Earlier this year, I bought a Eurocave to store all my wine. Once it was installed, I discovered a teeny tiny problem: I didn't actually own any wine.
Up until that point, without decent storage, I had only bought wine for immediate drinking. Generally speaking, that meant randomly buying one or two bottles here and there. I would go to wine shops and buy whatever caught my eye. I rarely bought online, because visiting wine shops is part of my work (I told myself), and online purchases are better when you want more than just a few bottles.
Incidentally, in 2013 I vowed never to buy wine from a supermarket again, and have kept my word. Nothing against supermarkets, but I wanted to spend my money with independents.
Anyway, I've spent the last six months or so filling my new Eurocave. There are four shelves holding eight bottles each and a space at the bottom for magnums, halves and odd shaped bottles. Wearing my nerdiest wine hat, I've devised a sort of solera system:
- top shelf: wines to drink now
- second shelf: wines to drink in 2-5 years
- third shelf: wines to drink in 5-10 years
- fourth shelf: wines to drink in 10-20 years
I still buy randomly, picking up a few bottles here and there, but I've managed to fill the Eurocave already, pretty much. It's surprisingly easy to forget what you've bought, and rediscovering wines you'd forgotten about is a particularly self-indulgent type of pleasure. Here are a few selected highlights.
- Château Musar 1999 Bekaa Valley: I drank a bottle of this the night I heard I became an MW, and it was superb, so I bought another one from WineTrust100 a few weeks later for £28.
- Three different vintages of Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs: 2008, 2009 and 2010. I worked there in 2008-9, and also served the 2007 at our wedding in 2012, so it's a producer close to my heart. I'm intending to age them for quite a few years.
- Birds and Bats, Three Years Down 2011 PGI Chios is a Greek red that I bought from Philglass & Swiggott in Richmond. It comes from the people behind Wines of Momentary Destination, which I really like as a concept.
- I have two bottles of Cien y Pico, Doble Pasta 2009 Manchuela, which is another wine we drank at my wedding. I've bought this lots of times in the past, but these two were from from the lovely Wine Chambers in Tynemouth and cost £12.99 each. It's made from very old Alicante Bouchet vineyards - totally unfashionable, and therefore very good value, and ageworthy too. I love it.
- Sadie Family, Sequillo 2011 Swartland was bought on recommendation from Philglass & Swiggott in Marylebone. I've tasted the white before, but never the red.
- I bought Samsara, Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir 2012 St Rita Hills from their cellar door on a visit to California earlier this year and it's one of my prized bottles. It isn't hugely expensive, but is exactly the kind of Pinot Noir I absolutely cherish, and I reckon it will mature beautifully.
- François et Fils 2011 Côte Rôtie is my most expensive bottle, I think. Northern Rhône Syrah is my favourite style of red, and there are dozens of wines that I love - yet this is the only one that has made it into my collection. There's no reason for this other than for the price, which at £35 is relatively cheap - or rather, affordable.
- Damianitza, Uniqato Rubin 2010 PGI Thracian Lowlands is another great example of something completely undervalued. Rubin is a Bulgarian cross between Syrah and Nebbiolo. I made it a wine of the week on JancisRobinson.com earlier this year - it manages to harness the qualities of both parent varieties in a way that I think works brilliantly. I bought one bottle from the Zelas deli near Archway (and drank it), then another from Sophia airport en route back from the DWCC.
- Quinta de la Rosa, Late Bottled Vintage 2010 port is a stunning bottle of wine, from a producer I've visited a few times and really like. Common knowledge says LBV doesn't age well, but there's no technical reason why that should be true if the source material is good. This one has maturation potential of many years, I reckon.
Strangely, having survived perfectly for years without a wine collection, not only have I accumulated a fridge-full almost immediately but I also find myself coveting far more. I just can't helping feeling that I have far too little Riesling and Syrah, no Sauternes, nothing at all bought en primeur, no Burgundy whatsoever, no Bordeaux either, not enough Muscadet, insufficient Hunter Semillon ...
I now understand how easy it is to build up a cellar with more wine than you could possibly hope to drink - you never feel like your collection is complete. Partly because you keep drinking it, admittedly.