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Clarets to raise money. . .and Tower Bridge

Wine merchant Tony Laithwaite will recreate history in May, when The Irene, a 103ft restored wooden sailing freighter takes to the seas for a 14 day voyage from Bordeaux to London carrying a cargo of 9,072 bottles of a limited edition claret. The wine will be auctioned for charity.

The Irene first carried cargos of wine on this route when she was launched in 1907. This time her departure will be marked by waterside celebrations at the Laithwaites’ Bordeaux winery, Le Chai au Quai - where the claret was produced. 

Le Chai winemaker, Mark Hoddy will accompany the wines on their journey to London and post daily ‘tweets’, via the Laithwaites’ website, of his ship-board adventure.

Tony Laithwaite and his son Will, plan to board The Irene in Cowes for the final leg of her journey.  Once on the Thames in London, Tower Bridge will be raised for her to pass beneath, before she moors at her ultimate destination of Butler’s Wharf on May 18.

The cargo of wine will then be transferred to Laithwaites’ flagship London store, The Arch at Vinopolis near London Bridge, which will be the venue for a private fine wine auction in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Laithwaites will auction a selection of fine wines donated by some of the most famous names in wine, such as Château Lafite, and Château Ausone, together with a selection from their own cellars. Also under the hammer will be a cookery masterclass course at the Novelli Academy in Hertfordshire – donated by Jean-Christophe Novelli

Tony Laithwaite says: “Claret and the British have a shared tradition going back hundreds of years. What else should we drink with our roast beef?  I have always felt strongly that this glorious traditional trade should never be forgotten. Our 2009 Bordeaux is such a fantastic vintage I knew it deserved to be taken to Britain the old way.”

“We are aiming to raise at least £10,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support at the fine wine auction, which makes me even more proud of our 'Le Chai Voyage', Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2009.  If you would like to help us raise the money, please visit our JustGiving page to make a donation.”

Le Voyage du Chai au Quai 2009 is available from Laithwaites in specially made six-bottle wooden caskets - £77.94 - £12.99 per bottle

For around 600 years, claret has been enjoyed in the UK.  Until the coming of railways, wine, due to its weight, could only be economically transported by water. 

1 April 2011 - Felicity Murray