A QUESTION that is frequently asked is: “How long can you keep a bottle of wine?” It is a question with a multitude of answers: “It depends on the wine”; “How well has it been stored?”; “What are your expectations?” Some collectors buy old bottles of wine as trophies, to be shown off and never drunk.
The fact is that most wine now on the market is ready for immediate consumption, and, even in areas such as Bordeaux, renowned for the longevity of its wines, the style has changed to wines that are accessible earlier. There are sound commercial reasons for this: stock turns over more rapidly.
Burgundy does not have a reputation for producing such long-lived wines, but the most enjoyable wine that I drank over the Christmas period was a Clos Vougeot 1969. This was interesting, first, because of its age; second, because 1969 is not rated a truly outstanding vintage; and, third, because this particular wine was one that I had sold to a Bristol wine merchant more than 40 years ago, when I lived and worked in Burgundy. It still had plenty of body and fruit.
Sadly, Burgundy prices have risen rapidly as investors have begun to place their money there. The fact that the recent 2016 vintage is only a third of the normal, owing to spring frosts and summer hail, has also put pressure on supplies. Prices are now widely being quoted for the 2015 vintage, which was outstanding both in terms of quality and quantity.
The better wines will not yet be in bottle, but it is worth while looking out for wines such as Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Rully, and Givry in the red wines, and Mâcon-Villages in the white. These should be reasonably priced and give pleasure for the next four or five years.
Of the supermarket chains, Waitrose has the most interesting range of Burgundies, and I would suggest that you ask for a copy of their latest wine, beer, and spirits list. Not only does this include in its 370 pages a cornucopia of wine offerings, but also brief instructive articles. Best of all, it is free.
If you enjoy red Burgundies, but are unwilling to pay the prices asked, there are now Pinot Noir alternatives. Among those that I would recommend are Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Coolwater Bay 2014, from Marlborough (£6.75); from the cool, coastal Leyda Valley in Chile, Viña Leyda Las Brisas 2014 (Great Western Wines, £14.50); and, from Monterey in California, Fog Head Reserve 2013 (Waitrose, £14.99).
Life is not all Pinot Noir, and, among the other great wines I tasted over the Christmas period were the rich, full bodied (12 per cent) Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2012 (Majestic, £11.49; £9.99 if you buy six), which would be the ideal accompaniment to an oxtail stew.
With our turkey, we had, from Central Otago, New Zealand, Felton Road Dry Riesling 2013 (BI Wines and Spirits, £13.33). This describes itself as dry, but it is enchanced by a hint of sweetness.
Finally, our cheese board, on New Year’s Eve, was accomapanied by the Grenache-based dessert wine Maury 2009 (Lidl, 50cl., £6.99).