Tue 17 Jun 2014

Cellar Surprises


Recently my colleague Shaun Kiernan, The Society’s fine wine manager, extolled the virtues of laying wine down and the pleasure gained from drinking wine at its delicious peak (a sentiment echoed by our buyers in the below video).

This is something I endeavour to practice at every opportunity, the only failing being my patience, or lack of it.

Conrad-BraganzaMany of the wines I have in my Members’ Reserves, though entering their drinking window, I feel are still perhaps a little too young.

Though wines traditionally laid down tend to be fine wines, and thus carry an associated price tag, I have found that the quality and depth of The Society’s listings, and the flexibility with regard to putting self-made mixed cases into Reserves, allows one to reap the benefits of sampling aged wine via a more modest outlay and timeframe.

My criteria for my modest BCP (Braganza Cellar Plan, modelled on our own Vintage Cellar Plan – as yet there is no copyright for the former) has been wines that have enough structure and body under £10. In the past I have laid down 3 each of Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Torre del Falasco 2008 (the gold medal-winning 2012 vintage is now available for £9.50), Weinert Carrascal 2007 from Argentina (look out for the 2009 vintage coming soon) and Spain’s Blau, Montsant 2011 (the 2012 is currently on sale for £8.95). These should come to fruition in 2015/16 and I tend to push the drink date envelope so will look to withdraw them as a Christmas present to myself next year.

The current Society List has some potential BCP wines, namely, Côtes-du-Rhône, Château Courac 2010 (£7.95) and Domaine Gonon, Mâcon La Roche Vineuse 2012 (£9.50). Both have drink dates of up to 2017, ensuring a very pleasant Christmas in three years’ time.

While I appreciate these wines may never display the complexities and tertiary flavours that can come with laying down of fine wines, I am confident that even with this short period of maturation these wines are a testament to the quality of The Society’s range, and how even someone as eager as me can enjoy a certain maturity to their wine without paying a king’s ransom.

Non-vintage Champagne is also something I enjoy ageing. Whilst we advise drinking such wines within 2 years of purchase to ensure freshness, those who like a little more nuttiness and complexity may be interested to know that The Society’s Champagne takes on a lovely rounded quality after a couple of years.

I’d love to hear your own experiences of cellaring more modest bottles. For a little more information about laying down wine, please refer to our Storing Wine page and/or the video below.

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom


  1. Tim says:

    I had not considered cellaring anything other than opening offers or Vintage cellar plan wines before reading this article. after reading it I did a little search and have put a case of this in to members reserves.

    • Conrad Braganza says:

      Glad we could help! I have been lucky enough to have tried several vintages of the St Eulalie, all of which have been very good, and I am sure your patience will be rewarded.

  2. Peter Brennan says:

    Thanks for opening this up, Conrad. The biggest change in recent years has been the move to ‘drinking wine in the freshness of its youth’, with the word ‘fresh’ appearing with almost mantra-like frequency in descriptions of Society wines.
    As you suggest, most wine to age these days is available only to those with very fat wallets – though I reckon those good value wines you mention (especially the Weinert) will last – and improve – much longer than you suggest. In the past a lot of reasonably priced wine was not made for immediate consumption. Appellations such as Vouvray, Madiran and Arbois immediately spring to mind, but there were plenty of wines across Europe (and in some parts of Australia and the USA) that could easily support up to 20 years’ in the cellar – and often needed that time to reveal their potential.

    In the past few months, I have drunk the following ‘unpretentious’ wines with great pleasure:
    Cotes du Jura Rouge (Jean Bourdy) 1988 – bought from the Society in the mid-90s for about £7. A blend of the three red Jura varieties, this is a fantastically complex wine and I was crestfallen when the Society delisted it in 2000 in its quest for modernity. Old bottles of this now sell at stratospheric prices.

    Chateau Boulay Montlouis Demisec 1993 – bought from a high street chain in the late 90s for £3.99. I wonder if today’s offerings from Vouvray and Montlouis will last as long as this wine that manages to be both subtle and vivid. (The ultimate match for baked salmon, I think).

    Mitchelton Victoria Marsanne 1994 – burnished, rich, staggeringly long – and still full of life.

    Various bottles (red, white and yellow) from the mid-1990s deriving from Daniel Dugois and Jacques Puffeney in Arbois. (Bought in France).

    Quarts de Chaume 1986 (Chateau Bellerive). Bought from the Society in the early 2000s for about £8. How it was sold at this price, I’ll never know – presumably because few people appreciate aged chenin anymore.

    Tokay Szamorodni (Dry) 1991. Bought about 10 years ago from a small grocer’s in Stoke Newington for about £6. (A wonderful style of oxidative Tokay that seems now to be extinct).

    Dao Reserva 1996. (Quite as exquisite as many a classed growth claret).

    That’s just a small selection of what has been possible in the past for someone on a budget. Now the golden age is passing, it is still possible to secure bargains, but more and more difficult. I lament that the accountants have won – and that such wines are now not more widely made.
    However, as I have pointed out on this blog before, Tesco do sometimes sell well aged Madiran at knock-down prices. The Society buyer sniffed at these as ‘rustic’, but I prefer such wines to the slick, technological Parkerised wines that are currently so fashionable. It’s sad to think that today’s youngsters will probably have little idea of the wider and deeper joys of wine drinking – beyond so-called fruit and freshness – unless they happen to have staggeringly rich parents! (Perhaps, though, they’ll have a chance if you keep up the good work).

  3. Will Barraclough says:

    Hi Conrad, and again, thanks for raising this topic which aligns very much with my approach to wine purchases. I have always thought that many wines benefit from a little cellar time, even ones intended to be drunk young are often better with a couple of months of cellar time, just to settle.

    Looking through my list, I find a wide selection under £10 that I have had for a while, although not all of them still available under that price point:
    Catena Chardonnay 2005 – a bit of an experiment, and worth a little time in bottle, but probably past its best now.
    Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 – good until 2016 and almost certainly longer.
    Coyam 2006 – price for current vintages has risen in recent years, but still well worth putting away for a while. Amazing value for money with some bottle age.
    Concha Y Toro Corte Ignacio Pirque Cab Sauvignon – £8.50 and drinking until 2018!
    Corbieres, or Southern Rhone reds from lesser known appelations such as Vacqueyras, especially from good vintages such as 2010.
    Riesling – Quite a few listed under £10 with good drinking windows and worth waiting a couple of years.
    Pedra Basta – The 2007 is amazing, so I put some 2009 away last year.
    Meerlust Estate Red – Although I’ve not tried this yet, this looked ideal to stow a couple of bottles away. Still available under the magic price point.

    I hope the ideas keep coming.


  4. Conrad Braganza says:

    Thank you Peter and Will for your feedback and your excellent choices! There are some here that I may have to visit as well. Great to see I’m not alone in the ‘BCP’! Do keep your ideas coming, everyone.

  5. George Pope says:

    Does anyone have thoughts on my present favourites keeping value.
    I am referring to Percheron Old Vine Cinsault Western Cape and similar wines from that area.

    • Conrad Braganza says:

      Many thanks for commenting. Personally I feel the Percheron is a lighter wine and drinking it relatively young allows the fruit to be enjoyed. For a modest cellaring I would favour from South Africa SA9391 The Wolftrap, which is good for a couple of years; for more outlay and longer keeping potential I would agree with Will Barraclough’s recommendation above of SA9101 Meerlust Red, which is drinking now to 2018.
      Conrad Braganza
      The Wine Society

  6. mike thomas says:

    I have always cellared Jaboulet’s Domaine de Thalabert Crozes Hermitage for at least 5 years. It then takes on the quality of a fine burgundy crossed with its much more expensive relation Hertmitage.

    • Conrad Braganza says:

      Thanks for your comment. I have always enjoyed aged northern Rhône and Thalabert, for the money, has been one of the finest. The 2007, currently listed, has been pre-aged for you in our cellars and is drinking very well now. I like to age cru Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon, which I feel also take on those Burgandian notes with a backbone that resembles that of a northern Rhône.
      Conrad Braganza
      The Wine Society

    • Marcel Orford-Williams says:

      We are obviously in complete agreement. Thalabert remains a special wine with a very good aptitude for ageing. That is true of the 2007 vintage and, for instance, even more so for the 2009.

      That mature Beaujolais can be full of surprises was evident this week at tastings in London and Bristol, where we showed Moulin-à-Vent Clos des Rochegrès, Château des Jacques, Louis Jadot 2006 (BJ3881), which had complexity, length and a flavour not far removed from Côtes de Beaune in Burgundy. Morgon keeps very well too though I find that with age, it tends more towards a northern Rhône. Which is not surprising given the similarity of soils
      Marcel Orford-Williams
      The Wine Society

  7. Keith Ashley says:

    I do concur as regards bottle age improving champagne. I bought a basic champagne from Tanners some 25 years ago after I forgot to put in the order to the Society in time. It was very drinkable at the wedding but a few bottles left over improved remarkably over the next couple of years. I was disappointed in the Society’s Millennium champagne and that did not improve on ageing.

    • Marcel Orford-Williams says:

      Thanks very much for your feedback. I tasted the Millennium Champagne not that long ago and thought it was very good and still very young. The vintage was 1995, a good vintage though overshadowed by 1996. It’s a vintage characterised by full flavour but with a certain austerity. We kept a few back in both bottle and magnum as I rather think they will fully open out as has 1996 which went through years of being dormant.
      Marcel Orford-Williams
      Society Buyer

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