The NSPCC City Fine Wine Challenge 2015

by Andrew Hooper

Thursday 26th February 2015, and the great and the good of the City gathered at RIBA in Portland Place for the 19th NSPCC City Fine Wine Challenge. Proceedings were kicked off by CFWC Chairman Andy Briggs, who loudly professed his credentials as a LEA & SANDEMAN customer to all who would listen. Good man. NSPCC Director Peter Wanless took a few moments to remind us why we were there – to raise heaps of money for the NSPCC. A moving and inspirational speech from NSPCC volunteer Karen McManus introduced the Childline Schools Service, an innovative reach out programme to uncover and deal with abuse at a much earlier stage, and it was this Service in particular that the evening’s proceedings were raising money for.

Having had consciences pricked and, hopefully, wallets loosened the wine end of the evening commenced.

The centrepiece of the CWFC is a tasting of nine wines (which LEA & SANDEMAN are glad to donate), presented blind and linked to a wine quiz. If that sounds a bit high brow, teams are allowed, nay encouraged, to cheat – 50/50 clues can be bought, the answer can be bought, and NSPCC volunteers are on hand to relieve competitors of money in exchange for such flagrant chicanery. Jokers can be played, obviously for a fee, to double a team’s points on a particular wine.

Our question master this year was wine writer and luminary, photographer of some note and all-round good guy Tim Atkin MW who hosted with the usual aplomb and, perhaps, dropped the odd clue in here or there. The wines being served blind meant that the first question in each set begged some sort of identification – which grape variety? where does this come from? that sort of thing. The rest of the questions were inspired by the wines being tasted, some more clearly than others – do you know who brought grape cultivation to Italy? Or who had reason to regret his gift from the Greek God of wine Dionysus? Do you know your Fumé from your Fuissé? Or, even, which country sings a paean to its wine in its National Anthem? Perhaps you’d have needed to buy a clue. Or two.


All went well until, with the last white wine on everyone’s lips and the interval beckoning, the fire alarm went off and the interval was replaced by a chilly half hour stood out on Portland Place tweeting pictures of a fire engine. No fire, false alarm, and just before hypothermia set in we were allowed back inside and Tim carried on quizzing like nothing had happened.

Once the quiz was complete, whilst people’s decision-making synapses were oenologically challenged, the evening was completed with an auction hosted by Thomas Plant (an antiques auctioneer off the telly, shows like Flog It! and Bargain Hunt). A variety of donated items from art prints to tickets to see Mrs Browns Boys at the O2 went under the hammer and more much needed wonga flowed into the coffers of the NSPCC.

The L&S gang were on hand lest anyone wanted a little more imbibement, with a healthy percentage of sales prices going to the NSPCC it wasn’t necessarily an evening for strict abstemiousness.

With all lots sold, copious thank yous were broadcast, and the all important result of the quiz was announced – well done FNZ (Team 1). But the climax of the evening was this..

NSPCC Total£177,178! Which begs a huge thank you to everyone who took part, everyone who donated, everyone who bought something they didn’t realise they wanted at the auction, and everyone who cheated and bought their way to success!

It is an honour to be involved with such a special event, to help raise so much money and help with such valuable work. LEA & SANDEMAN would like to thank the NSPCC for continuing to invite us to help. We’d also like to thank Tim Atkin for being our question-master extraordinaire, Thomas Plant for his auctioneering prowess, and Andy Briggs and Laura Lundy and their exceptional team of volunteers who organised and ran the event with supreme efficiency. And the London Fire Brigade for turning up so promptly.

Job well done. Here’s to next year – 20th Anniversary – better be a good one. Best get planning…

To find out about the work of the NSPCC or to make a donation, please click here.