighing room through the crowds adorned in their flamboyant silks. Shouts of ‘Come on Frankie’, ‘Good luck James’ etc bring the jockeys closer to their audience. There is a friendly,family atmosphere at the July Course.

Champagne has always been strongly associated with horse racing. A wine for celebration or for drowning sorrows. Lily Bollinger, one of the magnificent ladies of Champagne, who ran Champagne Bollinger from 1941-1971 had more than one use of Champagne: “I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it - unless I’m thirsty.”

A dear old friend, Teddy Davies, developed a cunning distribution plan to build the brand of Krug Champagne on every top horse racing track in the UK in the 1990s. When I dined with Teddy in the Jockey Club Rooms, I was astounded that the butler was constantly at our table as the waiters were sent over to different tables to offer free Champagne to various friends and acquaintances.

The rumour that Teddy gave away more Champagne than he sold was not far from the truth. When I asked Teddy what other distribution he had tied up for Krug, his eloquent reply was: “My dear boy, in the evenings we go clubbing.” Hence the reason why Krug appeared on the list at Annabel’s, Tramp and all the top London clubs.

This ‘plan’ for distribution is similar to a recent brand of Whispering Angel Rose being distributed via the charismatic owner Sasha Lichine. The clear strategy was to make sure that Whispering Angel was seen in Nikki Beach and the most stylish bars in Saint Tropez, Saint Barth, Monaco, Courchevel etc.

The trickle-down effect for style marketing brings journalists and influencers along for the ride. So if you see me at the Darley July Cup Meeting on Saturday, July 9, I will more than likely be

sporting a Panama hat, wearing a blazer and enjoying Moet & Chandon Champagne with my beautiful, long-suffering, resilient, elegant, forgiving, tolerant wife. Come and say ‘Hello’ and share a

glass of bubbles!

Hamish’s Wines of the Month

Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial NV, £32.99 as part of the Majestic mixed six

We sell an enormous amount of top quality Champagne at Majestic Cambridge, but we always seem to come back to the quality and finesse of Moet & Chandon. Pure classy quality.

Peyrassol ‘Reserve des Templiers Rose’, £9.99 as part of the Majestic mixed six

Crisp, refreshing, not overtly fruity, clean, dry style of rosé. Perfect when the sun comes out.

Chateau Batailley 2015, Pauillac, Cru Classe, £54.99 as part of the Majestic mixed six

Batailley always performs exceptionally well in blind tastings of top Left Bank Bordeaux wines. This great wine from a great vintage ticks all the boxes. Still value compared to some more illustrious neighbours, it’s a wine to decant and air for a couple of hours, whilst the roast is doing its thing, or to tuck away in the cellar and check (sample) over the next 10 years.

Hamish manages the Majestic Wine store in Cambridge. Majestic Wine also has stores in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Bishop’s Stortford.

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