Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Interview with Sir Nick Faldo at European wine collection launch

When you think of wine, you may not immediately think 'golf'. But you'd be surprised at the number of golfers out there with their names on a bottle or two. There's Luke Donald, Ernie Els, David Frost, Retief Goosen, Cristie Kerr, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam, and Mike Weir to name a few!

And now, one of the most successful golfers of all time, and the only golfer to ever receive a knighthood, Sir Nick Faldo, has launched a range of six European wines in collaboration with wine merchant Milton Sandford.

The Faldo European Tour Collection features six wines, each representing a ‘major’ Faldo won: three Opens and three Masters. The labels feature Faldo’s crest, with the claret and green stripes representing his wins. The claret is the claret jug of the Open, and the green represents the green jacket of the Masters.

The range comprises two whites and four reds: a Sauvignon de Touraine from Domaine Renaudie, Loire, France (£10.99); a Chablis from Domaine Brocard, Burgundy, France (£15.50); a Chateauneuf du Pape, from Domaine Berthet-Rayne, Rhone, France (£22.50); a Valpolicella Ripasso, from Le Tobele, Italy (£13.50); a Rioja from Bodegas Baigorri, Spain (£15.50); and a Barolo from Bussia Monti, Piedmont, Italy (£44.99).

Lauren Boyes, wine consultant at Milton Sandford, told me that although the wines taste good on their own, they were designed to be paired with food. And they do taste good! My favourites were the Chablis, which has a lovely minerality and a rich apple note; the Chateauneuf du Pape, which is big with dark fruits and would be perfect with roast beef on a Sunday; and the Valpolicella Ripasso, another intense wine full of spice and chocolate and cherry.

I sat down with Sir Nick to discuss his new wine collaboration, his unerring determination and commitment, and an unexpected link to Sex and the City!

How did the collaboration with Milton Sandford happen?

Over the past couple of summers we have been tasting, learning about my tastes, and then Milton Sandford presented me with all the different regions, and we had a couple of fun tastings and condensed it down.

How much input have you had on the wines?

Total input. I’ve tasted everything. I love having taste tests whether it’s chocolate, steak, wine, spaghetti... When you can do this kind of thing! It’s been a fun project, working to see what I like, and we’ve all enjoyed the process.

How did you decide on those six regions?

We wanted to stick with Europe. I had previously been involved with Australian wines [in the early 00s Nick released a red and two whites with Australian producer Wingara]. So many other golfers have gone in other directions: Luke Donald has Californian wines, the South African boys have promoted South African wines, so it makes sense for an English man and a European golfer to promote European wine.

Have you always loved wine?

I have always enjoyed wine, and it is easier with my lifestyle now. I was very disciplined as a golfer. I would only have one glass and not get carried away, which maybe I can a little bit more now. At least when I’m at home, I can have a bottle there and have a splash at lunch and a splash in the evening.

In the early days it was all about Riojas but it’s much more about Pinots now, but I’m learning. I’m being educated as well. I’ve been trying Ripassos around the world, and Barolo I’ve only really drunk for the past three or four years. I’m a novice drinker really.

There are a few golfers that have gone into the wine world. Do you think there’s something that draws golfers into wine making?

Well I don’t know about wine making, although David Frost is a maker. We’re all part of golf clubs and that has been our life. It’s been my life for 40 years and I’ve lived in hotels for 40 years. Golf is always about a drink after the round. You didn’t do it in my day but for the average club golfer, that’s a very important part of it. I’m also involved in hotel groups and it’s all part of entertainment for corporate brands around the world. It’s a nice, fun thing to be involved with, and it’s a natural synergy. You hope people come up to you and say, ‘I had a bottle of your red the other night and it was alright mate’.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking wine?

A lot of water. You have to hydrate, you have to drink a lot of water. Louis Hamilton said, ‘water, sleep and nutritious food’.

Do you have a favourite cocktail?

I actually like a nice Whisky Mac, and the only one I do enjoy is a Cosmopolitan. Sitting there with my pink Cosmo... it may not be particularly manly, but boy does it taste good. My daughter has got me on a mission to make an Elderflower Tom Collins so I’ve been researching that for her for Christmas.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?

I’ve had some great meals, but the names of places are a blur. We often sit and say, 'what was the best starter, or main course, or steak, or pasta'... I had some great food in Tokyo, with live shrimp leaping around on the table in front of you. Luckily, apart from raw oysters, I like everything.

You work on so many different ventures: broadcasting, design, charity, wine, do you love being busy?

I’m a big believer in wanting to keep moving. When I’m busy I’m very busy but I can switch off. I have a very cool job in television with my biggest year ahead next year. I’ve got around 20 tour events, three majors, the Olympics, and the Ryder Cup, so that’s quite a challenge. The design side is picking up too and we’ve got projects in all four corners of the world. My Faldo Series [not for profit organisation giving opportunity to young people through golf, and helping to raise the profile of golf] is going well too. I’m a believer that you have to keep moving. If you don’t use it you’re going to lose it.

Do you still have time to play golf?

I play golf socially and I still like to practice, but I do question it sometimes! We have a huge event coming up in December in America called the Father and Son. We jokingly call it the fifth major – playing with your son is intense. We think we’re going to win but we don’t. I said to Matthew [Faldo’s son], ‘we have to practice, we can’t just practice for five minutes and think we’ll win’. We’ve been saying that for five years now, but we have a good laugh.

When you were a young golfer who were your influences?

I started through watching TV, watching Jack Nicklaus. My dad took me to the Open when I was 16 and I watched Jack and Arnold Palmer and Gary Player and Lee Trevino and Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf and I brought all those swings back to little Welwyn Garden City and I practiced, and I copied them, I mimicked them. That was huge. I was teaching myself visualisation and the feel of the game of golf through other people. I thought that was unique, but 40 years later I interviewed Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller and they copied other people as well. Everyone mimics. I’m a big fan of teaching people that. They don’t realise the strength of it.

If you can’t do it and you never have it and never will, use someone else and put another golfer in front of you. That’s a great way to get over nerves. If you’re totally negative and don’t think you can do it, you won’t, so get someone to do it in front of your eyes and copy them.

What’s your best memory from your career?

Luckily I’ve got more than one. Obviously winning those majors was the most important, and the Ryder Cup victories, but I think the best memory really as you get older is that I can watch golf on television and think, ‘I could do that’. I could charge around on a Sunday afternoon and beat everybody. That’s the best feeling. When you’re doing it you’re so tied up in it, but sitting down five years later and thinking, ‘wow, I could finish a tournament off and win it and play with determination and nerve’,.. That’s the biggest thing. I don’t know if you’re born with a bit of that or you develop it. Mine was worked on as well. You have to have self belief. There’s nothing better than having 100% self belief in whatever you’re doing, and you go off and do it and hang on for the ride.

What would be your one piece of advice to a young golfer?

It’s knowledge and determination. Sport is a fantastic career. If you want wealth or fame or trophies, whichever one drives you, it is down to commitment. You have to have a passion for something that you’re prepared to stick at and be out there all day. I practiced all day. I left in the dark and came home in the dark.

I get parents coming up to me saying, ‘how much do they need to practice?’, but if you’re asking that question it’s not enough. You hear stories of David Beckham after practice kicking goals for another two hours, or Steve Redgrave out in that rowing boat for years to win a gold. The commitment is so impressive. If commitment is bred into you then you’re lucky. If you’re naturally committed to something then you have a massive leg up on the other people who think, ‘this is a bit of an effort.’

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