For 42 years, I've done nothing but travel the world's vineyards, seeking extra-special wines for my customers.
In 1980 my old friend and mentor Jean Cassin sold me his vineyard in Castillon, Bordeaux. Now, three decades on, Château la Clarière, has just won the Prix d'Excellence ...and somehow got me decorated by the French Government.
My company, Laithwaites Wine, finds great little-known wines from all around the world and also makes a few itself. It remains proudly family-owned and is the world's most successful home-delivery wine merchant.
Friends and recent journeys
My Wine of the moment - La Cantera Reserva 2003
I am a very unfaithful drinker. Always drinking around. See a pretty new wine... gotta have it! So 'old faithful's' suffer a bit from me. I was told to do something about this.
So last night there we were with a bottle of dear old La Cantera which could well be the longest listed wine we have. I can't remember when it arrived. 1980? I remember Tony (Barrero) taking me to the Bodega San Valero in Carinena as a favour.
Tony sold me his Rioja but had got fed up of me always asking for cheaper and drove me further east down the valley...
Previously featured wine - Idyll Fiano 2011
Fiano is a grape more people need to know about. I came across it years ago on trips to Campania - we used to offer vineyard-visiting holidays on the Amalfi coast. Such times!!!
Previously featured wine - Song and Dance Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010
We had this wine tonight alongside a famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The two wines had a link. But I can't reveal that because this is another of those deals 'Insider Dan' gets for us.
Previously featured wine - Château Fleur La Mothe 2009
St Yzans is the village next to St Estephe and pronounced 'Santizzon' if I remember right. A classic Laithwaites 'next door to the greats' hunting ground. Not just Laithwaites.
Previously featured wine - La Croix Gaillard Morgon Cote du Py
"Ça Morgonne!" Is an expression you used to hear around the villages of Beaujolais. They used to spend their lives, it seemed to me, clustered in each other's cellars, sniffing and slurping each other's wines.
Previously featured wine - Patronus Barossa Shiraz 2009
Patronus just won some important gold at the IWSC in London so I thought I'd better take a bottle home.
Previously featured wine - Villa Farnia di Farnese Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
What was 'The Dog' in Peppard (Oxon) is now Angelo's 'Ruchetta in Peppard'. And we are blessed.
Previously featured wine - Albastrele Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Had two v. impressive Sauvignons last night. Barbara spotted they were Sauvignons but couldn't guess where they came from. Ho-ho!
Previously featured wine - The Jumper Sauvignon Blanc 2010
This is young James MacDonald's wine. As James seems to have been living with us for the last three months I have no option but to drink a fair bit of his wine. Thank God, he does know how to make lovely stuff.
Previously featured wine - Domaine Dupré 2010
The recent so-wonderful Laithwaites Show was nonetheless missing something - someone: my biggest mate in wine, Bernard the Burgundian. And his ever-wickedly grinning sidekick Alain Roy. These two have never failed me.
Previously featured wine - Quinta do Espirito Santo 2009
This, if I keep banging on about it could be a big winner. It's from a really lovely estate just north of Lisbon in wild rolling hills. The low white buildings on top of one of those hills, house many, many casks of mellowing red made of local grape varieties.
Previously featured wine - Champ des Etoiles Pinot Noir 2009
We have been watching the Pinot Noir very closely over the weekend and noticed some slight 'shanking' in the vineyard. This is where the berry starts to lose berry weight and fall to the ground and at this exact moment it is perfect for harvesting.
Previously featured wine - XV du Président 2010
The XV (pronounce it French - 'quinze' - or 'ex-vee', as you wish) has been a massive success for us since 1983. Now with Mark Hoddy behind it,the sales have rocketed. Mark's draconian selection process sees him out sampling every vineyard...
Previously featured wine - The Patriots Merlot 2010
The Patriots Merlot puts twice, maybe three times as much 'Merlot' in your glass. The young Chilean, Andrés Ilabaca, years ago got sent to Bordeaux to work with our 'Flying Winemaker' team in Castillon, making ... mostly Merlot.
Previously featured wine - Haut Rivage 2010
What's our wine of the Summer? Haut Rivage Négrette: a very pale pink. Partly accidental. A couple of cases came to our French house for a little reception in August and for reasons unrelated to the wine, much was left over.
Previously featured wine - Laithwaite Sauvignon Blanc 2010
The first white wine I ever sold was a pretty terrible, rather yellow Bordeaux Semillon. But then I found a man who had figured out how to make a crisp, fresh, green-hued Sauvignon Blanc; what they called then a 'modern' style of dry white.
Previously featured wine - Wilson Gunn Pax 2007
Wilson Gunn Pax 2007 McLaren Vale Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre has aged far better than I think Henry ever expected. I remember he worried a lot about this wine at first.
Previously featured wine - PS Pétillant de Syrah 2009
'PS'? 'Party Special'? 'Pink Sparkler'? 'Post Script' (to a tough day)? Or the sound of the pulled cork? Actually it stands for 'Pétillant de Syrah', a wine created by Laurent Breban in Brignoles, Provence.
Previously featured wine - South Ridge Cuvée Merret 2007
My belief in the future of English sparkling wine was always strong. Then I met Mike Roberts with his South Ridge - and belief became absolute certainty. So I planted Laithwaites' own sparkling vineyard at Theale.
Previously featured wine - Opi Malbec 2010
Opi is what his baby sister called Rodolfo Sadler. He's never lost the nickname because it fits perfectly. Such a gentle, shy, smiling, affable man, modest to a fault.
Previously featured wine - Andrew McPherson's The Full Fifteen 2009
Andrew McPherson is coming over to the UK to meet the customers this month. Fantastic! We at Laithwaites all like Andrew A LOT. There's a lot to like ... and that's not a quip about size! Me? Would I?