British Mad Dogs

16 May 2008

On 25 April two British wine enthusiasts, also members of Slow Food Brighton and Lewes in the UK, set off from the English Wine Centre in Alfriston on a 1600 km ride across France to Northern Italy, arriving on 14 May in Bra, the headquarters of Slow Food.

Henry Butler and Andy Martin, known as the ‘Mad Dogs’, organized the tandem bike ride in aid of raising funds for the Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice near Arundel in West Sussex – the only hospice in Sussex for children, which relies on private donations for over 95% of its running costs. Along the journey, the men were accompanied by their partners, Kate Butler and Karen Lancaster, who took turns driving their camper van which safely guarded the British wines they had brought over with them to present at various local producers in France and Italy.

On reaching Bra, a regional meal had been arranged by Matteo Ascheri at the Osteria Muri Vecchi (Cantine Ascheri Giacomo), where there was also a tasting of the British wines. The four bottles were; a sparkling wine ‘Breaky Bottom’, Cuvée Alex Mercier 2003 (East Sussex); a dry white wine ‘Tandem’, 2006 made by students in the vineyards at Plumpton College, the only college in the UK to offer courses in Wine production and Wine Business; another dry white ‘Gribble Bridge’, Biddenden Vineyards 2006 (Kent); and sparkling wine ‘Bloomsbury’ Cuvée Merret 2005 (Ridgeview).

At the dinner Henry Butler, who owns a family run wine shop in Brighton called The Butlers Wine Cellar, thanked present friends and family for their support and to the Italians round the tables he said he was ‘Sorry for not being able to speak Italian, but there are great men, like Carlo Petrini, who sometimes need a translator.’ He continued ‘We decided to do this tandem ride after drinking wine as we usually do, Ascheri Wine in particular, and it has turned out to be a unique adventure. We wanted to raise funds for a cause which was local to us, as our Government is more interested in doing business overseas than in the UK.

‘My family run a wine business. We sell wine. But selling wine for a living is boring, it’s the sharing of the wine that’s fantastic and this is where our enthusiasm lies. We believe in the philosophy of Slow Food and we were excited to visit Bra. For me, coming to Barolo is like coming to heaven. We are happy the trip has been received well at all the places we have stopped and even if you don’t like our wines, it was important that we didn’t come empty handed.’

Despite fatigue and numbness, Henry and Andy successfully met their target of completing the tandem in 19 days, which meant they had to ride for over 100km every day. So far their efforts have been rewarded by raising £10,000 ($5000) in sponsorship money, a sum they hope to increase on their return to the UK.

Congratulations and good luck Mad Dogs.

For more information or to sponsor the Henry and Andy please visit: www.maddogsandenglishwine.com

Victoria Blackshaw

[email protected]

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