Sara Cox launches her first wine collection with Perfect Cellar

Sara Cox loves a recommendation.

“Whether it’s a good book or an album, I love a good recommendation,” she tells me with that signature warm, down-to-earth charm. “Because I love it when you can see passion in people’s eyes about a certain product.”

When she met Moez Seraly, founder of online wine merchant Perfect Cellar (or “head honcho”, as Cox describes him), she found his passion for plonk “kind of infectious”. After several tastings over the course of a year – “like the best meetings I’ve ever had basically because we just drank loads of wine” – she’s just launched her first ever wine collection with the brand.

With Seraly’s guidance, she selected a grand cru champagne, a petit chablis from Burgundy, a rosé from Provence and a smooth medium-bodied bordeaux.

In fact, she polished off a bottle of the red yesterday, she tells me giddily. “My mate was down from Manchester and although it was a sunny day, we ended up opening a bottle of red and it was absolutely gorgeous.”

It was the history of Chateau D’Esteau that drew her to the cuvee d’eyssan haut-medoc from 2019. “There’s four sisters – it sounds a bit like a fable or something – and it’s the youngest of the four who runs the vineyard along with their partners,” she says excitedly. “It’s medium-bodied, it’s juicy, there’s a bit of oak in there.” The versatility of the wine also had appeal. “I actually quite like a heavier red like a rioja, malbec or merlot but this one is beautiful. You can drink it any time, it’s not heavy.”

She served it with a turkey bolognese she’d just whipped out of the slow cooker. She loves food, she says, but she’s trying to be a bit healthier and “I don’t get home from work ‘til about 8ish so I’m queen of the batch cooking”.

The story behind the vineyard is also why she was drawn to the rosé from Château Margui in Provence. Well, her husband is excited about it: it’s not just any rosé, it’s George Lucas’s rosé. “I’ll have to blag a trip and take my husband posing as my PA or my masseuse or bodyguard or something like that,” Cox says with a smile.

While château margui joined the Skywalker Vineyard collection in 2017 (alongside others in California and Italy), the estate can actually trace its roots back to 1784, with the vineyard being completely replanted in 2000 after a difficult 20th century. Their Rosé “is so pale and kind of peachy. There’s a slight… when I say this, I doubt myself a little bit… there’s a slight tropical aftertaste, but it’s so subtle.” I reassure her that I read the same on the tasting notes.

If you’ve ascertained by now that she might not be an old hack in the world of fine wine, you’d be right. But that’s what makes her the perfect Perfect Cellar customer. “You’re absolutely bob-on there,” she says. “I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about wines and wine regions and the process, but I’m really interested in it and I’m interested to learn more in the meantime.”

(Perfect Cellar)

Perfect Cellar has made a name for itself by demystifying and democratising access to fine wines, allowing customers to build their own “virtual cellar” to keep their wine collection perfectly organised and make their next order seamless. Many of their wines are sourced from producers neighbouring the most prestigious properties in the best regions, at a fraction of the cost.

The partnership is aimed at the group of wine drinkers Cox firmly places herself among. “We just wanted to do the legwork for people by finding these brilliant wines that are reasonably priced, but they’re not just any old plonk,” she says. The wines are perfect for “when you’ve got friends round for a bit of dinner like me with my bessie last night, if you’re celebrating, or if you just want a lovely everyday wine to have.”

That’s not to say she’s a complete newcomer – she’s been a radio DJ for 25 years, after all. Her first memory of drinking red wine was when she visited her sister in Paris when Cox was 19 years old. “She was over there working for the summer as part of her degree and I went to Paris and it really opened my eyes to travel and just the world beyond Bolton, really,” she says. Her sister was the jet-setting type; Cox was more of a homebody. “My sister had always travelled but it never really captured my imagination that much.”

But in Paris, “I just wandered around all day by myself. Obviously, this was way before smartphones. I just had a little A-Z and a few francs in my pocket. And I just had the greatest few days.”

One night, the sisters went out for dinner (again, not a fable). “We had this slow cooked beef dish at this restaurant, and my sister was like, ‘Have a spoonful of the food,’ and then she was like, ‘Okay, now have a sip of this red wine’.’ And you know that moment of like, oh my God. When the flavours marry together and complement each other.” It was a real foodie moment for her, she says. “It’d be a bit of an exaggeration to say it opened my eyes, changed my life, but I remember it being like, ‘Oh, okay, I see this is serious stuff.’”

I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about wines and wine regions and the process, but I’m really interested in it and I’m interested to learn more in the meantime.

Sara Cox

A lot has happened since then. She landed her first TV gig when she was 22, presenting The Girlie Show on Channel 4, followed by some stints on Channel 5 and MTV, a role in a short film called The Bitterest Pill, and her breakthrough job as host of The Big Breakfast. She joined BBC Radio in 1999 and bar maternity leave, pretty much never left.

Her relationship with wine “just developed over time” – as it does. “I’ve been leaning more towards quality over quantity, whereas I think in my twenties it was the opposite. You’d just be hitting the wine!” But when her kids were born – she’s got three with husband Ben Cyzer, who’s neither in the radio world nor a drinker – “I really looked forward to a little glass of wine once they were in bed. It’s 7pm, boom! It was a little treat. A lot of parenting, as magical and joyful as it is, is quite repetitive. It can be a slog.”

Also in the collection is a petit chablis from Sylvain Mosnier, which has been crafting exceptional wines since 1893. “The colour of it is like being back on my dad’s farm with that sort of straw, rye colour. It’s really beautiful,” says Cox. “And there’s a tiny, little peachy taste to it, but it’s just really well balanced and that’s what I noticed the most. With some white wines, I can find them a little bit acidic. In my twenties, I went off it for a while but I’ve been reintroduced to the power of a lovely white with this chablis.”

The champagne, a grand cru from the Chouilly vineyards of Michel Genet, on the other hand, is like “go big or go home… and get a big, bold grand cru”, says Cox. “It’s absolutely delicious. It’s not particularly challenging to taste it; there’s a little bit of citrus in there, a little bit of lemon and maybe some grapefruit, and it’s a beautiful colour. It sort of smells a little bit like fresh pastries.”

Cox also likes the natural approach Antoine, Vincent and Agnès Genet take to viticulture and vinification – indeed they called themselves “manufacteurs de grands crus”. “We just thought it was a perfect example of a beautiful champagne,” says Cox.

“I should really have a glass in front of me if I wasn’t on air at 4pm!”

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