Food and Drink: Old masters stored in a cellar: The artist Richard Hamilton likes a flutter on wine. Anthony Rose finds he has backed some favourites

Rootling around the cellar for something to slake our thirst, Richard Hamilton, of pop art fame, plucked out a bottle of 1982 Chateau Batailley. 'I would wait another four years for the Ducru, but the Palmer is also good now.'

Hamilton's capacious cellar, under his farmhouse in the Chilterns, has been specially adapted for wine storage. Beneath a thick concrete shelf, three layers of neatly stacked, unopened wooden cases bear the names of some of the great classified Bordeaux chateaux: 1986 Pichon-Lalande, 1982 Ducru- Beaucaillou, 1978 Leoville-Barton, 1975 Lynch-Bages.

The true artfulness of the thrifty collector, however, is revealed by a host of classy but unclassified chateau names from the best vintages: 1989 Chasse-Spleen and de la Dauphine, 1986 Monbrison, Poujeaux, Potensac, and Sociando-Mallet, 1982 d'Angludet.

Above the wooden cases, rows of wine bins hold individual bottles, lying invitingly at eye level: 1969 and 1966 Corton, 1970 and 1966 Grands-Echezeaux, 1983 Guigal Cote-Rotie, 1966 and 1969 Chambolle-Musigny, 1981 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du- Pape, 1986 Sassicaia, a 1958 Gaja Barbaesco here, a 1945 Chateau Cheval Blanc there. Even a bottle of 1984 Richard Hamilton Cabernet Sauvignon from South Australia.

It was not always so. Hamilton's earliest memories of wine were of his parents buying a bottle of tawny port on Saturday nights to drink by the fire. As an art student at the Royal Academy School in the Thirties, he drank beer and cider. And when he first tasted wine on a trip to France in 1939, 'it was abominable. I couldn't imagine how people could drink the stuff. For years, my understanding of wine was that it was this strange rubbish that French people drank.'

In his final year at the Slade, he met Roland Penrose, a friend of Picasso, and for the first time in his life was given fine red wines. 'I began to see what all the fuss was about.' Penrose bought him a share in the Wine Society. Through him and Marcel Duchamp, Hamilton met William and Noma Copley, who had a magnificent cellar in France.

'When Magritte or Marcel Duchamp or Peggy Guggenheim was there, they would serve some magnificent wines. On one occasion, they invited Henryk Szering, a distinguished violinist, to see the cellar. I tagged along and watched as Szering's eyes popped out at the sight of all the Romanee-Conti. I began to understand the mystique of the cellar.'

Hamilton did not start buying wine until the early Sixties, investing in an occasional bottle from the fine wine rack of a merchant in Highgate, north London. His appreciation was greatly enhanced by rail journeys to and from Newcastle, where he was teaching.

'I travelled a lot with Kenneth Rowntree, professor of the fine art department at Newcastle, who was a bit of a wine freak. We used to have steak-and-kidney pudding, a classic of the British Rail menu, and we would have really good wine with it. At that time, the British Rail wine cellar was the best in England, probably one of the best in the world.'

Like many astute wine collectors, Hamilton exploited the Bordeaux crash of 1973/4, stocking up with fine wines at a fraction of what he had paid before. 'That was the foundation of my cellar. I bought '61, '62, '64, '66, very good ones, at a reasonable price, from wine merchants around Hampstead, and stacked them all up at the back of my garage in Highbury.' At about the same time, he moved to the country.

'I first bought en primeur in 1975. Then I bought 1978. I started to do it quite seriously, always looking at the market and buying cheaply.' By 1982 he was studying form, 'rather like horse racing. You picked up tips wherever possible, and gained experience by drinking and making decisions.'

In 1983 he was invited to an Oxford College tasting, where all the talk was of the 1982s, and where intimations of mortality served to concentrate his mind: to drink these wines at their best, he would have to wait between 12 years (until he was 72) and 20 (when he would be 80). What if there was not another good year for five years? 'I thought I'd better really stock up.' So he bought 45 cases, including 15 of Ducru-Beaucaillou at pounds 96, and five of Palmer at pounds 94 apiece. 'It was like backing the winner of the Grand National.'

His buying acumen is founded on a meticulous study of value, price and form. He doesn't buy First Growths such as Chateaux Latour or Lafite, partly because he believes they are overpriced, and partly because he seems to attract them as presents (in nooks of his cellar are to be found odd bottles of Chateaux Lafite, Latour, Mouton- Rothschild and Margaux). 'I'd rather buy what a good informant is saying is as fine as the First Growths at a third of the price.'

He has no qualms about drinking First Growths when they are offered, of course. At one posh dinner party, Christian Moueix of Chateau Petrus was doing the honours. 'I had told him I'd bought five cases of La Dauphine. He gave me quite a generous serving from a jeroboam of 1975 Petrus, and said: 'That's for buying the La Dauphine.' It was a very grand occasion, being served a great Petrus by the proprietor of the chateau. I told my neighbour, who described himself as the keeper of the Queen's wines, that I was disappointed. He said, 'I think you're right, we had a magnum of the same year last night, and it was a lot better.' '

He virtually stopped buying wine in earnest last year. Now, if he buys at all, it is usually white wine or beaujolais. 'I've got '89 beaujolais, which I love, and it's probably much more drinkable now than a bottle of Bordeaux.'

He tends to avoid burgundy 'because I'm mean. Or maybe it's not meanness. Part of the business of drinking, for me, is to drink great wine at a reasonable price. I think it's a laudable ambition.

'People say: 'Why don't you sell it?' But selling has never interested me in the least. What I've invested in those bottles is not money but time and care and love.'

Richard Hamilton and his wife have a house at Cadaques in Spain, where, on their regular visits, they lay in supplies mostly of Spanish wines, among which Vina Ardanza, particularly the 1982, is a favourite. 'And there's a wonderful wine we've been drinking there over the past two years that we enjoy enormously, a still cava - Raventos, light and beautiful to drink in the sunshine.'

(Photograph omitted)

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game