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The Queen, the Sommelier, and the Persian Empire

We have now witnessed the passing of the second Elizabethan Era. Much has been written lately about the Queen, her reign, and even her love for corgis. I have always appreciated stories where the world of the Queen and world of wine meet. According to sources, she was known to imbibe daily and her favorite tipple was of course Dubonnet (a fortified wine, it was also her mother’s favorite drink). My own pursual of becoming a sommelier was inspired by overhearing Master Sommelier Larry Stone tell guests at our restaurant that he was flying out the next morning to work on the wine cellar for the Queen’s third son. I was immediately intrigued with the thought that wine knowledge could lead to such unique opportunities. I was hooked and haven’t looked back – here are a few of my favorite intersections. . .

The Royal Warrant. A stamp that reads “By Appointment” signifies that this brand has been chosen to be used in the royal households due to their quality and the integrity of their business practices. The warrant is good for five years and must be renewed when expired or when a monarch passes. Each company that holds the warrant for the Queen, must now reapply for a warrant from King Charles as theirs is now null and void. Many products carry these, but for wine – it’s all Champagne - Lanson, Pol Roger, Moet & Chandon, Bollinger, Krug, Laurent-Perrier, Roederer, Mumm, and Veuve Clicquot.

Berry, Bros, and Rudd – the oldest wine and spirit merchant in Britain is just a stone’s throw distance from St James Palace and a quick walk to Buckingham Palace. Started by a woman, the Widow Bourne, they have traded from this shop since 1698. In fact, if you go in, you will see the large scale that was once used to weigh coffee beans (it started as a coffee purveyor) and the poet Lord Byron was known to weigh himself on it. On one visit, myself being heavily pregnant, I politely declined the offer to hop on and do so myself. Holding two Royal Warrants, one for the Queen and one for Prince of Wales, they have been the wine suppliers for the Royal Family since King George III. It’s a must see on a trip to London.

The Royal Household Wine Committee is group of wine experts who purchase for both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Jancis Robinson, being one of the famed experts on this committee, tastes over 10,000 wines a year. They are responsible for maintaining the cellars and putting some items out to auction if they won’t be consumed in time. Highly regarded for her wine knowledge, you may even have some of her books in your library. She has her own dedicated shelf in my own library as I rely on her books heavily for my wine studies.

The Court of Master Sommelier service standards – Bryan Julyan founded the Court of Master Sommeliers in 1977 in London. The level of service standards is so that one could elegantly and correctly serve the Queen of England at the drop of a hat. The flow, the decorum, and the knowledge of where to be at the table during certain points of service – as well as the exacting levels of knowledge needed – all are based on service points for taking care of the Queen.

In 1971, the anniversary dinner to honor the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian empire was held in Iran. Royalty from around the world attended; although invited, the Queen was unable to be there. In her stead, Prince Phillip and Princess Anne attended and tasted the first vintage of Dom Perignon Rose – the 1959 vintage. The Shah of Iran purchased most of this vintage to serve as the toast wine for his 600 guests. As attendee Orson Welles said, “This was no party of the year, it was the celebration of 25 centuries”.

As the Carolean age of King Charles III begins, I am curious as to which Champagnes will keep their warrant and which English wines (as Charles is a longtime supporter) will gain one. Buying the wines with the coveted marker allows one to drink like royalty, to enjoy the service of someone educated through the Court of Master Sommeliers is to be taken care of like a king or queen, and to utilize the vast knowledge of Jancis Robinson is to tap into one of the palates that curates the cellars of royalty.

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