Restaurants make pounds 1,000 a bottle profit for immature wines

SOME OF Britain's top restaurants are profiting by up to pounds 1,000 a bottle on wine that most British experts agree is not ready to drink.

Bottles of some of the world's most exclusive wines are on the lists of London's finest restaurants up to six years earlier than the date recommended by producers' agents and leading guides.

It is during these crucial years that premium wines develop the complex flavours that mark them out from cheaper variations available on the high street. But the very British practice of keeping wine until it reaches its optimum condition causes heated debate in the trade.

The French enjoy drinking much younger wine, and masters of wines, agents, brokers and restaurant sommeliers are divided over whether the practice of selling high-priced wines before they are at their peak is wrong.

Le Gavroche, one of London's best-known restaurants and one of only a handful in the country with two Michelin stars, has a list of about 1,000 wines but Silvano Giraldin, the restaurant manager, admitted that only a hundred or so are at their peak. "We are tying up capital and we need to put the wines on the list sometimes before they are ready," he said.

He sells the 1993 white Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanee Conti (DRC) at pounds 1,331 plus 12.5 per cent service charge despite the fact that it is not at its peak of maturity. On the wine list of Corney and Barrow, agents for DRC, the managing director, Adam Brett-Smith, says the 1993 Montrachet will not be at its best until 2002.

Le Gavroche pitches even higher with the red 1993 Montrachet DRC, charging pounds 1,910 plus service for a wine that the DRC agents say should be kept until 2005.

But Le Gavroche is not alone. The Oak Room, Marco Pierre White's three- star Michelin-rated restaurant where dinner costs about pounds 100 a head, also lists the 1993 Montrachet DRC - though at pounds 1,050, it is almost pounds 300 cheaper. In each case, the restaurants will have paid considerably less than the pounds 395 plus VAT per bottle that Corney & Barrow now charges.

Restaurants seldom agree on price. A 1993 Le Montrachet Comtes Lafon, which the brokers Morris and Verdin list at about pounds 200 a bottle, sells at The Oak Room for pounds 800; at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, the same bottle is listed at pounds 845; and at Harvey Nichols' Fifth Floor restaurant it is pounds 290. Morris and Verdin says it should not be drunk for at least another four years - but preferably 10.

Harvey Nichols also lists a Cote Rotie 1995 Joel Champet at pounds 52.50 and a 1993 La Tache, Domaine Romanee Conti (sold by brokers at pounds 158) at pounds 350. Yet the agents for the producers say they should not be touched before 2003.

The Oak Room and Harvey Nichols were unable to comment on the pricing of their wine.

Clive Coates, master of wine and publisher of The Vine, a monthly magazine on fine wine, agrees. "Wines go through adolescent changes and five years on is a time when the wine has gone to sleep and returned into its shell," he said. "At that age - when many of them are sold at exorbitant prices by these restaurants - the initial puppy fat of fresh fruit has subdued but the mature aromas and complexities have not yet come to the fore.

"You would be better off drinking it after one year than after five. At least you would taste that initial fresh fruit. It is an insult to the people who spend a lot of time and trouble making this wine in the first place to foist it on the public, many of whom are prepared to pay these outlandish prices when all they are doing is committing infanticide. I don't begrudge high margins but I do feel that, given that they are asking someone to pay nearly pounds 2,000, the customer is absolutely entitled to jump up with rage if it's not ready for drinking."

Le Gavroche's Mr Giraldin replied that it would be "madness" to try to sit on wines that are already superb for another five or 10 years. "No one could afford to keep a bottle of very good wine for 50 years before it is ready to drink," he said. "The French drink wine much younger than the English and it is a matter of opinion who is right. The Montrachet, for example, is already an outstanding wine but we have older vintages if customers want them. They may have to pay more and not everyone is prepared to do that, but we give our customers good advice and they get what they want.

"It depends on what school of thought you are coming from - you could argue that only 100 of the 1,000 or so wines that are on the list are at their peak. Now would you want a list with just 100 wines on it?"

Mr Brett-Smith of Corney & Barrow said his company's advice - that the wine should be kept longer - would improve it, but he added: "The trouble with so much in wine is that it is a matter of personal opinion.

"The French laugh at the length of time the British prepare to keep it before drinking - in fact the '93 Montrachet is a stunningly good wine already. It would be better in three or four years, but it is the customers who will have the final say when they decide whether or not to vote with their money."

Michael Schuster, an author and wine educator, said: "'93 Le Montrachet (DRC) would certainly be impressive and not unenjoyable already, but by no means revealing all its potential subtleties. '93 Romanee Conti or La Tache on the other hand, from such a tannic vintage, would be tough, unyielding, delivering very little of the pleasure they most certainly will in 10 to 15 years' time."

DRC vineyards in Vosne Romanee and Chassagne are rated the best places in the world to grow pinot noir and chardonnay. While all grand cru Burgundy is expensive, that from DRC is the most costly. The wine is produced to last and takes time to knit together. It is not drunk to taste oak or the grape but to appreciate the unique expression of the vineyard.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn