Chambertin 1986 Armand Rousseau (twelve bottles).


LONDON - Experiencing great Burgundy has something of the mystical about it, partly because the wines are so beautiful they border on magical and partly because they can be elusive due to small production. Everyone who visits Burgundy for the first time is struck by the tiny size of most of these world-famous names – they resemble small vegetable plots rather than the grand sweep of a vineyard in Bordeaux’s Médoc region. These few rows of vines have to satisfy an increasingly wide world audience that has led to an inevitable hike in prices and a shortage of ‘the real thing.’

Just when all seemed lost, along comes a superb, private Burgundy cellar from an historic English country house, to be sold in London on 12 September. It was with mixed emotions, including envy, that we inspected and catalogued this mouth-watering collection, as it is a true parade of Burgundy’s finest, in all its protean magnificence. Before you accuse me of indulging in a spot of hype, it starts with Richebourg 1955 from the Domaine de la Romanée Conti (DRC) and proceeds majestically to the incomparable 1990s. The collection is peppered with the most glittering producers, from DRC to Jayer, Dujac to Rousseau, de Vogüé to Roumier, Leroy to Fourrier, Grivot to Gros, Méo Camuzet to Mongeard Mugneret – a roll-call of excellence and excitement. You can stick a pin in anywhere and come up with memorable wines at all price levels. In Europe and America, we are heading into autumn/fall, the season for both furred and feathered game that simply cries out for great Burgundy – look no further than this sale.

While perusing the catalogue, the hard copy or online, make the trip over to Italy from whence another great collection has come our way. The timing is pretty good here too as who can resist fabulous reds from Piedmont and Tuscany with autumnal dishes of osso buco and flavoursome stews and, dare we say it, the odd white truffle, or two. Many of these splendid treasures were sourced directly from the producers, among whom feature luminaries such as Bruno Giacosa, Angelo Gaja and Giacomo Conterno, plus Super Tuscan stars such as Marchesi Antinori, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Tenuta San Guido, the estate responsible for the daddy of them all, Sassicaia. I am tempted to say, ‘enjoy’, but that is hardly sufficient to describe the scope of this collection.

To cap it all, this sale has one of the best arrays of Spain’s vinous flagship, Vega Sicilia – a personal favourite and a wine that I find irresistible. This is a fantastic collection, featuring the great Unico from almost every vintage from 1959 to 1986 in bottle or magnum, together with a parcel of Reserva Especial each from a different release and all purchased directly from Vega Sicilia.

My cup runneth over – at least, it would if only I could get in amongst the bidding here. Oh well, I shall console myself, unfortunately in thought only, with the Methuselah of Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2000. The last time I drank this, from a mere bottle, it was superlative.