The Tasting Panel magazine

February 2014

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22 / the tasting panel / february 2014 My Dorset Cellar F or my 21st birthday one of my grand- mothers gave me membership to The International Cooperative Wine Society, which was founded in 1874 to offer its members impeccably sourced, good-value wines and spirits—still known simply as The Wine Society, Britain's best wine merchant— and a 12-bottle wine rack, presents that were to change my life. Since then, I have always stored wine in some way or another, and since 1987, when we moved to Dorset, have had the use of a proper, underground, dark and cold English country house cellar. This Christmas the temperature was 8 degrees centigrade (46 Fahrenheit), but it has gone as low as 6 (43 F), rising very slowly during the summer to a maximum of 16 (61 F), so I consider it has a year-round average of 10 centigrade or 50 Fahrenheit. This suits me, as the wines, particularly the white Burgundies, keep very well. My cellar list is on 30 pages of A4 paper, printed out at the end of each year and annotated by hand as wines are drunk or added. I keep a cellar book, noting which wines are drunk when, and with whom in the case of a dinner party, for which I do not note the menu; while obeying certain rules, I drink for mood, not for food. I am only in Dorset at weekends and miss some of these due to travel, but over the last ive years our consumption has averaged 276 bottles, a low of 263 last year. On January 1, 2012 the cellar held 3,870 bottles and two years later the total had dropped to 3,816, with Bordeaux 2010s and 2012s, Burgundy 2011s and Rhône 2012s, which I buy en primeur, still to come. Since I like buying wine almost as much as I like drinking and sharing it, I suppose it will stay this way. It has been said that a happy man dies with an empty cellar—the great André Simon left just a single bottle of Champagne—but this will not be the case in Dorset. I have an admission to make: New World wines represent less than 5%. These play a big part in my life in London, more when travelling, but they don't in Dorset, where I am willingly old-fashioned. The consistency of size (and value) of the cellar is mirrored by a marked consistency in the percentage the regions represent, their percentage value in the cellar and the average value of each bottle: red Bordeaux 32%/32%/£30; red Burgundy 14%/14.6%/£31, white Burgundy 7.9%/7.7%/£29; Rhône and Provence 16%/15.2%/£28; Champagne 1.9%/3.3%/£51; Italy 8.6%/8.4%/£29; Port 5%/6.9%/£41. Last year the Rhône Valley led the list of bottles opened, followed by Burgundy, Italy and Bordeaux, but the year before it was Burgundy way out front, then Italy, Rhône and Bordeaux. I have found a solution to the almost 40 years at current consumption of claret by offering 6 of every 12-bottle case to our very good local wine merchant. Ideally, since I like a varied selection, I would only buy good wine in sixes. My Decanter colleague Andrew Jefford strongly agrees. I have bought the brilliant 2011 Ports for my grandchildren, I skipped 2007 and the 2003s, 2000s and 1997s will go to my children, still leaving me 40 years supply at the current rate of two bottles a year! This is the irst year that I have looked at the average value of each region's bottles, and it conirms that I drink in the £10–£50 range. In Britain we have £2 a bottle excise tax and 20% value added tax and for Dorset I never pay less than £10 and never more than £50. (In London I eat out a lot and when at home seem to rely on samples!) This means that since the 2005 vintage I no longer buy Second Growth clarets or Grand Cru Burgundies, although there are many older vintages of both in the cellar. However, I can still afford a few Barolos, most Brunellos, Côte-Rôties and the top Châteauneuf-du-Papes. The cellar is for consumption and the lack of very prestigious bottles is easily compensated by the quality of everything else a rung or two lower down the scale. So what did we drink over the holidays? We had two dinner parties, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. For the former it was Pol Roger 1998, Châteauneuf-du-Pape white Clos de l'Oratoire 2012, Gigondas Les Pallières 1999 and Graham's 1980; for the latter it was Ca del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clemente Franciacorta Riserva 2003, Hermitage white Marquise de la Tourette Delas 2006, Côte- Rôtie Clusel-Roch 2001, Picolit Giorgio Colutta 2007 and Ramos Pinto's 30 Year Old Tawny. My Dorset cellar is over-stocked. Any read- ers passing by are welcome to call in and share a bottle or two. STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON PHOTO: DECANTER

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