CELLAR SOCIETY

Wine expert Henry Jeffreys savours the investment value of the modern cellar

CELLAR SOCIETY

Wine expert Henry Jeffreys savours the investment value of the modern cellar

Wine merchants have been doing a roaring trade because, as Joss Fowler of Farr Vintners puts it: “What else is there to do except cook nice food and drink better wine?” Wine lovers are buying more to drink at home and trading up, spending the money that would have gone on restaurants and holidays. When the family starts complaining about boxes piling up everywhere, perhaps it’s time to invest in a proper wine cellar.

There has recently been a flurry of interest in installing bespoke home cellars from residents who, after spending more time at home, have realised they want a finer selection of wine at their fingertips. Wine by Design built the magnificent 50,000-bottle facilities at London wine club 67 Pall Mall, and through them, private individuals can commission anything from a classic gentleman’s-club feel in dark wood to something ultra-modern in acrylic, steel and glass which might cost around £45,000. Understandably, the company completes only 12-15 projects a year. The 40-year-old company Spiral Cellars builds elegant concrete cellars based around a sunken spiral staircase holding up to 1,900 bottles, for around £20,000 to £80,000. But you don’t need an underground space – some choose to build wine “cellars” in all manner of properties, including yachts. Wine just needs to be stored at a constant temperature of 12-15 degrees centigrade, with humidity around 55-75% to stop corks drying out, and protection from light and vibration.

What else is there to do except cook nice food and drink better wine?

Storing wine securely and elegantly isn’t cheap, but Tim Lewis of Sorrells believes that a proper cellar adds value to a house: “It’s something different, everyone’s got a kitchen or cinema room. Wine has become so popular now that having something like that really attracts people when it comes to viewing a house.” His company can do everything from converting a cupboard under the stairs for £15,000 to one finished recently which holds 33,400 bottles and cost £186,000. For some clients, he’ll do both their town and country properties.

A good cellar is a way of showing off your collection rather than squirrelling it away. A stunning “wine wall” will keep your bottles on display but in perfect condition, in the kitchen, dining room and even by the swimming pool. “The current trend is to locate the cellar in the kitchen, dining, or entertaining space,” divulges Spiral Cellars MD Lucy Hargreaves. “We recently put a cellar into a billiard room to create the ultimate ‘man cave’.” Or how about the concept of an adjoining tasting room? Perfect for entertaining, and said to grace the house of a well-known retail magnate.

Don’t forget that wine can be a great investment: you don’t have to pay capital gains tax on it as it’s classified as a wasting asset. According to Robert Whipple of wine and whisky investment company London Barrelhouse, Liv-ex (the FTSE for wine) is up by 147% in the last 10 years, and money is pouring into liquid assets as investors struggle to get a return from banks. If buying wine to invest, it’s worth keeping it in a bonded warehouse with a company such as Berry Bros. & Rudd. This not only makes it easier to sell but you don’t have to pay VAT or duty.

So what should you be buying? Joss Fowler of Farr Vintners is emphatic: “Every cellar should start with Bordeaux. It’s consistent. If you buy a bottle of Lynch-Bages from any vintage in the last 20 years, you’re going to be happy.” He recommends buying the 2019 vintage to drink in 10-20 years’ time. Tom Harrow of Honest Grapes agrees: “The best of Bordeaux in 2019 was a five-star vintage at three-star prices. You can pick up Mouton Rothschild for 30% less than the previous year.” For earlier drinking, Fowler recommends 2009 Bordeaux.

But it’s not all about Bordeaux. Gary Owen of Berry Bros. says that Premier and Grand Cru red Burgundy 2016 “will be rocking in 10-20 years’ time”. According to Tom Harrow, “Italy is making a charge now.” He recommends wines from Barolo, Barbaresco and the Super Tuscans. Prices are going up: “Liv-ex shows Italy by far out-performing the market,” he says, but there are still (relative) bargains to be had: “There are wines hovering around £60 a bottle. A reasonable price to pay for the world’s finest wines.” Don’t overlook champagne: Gary Owen tips the best wines from vintages like 2002, 2008 and 2012 to put away for a decade or two, while Tom Harrow recommends: “Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 in magnum. It will make an amazing centrepiece to your cellar.”

Whether buying to invest or to drink, or a bit of both, now is an exciting time for the wine lover. Robert Whipple thinks the market is on the verge of a boom that’s going to last at least two years. Who knows for sure, but whatever you buy, it’s going to look splendid when entertaining friends in your bespoke cellar. You’ll never have to leave the house again.

So what should you be buying? Joss Fowler of Farr Vintners is emphatic: “Every cellar should start with Bordeaux. It’s consistent. If you buy a bottle of Lynch-Bages from any vintage in the last 20 years, you’re going to be happy.” He recommends buying the 2019 vintage to drink in 10-20 years’ time. Tom Harrow of Honest Grapes agrees: “The best of Bordeaux in 2019 was a five-star vintage at three-star prices. You can pick up Mouton Rothschild for 30% less than the previous year.” For earlier drinking, Fowler recommends 2009 Bordeaux.

But it’s not all about Bordeaux. Gary Owen of Berry Bros. says that Premier and Grand Cru red Burgundy 2016 “will be rocking in 10-20 years’ time”. According to Tom Harrow, “Italy is making a charge now.” He recommends wines from Barolo, Barbaresco and the Super Tuscans. Prices are going up: “Liv-ex shows Italy by far out-performing the market,” he says, but there are still (relative) bargains to be had: “There are wines hovering around £60 a bottle. A reasonable price to pay for the world’s finest wines.” Don’t overlook champagne: Gary Owen tips the best wines from vintages like 2002, 2008 and 2012 to put away for a decade or two, while Tom Harrow recommends: “Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 in magnum. It will make an amazing centrepiece to your cellar.”

Whether buying to invest or to drink, or a bit of both, now is an exciting time for the wine lover. Robert Whipple thinks the market is on the verge of a boom that’s going to last at least two years. Who knows for sure, but whatever you buy, it’s going to look splendid when entertaining friends in your bespoke cellar. You’ll never have to leave the house again.


Wine to invest in or drink in 10-20 years

2016 Barolo and Barbaresco: Barbaresco, Castello di Verduno 2016

2016 was a great vintage in Piedmont. The top stuff from designated crus are for the long term but this Barbaresco is already charming. (Justerini & Brooks, £119 for 6 ex VAT & duty).

2016 Village red Burgundy: Philippe Pacalet Gevrey Chambertin 2016

You can spend a lot of money on red Burgundy and be disappointed, so it’s worth listening to the experts. (Honest Grapes, £350 for 6).

Wine to keep for 5-10 years

2019 Bordeaux: Grand Puy Lacoste 2019

Joss Fowler recommends buying this instead of first-growth claret. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded with one of the world’s great wines. (Farr Vintners, £540 for 12 ex VAT & duty).

2008 Prestige Cuvée Champagne: Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2008

2008 is up there with the best Champagne vintages of the last 20 years. Superb last year, it’s only going to get better. (Berry Bros. & Rudd, £1,400 for 6 ex VAT & duty).

Wine to drink now to five years

2018 Chablis: Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru “les Vaillons” 2018

White Burgundy is so versatile. At this level you can drink now but it’s not going anywhere. (Honest Grapes, £180 for 6).

2017/18 Dão: Quinta do Correio Tinto 2017

Tom Harrow refers to the Dão region as “the Burgundy of Portugal”. The wines won’t be this cheap for ever. (Honest Grapes, £76.80 for 6).


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