Brit business abroad

There are many theories about the British love of wine, none of them conclusive.

What is clear though is that for a non-wine producing country, as it has been until the last half century, wine has always been part of national life, and as a common denominator there are few nations that can boast such a long-standing wine culture, and home to the oldest wine merchants.

It was the English who established themselves in wine producing regions to source the best material for export, and along with the Scottish and the Irish also feature prominently in Jerez, Malaga, Madeira and Oporto.

These resourceful families adapted to the life of their chosen foreign regions seamlessly, and there are many anecdotes and memoirs.

The Bartons, in Bordeaux since 1722, own Chateau Langoa Barton. They resisted confiscation by the Germans during the Second World War by pointing out that they were Irish.

The Blandy family has been in Madeira since 1811, and the Symingtons in Oporto for nearly a century.

When multinationals moved in between the 1920s and 1980s these families began selling out, but until then integration had been complete.

Many expat businessmen had taken local partners and intermarriage was common, even expected.

In my years in Jerez I knew countless members of the great sherry families who had been educated in the UK and spoke accentless English.

Regrettably all this is literally history, but the century was one of the most interesting eras for the British-Continental wine trade.

Author's note:

Many thanks to all those readers who pointed out the mistake in this column on 23 July, wrongly attributing foul-mouthery to Jamie Oliver instead of Gordon Ramsay. Apologies all round.