The more discerning of readers will already have picked up that I’m probably going to harp on endlessly about sailing, wine and cycling. That is indeed my intention, but I don’t intend to limit the topics covered to these three alone. Any one of the subjects can blend seamlessly into one of the others with relative ease and more often than not with interesting results! So let’s get started …
As a rugby-player during my teens, twenties and thirties, I grew up on a staple diet of Guinness and curries at weekends. As is the case with many today, I exited my thirties having given up rugby, with a wife and two kids, and with an ever-increasing waistline. One of the other major developments was that I ate out less and hosted or went to dinner parties – very “normal” you may well say and indeed you’re right.
However, with dinner parties comes an obligation to provide or take wine and this is where things can often become complicated. All too often, people focus on the price of a bottle rather than what it is that you’re going to drink on the false premise that cost is a proxy for quality. It may be in some cases, but in other ways it isn’t. Also, if you have sufficient foresight and a bit of budget, you can drink copious volumes of good quality wine at very affordable prices.
Here’s a system that works for people who like decent French stuff. You will need to prime the pump so to speak for around five years (It’s a shorter cycle for Italian wines), but once you’ve taken the initial pain, you are then sitting on top of a well oiled (excuse the pun) system from which you can draw down decent wine on an on-going basis. Not only that, but you can sit at the dinner table knowing that you are drinking wine that is better than the vast majority of supermarket wines, is invariably more mature and costs you less!
So how does the system work? Here are the key steps ….
- Get in contact with a decent wine merchant who is able to source en primeur wines. I’ll introduce to one or two of the wine merchants I use in future posts. In the meantime, en primeur wines are those which are purchased before they are bottled and are still at the chateaux. They can only be bought by the case and are shipped between two and three years after the vintage.
- Open up an account with one of the decent bonded warehouse operators so that you can store your wine “In Bond” when it is delivered into the country. This will enable you to avoid paying the VAT and Duty until such time as you get the wine delivered to you from the bonded warehouse. The wine will also usually be insured whilst it is in bond.
- Each year, buy sufficient cases of a variety of your favourite wines to meet your requirements for a year. For example, if you consume an average of two bottles each week, then you will need to have an annual supply of 104 bottles or approximately nine cases. Personally, I’d round it up to ten cases to provide a bit of contingency! You can buy decent en primeur wine for anything from c.£8 per bottle upwards. Don’t forget though that you will need to add VAT and Duty when you get to take the wine out of bond at a later date.
- Now you need to be patient and to keep your resolve. Don’t be tempted to take your wine out of bond too early. I don’t tend to take my wine out of bond until it is at least five years old, so you will need to be prepared to invest, say £1,500 if you use the above model, for five years before you start to get the benefit. However, you can look forward to drinking wine that would cost you at least twice the price (probably more) if you were to buy it in the traditional way (i.e. not en primeur).
- After five years, you can start to enjoy your wine reserves, but please don’t forget to keep on buying your ten cases each year. The economics are attractive from year five onwards. Assuming that the wine would cost you twice to buy in the year you want to consume it, when compared to the year you bought it en primeur, you would spending £1,500 each year on wine that was worth £3,000.
I’ve operated this system for many years and it works. You’ve just got to pick the right wines.