The Bishop of Norwich

Does Graham’s know the Bishop of Norwich?  Rather unusually, yes, in fact we do… and he’s an extraordinarily nice man.  Why do you ask?

The Bishop of Norwich – The Tradition

Good manners and tradition dictate one should pass the port to the left, and it should make a full round back to the host and not be set down and forgotten mid-table, depriving others of their opportunity to enjoy the wine.  Trouble is, towards the end of a convivial evening not everyone remembers this golden rule as promptly as others might wish.

On the other hand, good manners also dictate that it’s a bit rude, not to say downright greedy, to call out, “Oi! Pass the port!!” or similar.

What does one tactfully do in such a quandary?

It seems that in the 19th century the then Bishop of Norwich was quite the bon vivant, and often forgetful of his obligation to keep the decanter moving around the table.  So much so, he became a by-word, and the gentle query, “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” became the customary polite reminder to the person who had stopped the port in its circulation.  If some puzzled person replied, “No… why do you ask?” they were advised “He is a lovely man, but he never passes the port!”  That was usually sufficient to get the bottle moving again.

The Bishop of Norwich – 21st Century

The Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, and Dominic Symington

A few months back, António Filipe, the Symington General Manager, received an email from a friend, and noticed The Bishop of Norwich was copied on the message.

Slightly disbelieving, António contacted his friend and asked, is this some kind of insider joke, a fellow port afficianado using this pseudonym for an email address?

No, in fact the man knew the real, ordained, presently-serving Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich personally, the Right Reverend Graham James.

Naturally, Graham’s promptly invited him to lunch at the Factory House in Porto, the home of the British Association, the 200-year-old league of English port shippers in Portugal.  Last week he was able to join us, and our fellow port shippers were astonished to be introduced to the Bishop of Norwich.

The current Bishop is, suitably, a great lover of Port and bon vivant.  Unlike his predecessor, he was very prompt to pass the port, the decanters stopping in front of him only for purposes of this photo, although Dominic did have to point out to him on one occasion that the decanter was in fact empty.  Guess he enjoyed the wine! It was a magnum of one of Graham’s sister brands, a 1977 Dow’s.

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5 thoughts on “The Bishop of Norwich

  1. Not so long ago I heard an American ask, whilst gesticulating at the bread, “do you know the Bishop of Sandwich?”. A fantastic innovation—though I don’t know of how recent origin—and suggesting a slew of novelties. Do you know the Vicar of Wookey? Any of the Presidents of the Seventy? Or the Archbishop of Changanassery?

    1. Julian, I have to admit you’ve lost me on some of those – when you come back to the Douro you can explain them to me over a glass of Graham’s.

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