My Round: Driven to drink

Don't worry if you don't have the perfect cellar, new 'research' gives the accepted wisdom about storing wine the boot
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Some weeks ago, a man from Denmark told me of a remarkable piece of research he and some friends had undertaken into the art and science of ageing wine. As I'm sure you know, the standard line on ageing calls for control, stability and consistency. The temperature should be around 12C. The light must be low, or non-existent. The humidity should be around 60 to 70 per cent. The bottles should not be subject to vibration, let alone violent movement. And none of these parameters should undergo any change.

Some weeks ago, a man from Denmark told me of a remarkable piece of research he and some friends had undertaken into the art and science of ageing wine. As I'm sure you know, the standard line on ageing calls for control, stability and consistency. The temperature should be around 12C. The light must be low, or non-existent. The humidity should be around 60 to 70 per cent. The bottles should not be subject to vibration, let alone violent movement. And none of these parameters should undergo any change.

This group of Danish friends formed a wine club, pooling their money to buy bottles that they could taste together. A few years ago, they ran an experiment with a case of Château Pontet Canet, a fifth-growth Pauillac of high quality. The vintage was 1996. The experiment involved putting to the test a handful of different ways of ageing wine. All the bottles were aged for four years. But each one was subjected to a different method, from the obviously sound to the apparently wacky. Finally came the tasting of all the bottles together.

Some of the results were unsurprising: keeping wine in a warm kitchen kills it stone-dead. One result, by contrast, was not only surprising but astonishing: the best bottle, after four years, was not the one that had been stored at the correct temperature and humidity and with sepulchral stillness. It was the bottle that one member of the group had kept in the boot of his car. The car had been driven throughout the four years. Presumably a suitcase and football boot or two had been piled on top of it. No temperature control was possible. Humidity control? Ha! But this was the bottle they all liked best.

It's hard to know where one can go with this piece of research. For one thing: the car-boot approach, though it works a treat in Copenhagen, might prove trickier in Nairobi, Nogales, or any other place where the temperature normally stays hot. For another: would you have to buy a new car every time the boot became full? And for yet another: what do you do if you drive a Smart car?

There is something to be learnt from the Danish lesson, however - and the lesson applies most pertinently to the wines that normal people are likely to drink on an everyday basis. Few of us can afford £30 to £40 claret, but we can afford the occasional bottle costing twice as much as what we drink usually. Let us say around the £12-to-£15 mark for the sake of argument. With those wines, some extra bottle age may well be a good thing. Do we have a cellar with optimum storage conditions? Not likely. Do we want to get the wine up to drinking speed as soon as is humanly possible? Of course. Do we have an automobile? Hmm. You see what I mean.

The wines picked out below are all from the annual January tasting run by Bunch, a confederation of six of Britain's best independent merchants. The theme of the tasting was "Evolution", referring specifically to how some of their best wines evolve over time. I would be loath to submit some of the wines in their tasting, such as the fabulous Barbarescos of Angelo Gaja (£760 to £1,000 a case from John Armit, 020 7908 0600), to the Danish Boot treatment. With the threesome here, though, a more modest assembly requiring less bottle age, it might well be worth a go. Buy two bottles. Give one the boot. Taste them after a year's storage. You might be surprised by the results. Accelerated ageing could, for once, be something you want to embrace rather than avoid. *

Top Corks: Three bootable Bunches

Artadi Artazuri Garnacha 2001, Navarra £5.75, Berry Bros & Rudd, 0870 900 4300 Lush fruit with characteristic Garnacha spiciness. Period in boot: six to 12 months. Outstanding at this price.

Galatina Rosso 2000, Valle del'Asso £8.45, Lay & Wheeler, 0845 330 1855 Stunning Pugliese blend, Negroamaro and Primitivo with no oak contact at all. Period in boot: six to 12 months.

Clot de Gleize 2002, Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône £5.76, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2444 Attractive oak-free Carignan/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Period in boot: a week is plenty.

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