Archive for March 2012
You don't have to spend a fortune on top-end Bordeaux and Burgundy to start collecting and ageing wine. There are quite a few sure bets out there that cost £25 or under, and also some good everyday options that do last a suprisingly long time and make interesting "project bottles" for the aspiring wine afficionado. You may raise an eyebrow at my suggestion that £25 for a bottle of wine is not a fortune, but by Claret standards it isn't.
The sure bets would include Chablis Premier Cru from decent producers like Domaine Christian Moreau and (soon to arrive on our shelves) Domaine des Malandes. The former's Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2010 (£23) is going to get more honeyed as it ages, but is likely to retain a balancing freshness for 5 or 6 years at least before it begins to seem "mature" and will last a few years after that. German Rieslings can also be very long-lived and something like the (deep breath) Mosel Riesling Spaetlese Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr 2007 from Max Ferd. Richter (£20), whilst already evolving, has a long future ahead of it; buy 2010 German Riesling at this sort of quality level, be it dry or off-dry, and it should last into the next decade. For reds, there are some perhaps surprising choices from the New World. It's rare to find aged South American reds in the UK but I have had some brilliant examples from both Chile and Argentina. You could try sticking away the Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from the Maule Valley (£15.50) for five years. From South Africa, Meerlust's famed Stellenbosch Rubicon 2007 Bordeaux Blend (£1 more than my £25 limit!) actually needs a few years to knit together, and will hit its peak around 2017, I reckon.
For a bargain white that can be very interesting with a few year's age, you can try hiding away a Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, like our Christophe Drouard 2010 (£10). In reds, consider Cotes du Rhone: good examples now push above £10 per bottle but they do tend to hold their own for anything up to a decade, maybe a bit more in the right vintage. The Domaine de l'Espigouette 2010 Cotes du Rhone (£11.50) is a new vintage of a wine we have enjoyed in the past, and will gain more a savoury edge to its ripe berry fruit if you can be patient.
Welcome to the first in a series of missives about collecting and laying down wine.
Why start to build up a wine collection? Obviously some famous collections were built up with an eye on investment. But in this series of posts I'm going to focus on laying down wine to drink later, for personal enjoyment. I'm sure you've heard if big auctions where the contents of the cellar of someone recently deceased have gone under the hammer. As far as I'm concerned there's no point dying with wine left undrunk.
Off the top of my head I can think of two key reasons behing having a "drinker's cellar" (or wine rack, pantry etc). The first is to put some wines away and see how they change over time. It's great if you can have three or four bottles of some of these wines, and then (if very keen) you can take notes each time you open one. The second main reason is that quite a few fine wines are released before their optimum drinking window, and so the onus is on you to stick them away and, hopefully, only crack them open when good and ready. Red Bordeaux is often released in a fairly raw state. However I don't collect it because, in London, if you shop in the right places, you can always get your hands on a bottle with sufficient bottle age. Italian wines like Barolo, however, are more rarely seen on the shelves in mature vintages; so the basis of my collection is Barolo, Barbaresco, and the tuscans Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti.
You don't have to spend a fortune to get an ageworthy wine; there are wines like top-end Muscadet which costs £10 an can develop nicely over several years, as can a Cotes du rhone which might cost £12 to £15. I'll give you a list of suggestions in another post.
My dream house would probably have a pukka cellar, or temperature-and-humidity- controlled room, a spiral cellar, or at very least a big tall wine cabinet. But many of us can't necessarily afford these options, or are living in rented accomodation, or have yet to build up a collection to make them seem worthwhile. I paln to discuss these options, however, in a subsequent post.
When starting out as a wine collector, the standard wine-rack-under the stairs may have to suffice. You might want to check that there isn't too much vibration in the area as this can harm the ageing process. Also make sure that there are no heat sources nearby. The key with keeping wine is temperature consistency, so you need to avoid the sort of temperature spikes that might be caused by nearby heating on a timer, or by white goods. Avoiding direct sunlight is also important. The ideal temperature for keeping wine is probably around 14-16 degrees. You can keep wine in a warmer environment - it will age quicker, but as long as the temperature is not too variable it should be okay.
It always annoys me when I see adverts for fitted kitchens and they have built in wine racks right next to the oven. Doh! And the other classic cock-up is to have a wine rack on top of the fridge-freezer. Because of the vent on the back of the unit, you might just as well stick your Puligny-Montrachet next to the oven.
One way of trying to keep wine insulated from extremes in temperature is to use the foam packing that you get in some wine transit boxes. Perhaps easier is to get a basic cool box. As these are not permeable you would want to put a damp cloth in every so often so that the corks do not dry out. A certain degree of humidity is vital to keep corks elastic, though too much and your labels will suffer! Similarly we keep wine bottles on their side to preserve the corks and therefore the seal.
I'm lucky that my cupboard under the stairs wass in fact a pantry, and so is now storing my compact and bijou stash of around 100 bottles. It is on an outside wall which is mostly in shadow, so the average temperature is both very steady and low enough at about 15 degrees.