Close this search box.

Champagne for Breakfast Was Just the Beginning

By Karen MacNeil
March 23, 2018

A Guest Blog

by Bartholomew Broadbent
March 23, 2018

Note from Karen: This has got to be one of the most amusing reads you’ll have all year. In this guest blog, importer Bartholomew Broadbent describes a day in the drinking life of his father, the famous English wine merchant Michael Broadbent. Broadbent’s account first appeared in The Drinks Business  in response to the article about the massive (nearly 7x) increase in size of wine glasses in Great Britain. (We also reported this in WineSpeed). Here’s Bartholomew Broadbent’s portrayal: 

“If you’ve been to one of my seminars, chances are you’ve heard the amusing story I tell about my father, which goes like this: ‘Though my parents were in the wine business, they aren’t big drinkers. Except that they always have Champagne for breakfast because orange juice is so boring without Champagne. Then nothing until lunch, except if you went to see my father at Christie’s [auction house], you’d be given Madeira because their coffee was so bad. But otherwise nothing before lunch except for a Bloody Mary. They’d then have white and red wine with lunch and Port after, but that’s not drinking, it is part of the meal. But nothing else until dinner, except that the Christie’s afternoon tea was so bad that you’d get Madeira instead. Before dinner, they would have one drink, either a gin and tonic or whiskey and then, of course, white and red wine with dinner followed by Port. However, because of my father’s heart, his doctor told him, ‘you have to have something to drink every day before bed,’ so then he has a Grand Marnier.’”

“Of course, most people don’t believe this story but it is true and, if people believe it, they think that my parents must be total alcoholics and drunk all day. What I don’t tell them is that the size of a wine glass is totally different. As this [Drinks Business] article shows, in the 1990s, the wine glass sizes started increasing dramatically.
“It is shocking that you go to a restaurant these days and they pour four glasses per bottle. Not only is that too much wine, especially with today’s higher alcohols, but it makes the cost of a glass of wine too high. In Europe, a wine pour is smaller and therefore the glass of wine is much cheaper. In fact, when I tell people that there are 7 – 8 glasses in each bottle, they don’t understand. They think there is a maximum of 5, more likely 4.

“When I have lunch by myself, I like to order a half bottle of wine. When my parents were drinking wine for lunch, they would share a half bottle and there would be some left over. So, to the story of my parents, the Champagne at breakfast is not more than an ounce or two max. The elevenses Madeira wouldn’t have been more than about an ounce. The Bloody Mary before lunch wasn’t more than an ounce of gin [never vodka] and the two glasses of wine at lunch may have been two to three ounces each, or if only one wine, not more than about 4 ounces. And it goes on. Of course, my father was never drinking 15% alcohol wines either. Chances are that the wines were not more than 13%. Another fact I throw out in wine tastings is that at two 4-ounce glasses of 12.5% wine, in many countries, you are under the drink drive limit, whereas 2 4-ounce glasses at 14.5% you are over the drink drive limit.
“So, it is very interesting to read this study about wine glass sizes. It makes sense that the size of servings of wine have increased when the size of the glass has grown so much. I look at the old Victorian wine glasses which I inherited from my grandmother and they are, frankly, too small for a wine serving of today’s standards, even when pouring a modest sized wine serving.
“The fact is, my parents did, and my father still does, drink this routine every day. However, I have never seen my parents drunk. They might have had too much to drink on occasion when they went out to big functions, but never enough that they were unable to drive. Though, as a precaution, my father made my mother sit in the back seat, and he put on a chauffeur’s hat just in case the police took interest in his driving, they wouldn’t think to stop a lady’s chauffeur! At age 90, my father has stopped driving but continues healthily drinking!”