Wine connoisseurs on a tight budget are increasingly able to buy vintages dating from the early 20th century for little more than the cost of supermarket champagne, thanks to British specialists tracking down mature bottles.
Bottles from almost every vintage between 1930 and 1985 are now being sold by one London firm – along with half bottles dating from as long ago as 1874 – and most can be bought for between £35 and £60.
Philippe Gayral, who describes himself as a “saviour of a dying wine style”, has spent the past eight years searching for the once-popular but forgotten wines from three appellations of Vin Doux Naturel for the London-based Farr Vintners. These vintage dessert wines – lightly fortified and typically made from white Muscat or red Grenache grapes quite common in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southwest France – are said to be ideal companions for cake and chocolates.
They come in three varieties – Rivesaltes, Banyuls and Maury – and while the firm’s solitary 19th century vintage sells for £360 a half bottle, most are far cheaper.
Most expensive bottles of wine in the world
Most expensive bottles of wine in the world
1/10 1. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France, £8,310
The most expensive wine in the world is described as the perfect Burgundy. The price has been moving upwards over the past three years, so get it while you still can.
2/10 2. Henri Jayer Cros Parantoux, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, France, £4,894
Another Burgundy, this one is a collector’s item. It’s also quite popular in Asia.
3/10 3. Egon Muller-Scharzhof Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Germany, £4,577
The first German wine on the list, this Riesling is produced in the Rheingau vineyard. The 2010 vintage was given a perfect score – 100 out of a 100 – by a major wine critic.
4/10 4. Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France, £3,716
The highest priced white wine from Le Montrachet, this is also the fourth most highly rated white from the region.
5/10 5. Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Germany, £3,415
Another German wine comes in at number five, and critics have rated it as the best white in the region. It has an overall score of 98 on wine-searcher.com – not bad.
6/10 6. Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France, £3,379
Another red from the Cote de Nuits, were the Le Musigny vineyard plays a pivotal role in local life – so much so that the village of Chambolle changed its name to Chambolle-Musigny in 1882.
7/10 7. Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France, £3,202
How about that Cote de Nuits? Another entry from Le Musigny, this is the second highest priced wine from the vineyard. The 2012 vintage was given a score of 98 out of 100 by The Wine Advocate.
8/10 8. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France, £2,948
This wine has received more awards than any other white in the region. It’s also the most sough after Le Montrachet wine, based on user searches.
9/10 9. Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage Cuvee Cathelin, Rhone, France £2,403
The Ermitage (or Hermitage) is a rich Syrah-based red wine from the Rhone Valley. Ermitage wine can be traced back to 17th century, when it was an official wine in the courts of King Louis XIII and his successor Louis XIV.
10/10 10. Henri Jayer Echezeaux Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France £2,196
Yet another Grand Cru from the Cote de Nuits. Interest in this wine has fallen in recent years, but it’s still popular enough to justify its extraordinary price.
“Vin Doux Naturel is a forgotten wine style of the region,” said Farr’s chairman, Stephen Browett. “They were hugely popular in France in the 1950s but very much a dying drink now. A lot of domaines just don’t make them any more.”
In the 1950s about 70 million Rivesaltes bottles were sold annually in France, but last years less than three million were bottled. They were a favourite of the French army due to their high alcohol and sugar content, making them much more stable and transportable than table wines.
Critics have been unanimous in their praise of the “ancient” vintages. The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin described a 1942 Rivesaltes Chateau Sisqueille as “an absolute delight … stunning”. He said the wine, bottled in 2011, “is extraordinarily well balanced with perfect acidity” and left the front of his tongue tingling.
Jancis Robinson, the writer and Master of Wine, described the 1959 Banyuls Grand Cru, Domaines et Terroirs du Sud, as a good example of the “seriously good-value sweet wine antiques that you can drink over quite a time as they retain their fruit and freshness well in an opened bottle”. She described the ancient vintages as “virtually indestructible” and a “brilliant bargain for marking anniversaries”.
Mr Martin said: “It is difficult to think of another wine that offers such value. Where else can you pick up post-war bottles with such quality and rarity at such prices? There is a part of me that thinks that in a few years’ time we will look back incredulously at what these gems are sold for. They are simply delicious to drink and enjoy.”Reuse content