A few weeks ago I had to buy a new wine rack. I recently have come into ownership of a lot of wine, and my collection is now at circa 90-100 bottles. This is a big thing for me as I have never really been into cellaring wine. Actually, that’s not true. I have always enjoyed the idea of cellaring wine and had the best intentions to start ageing a few bottles but on many occasions I have got too over excited when having friends round and opened one of my prized bottles. It always seemed like a good idea at the time but then the next morning I always wake up with a sore head and regret.
This has happened multiple times. Because of this over excitement, I no longer have my 2013 Chateau Bel-Air Pomerol (a highly recommended style of Bordeaux). My brother, best friend and I went to the pub on Christmas Day 2017, came home and decided to open it, even though I had it on good authority that it was going to peak in 2019. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious but I just got too over excited. The same thing happened recently when my girlfriend, best friend, brother and I had a BBQ and in all the excitement of playing ‘the odds game’, I cracked open a bottle of 2016 Kamari Kioutsouki Estate Nimbus Ritinitis (a natural orange wine from Greece made from the Assyrtiko grape). I’d not had the bottle long and wanted to give it more time to age but alas, I woke up again with a sore head and regret. To be honest, it seems to happen when I am around my best friend and brother. Maybe there’s a link.
As mentioned earlier I recently came into a lot of wine. I went back to France earlier this year and stocked up on some of my old favourites, then in may I realised that I had been paying into Virgin Wine Bank every month since December and had £150 in credit, then a few weeks later a former employer presented me with three cases of wine. Add that to my own existing collection that I have been slowly putting together and voila, the pantry (or wine cellar as I have now turned it into) is full.
With all this in mind, it got me thinking. Why do we cellar our wines? What’s the point? I wrote an article last year about which wines age well (which you can read here) however, there’s more to it in my opinion.
There are different reasons for cellaring wine. The technical reasons being that wine does develop over time and if it spends a few years in the bottle then it will enhance the taste and complexity of the wine. Jancis Robinson writes that too often a wine is left for too long because many people who buy a bottle and consider it worth cellaring are too reluctant to open it, so they leave it for too long in unsuitable conditions where it passes its peak.
I feel that I may be one of these people, however I am ok with it in some circumstances. You see, to me, sometimes wine doesn’t have to be drunk to be enjoyed. This may sound a bit pretentious but hear me out. In my rack at home I have an unlabelled 2016 bottle of Luckett Vineyards Ortega. This bottle was given to me after my first ever session bottling wine (read about that experience here).
This was/is my favourite wine from Luckett Vineyards and I hold my first bottling experience very close to my heart. To me, the bottle of Ortega is a reminder of a truly great experience and I feel that this bottle represents that. It’s a memory. Sure, I also have a picture of that process/memory but sometimes a physical item says much more than what a picture does. I may never open that bottle and I am ok with that.
I also am down to my last bottle of Non Vintage Henri Chauvet Blanc Des Noirs Champagne. Will I ever open it? Maybe, maybe not as this bottle was bought during a tough time for me. I was going through a whole saga back when I worked in France and came close to breaking point, however I remember meeting Damien Chauvet a few times at trade fairs and on a trip to Champagne and trying his delicious Champagne. It truly is exquisite (read a review of it here), a real gem and I ended up buying a case even though I couldn’t afford it as I was beyond skint/broke due to not being paid for six months but I couldn’t not buy a case. In the three months I was back in England before heading to Canada, I drunk all but one bottle. This bottle that’s left reminds me of the stress and all the bad things that I had to endure, however it is also a reminder of the thing that kept me there… amazing wine. I was lucky enough to be regularly trying amazing wines, Champagnes and Cremants, learning about it all in what is considered to be the motherland of winemaking and for all the troubles and hardships I was subjected to, it was worth it to stay just for the education. To quote my favourite rapper ‘J Cole’ “There’s beauty in the struggle” and the bottle of Henri Chauvet that I have in my wine rack represents that (ok, I understand if you want to slap me in my pretentious face). Maybe I’ll head back to Rilly-la-Montagne soon (where Henri Chauvet is produced) and buy a few cases, just so I can open the bottle in my wine rack.
I could list more bottles in my collection that hold sentimental value, but I think you get the point. Cellaring bottles is done for so many reasons and there is a scientific logic to doing it, however sometimes a bottle can represent a memory or a lesson learned or (dare I say it) just look cool in your rack.
The point that I am slowly getting to is that wine, along with other things but in my case wine, can symbolise so much more than just being a beverage. Each one of the four of us at Wined Up have different bottles in our collections and have different stories about what got us in to wine, and why we chose the bottles that we have. Yes there are bottles in my rack that I am ageing until they start to peak (or trying to, providing I don’t get too excited at my next BBQ) but sometimes memories and mementos are more important.
- J A M E S
*Reference: Robinson; Jancis (2016) The 24-Hour Wine Expert, Penguin