Corney & Barrow is proud to be a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust as part of our C&Bee initiative. Tree Thuis, a member of the C&B Fine Wine team, explains how we got there…
It is quite fitting that the C&Bee project began its life in spring. The idea had been in my head for a while, but things started to come together a few months ago. I personally have been a fan of bees for a few years – ever since I took to social media with an awful picture from my phone to identify a large, dark, fuzzy thing that was buzzing around on my balcony. I found out that it was a female anthophora plumipes (which quite frankly sounded like a spell from Harry Potter), and after that I was smitten and wanted to see more.
You will probably be familiar with the fact that there are many types of bee. There are the high profile and more ‘glamorous’ apis mellifera, or honey bees to you and me. These were introduced to the UK in order to harvest and enjoy their delicious honey. Personally, I’m a fan of an underdog, and I have a huge soft spot for the humble bumblebee, as well as the hundreds of types of solitary bee the British Isles are home to. Sadly, two species of bumblebee have become extinct in the last century, with more on priority-species lists due to their dwindling numbers. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of people who care about such things, and even small steps can make a difference.
I researched potential charities to support and settled on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, who do great work in protecting and encouraging bees, as well as educating us. After planting up my east-London balcony using their ‘BeeKind’ app (to identify bee friendly plants), and excitedly logging several different types of bee visitor, I decided to set my sights higher.
Now, bees may not pollinate vines, but they do pollinate an absolute ton of other important stuff – 75% of our crop species are pollinated by insects. I was intrigued to learn that some flower species have evolved into a shape that makes their pollen harder to access for most insects. However, bumblebees are able to counter this with ‘buzz pollination’, which for some reason honey bees are not equipped to carry out. Blueberries, tomatoes, aubergines and kiwis are just some examples of the many plant species that require this form of pollination. There seemed to be a ‘synergy’ between organic and biodynamic wine production and protecting our pollinators. But how to take this further…?
Bam! A massive chunk then fell into place. I was working here at C&B head office at the press tasting of the latest Domaine de la Romanée-Conti release, and bumped into Olly Smith. Now, I’d been a fan of ‘Jolly Olly’ for quite some time – as well as being a respected wine personality, he keeps bees, and I thought this was just fabulous. I took a deep breath, pushed away my social anxiety, and approached him – I think I just nervously exclaimed ‘BEES!’ at him by way of introduction. Fortunately he was polite enough to stick with it, and we both agreed that all of our pollinators, honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees alike*, were very important and needed to be supported. I put Olly and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in touch, and was as happy as a flea when it was officially announced last month that he had become a patron of the charity.
In the meantime, I had also delicately attacked the lovely C&B marketing team, announcing to them that I thought it would be super if we could give some serious thought to bees. Luckily, the idea was well-received and C&Bee was born. The idea of C&Bee is to champion our pollinators in a range of ways, one of which is to toot the horns of our organic and biodynamic producers – whilst pesticides may be successful at obliterating ‘nasty’ bugs which negatively impact crops and yields, they also kill off our precious pollinators.
We are very proud that so many of our producers opt to avoid such practices, and we have brought in a ‘bee’ logo which will feature on a number of labels. Our Périgord being the first wine with said logo. It is unique in that it features the first draft of the ‘bee’ logo, which had a pointy sting on its bottom, which isn’t quite right as bees are actually quite docile and don’t go out of their way to sting. The logo was subsequently changed and the bottom rounded, but our first batch of C&B Périgord could therefore be a collector’s item…?
Corney & Barrow became a business member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and we are currently nurturing the seedlings of further ideas, having had Gill Perkins, the CEO of the trust visit us both in London and Scotland. We are delighted that some of the companies we work with are also championing our pollinators, with Drake & Morgan for example, giving away free packets of seeds to their customers – ‘Plant the seeds to help the bees!’. I am super excited that we have taken it so seriously and look forward to expanding the project throughout the year – watch this space…
* Other pollinator species are available