Toast to the future


Laura AtkinsonHaving started a wine career with very little initial interest in wine it is quite hard to believe how much I have changed over the last 5 years.  With an obsession for food and hospitality and having always wanted to open a restaurant, I decided to try and grasp the wine basics before opening my own foodie empire. Things did not go exactly to plan and I managed to fall in love with wine within the first few days! Two and a bit years later, having completed my WSET Advanced Wine Exam, I decided to study towards being a Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and landed promptly at the five star Rockliffe Hall resort in County Durham as Head Sommelier.

I joined Berry Bros. & Rudd almost one year ago to date to benefit from the vast experience, access to the widest selection of en primeur allocations and the huge community of knowledge. In addition I am continuing with both my Sommelier studies and the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits with every intention of attempting to become a Master of Wine and a Master Sommelier one day. Fingers crossed!

My two greatest passions are surely the most interesting aspects of the wine industry; matching wines to food and building a cellar for the future. The latter is how I would spend most of my time and all of my money if I could! Buying wine for future drinking is an odd concept; – parting with your hard earned cash for a bottle of wonderful wine to enjoy on an evening is one thing, but how about spending those pounds up to 5, 10 or even 20 years prior to tasting it? The practice of buying wines for future drinking is already well established. Wine merchants have been offering this format for years and years for numerous valid reasons. Firstly, investing is one thing, but for a successful market the availability of wine needs to diminish for the value of the remaining bottles to increase. Let us not forget, wine is a consumable, remember to consume it.

Secondly, the best way to secure small parcels of interesting wines or vintages with a high demand is by purchasing when first released by the producers. It could be very difficult and, needless to say, expensive, to drink wines of this nature at full retail value years later when it is mature and displaying its true expressive beauty. Purchasing half a dozen cases en primeur or indeed of younger vintages with the intention of cellaring is the quickest way to build an interesting portfolio surprisingly quickly. More and more wines are now released in six packs which makes it an even more accessible possibility for the true wine lover.

There will be a small collective of customers who can rise from their leather-bound Chesterfield, walk through several reception rooms towards their 16th century trap door, past the cobwebs and down the spiral staircase towards a well stocked cellar bursting with old and interesting vintages to spontaneously choose the most perfect wine to accompany their dinner. What an ideal situation! Putting wines aside with the intention of drinking them in the future isn’t extravagant, it is organisation. In life I am not too much of a forward planner but as a wine lover, it makes sense.

I often attend a wine dinner with fellow industry and non industry folk. The format for these regular events involves a vast and varied pre-dinner tasting with free corkage for the ‘blind’ bottles we bring. Most attendees do not stop at just one bottle either; free corkage is an incentive to take advantage of. That is another story. This environment is the perfect excuse to raid our cellars. We meet with our secret bottles either decanted into an alter ego or wrapped in various paraphernalia from tin foil, socks and carrier bags to the ever so professional numbered wine bags designed for such occasions. Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to taste many splendid wines that I simply couldn’t afford to keep buying at market cost. My personal top ten recent highlights (all bought on first release and hand-selected from our various cellars) which make for wonderful future drinkers are as follows:


California – 2000 Chardonnay, Monte Bello, Ridge. Treat this like a Burgundy but with less risk of premature oxidation.

Loire – Sancerre, Le Cul de Beaujeu, Cotat 1999. A must try with the local Crottin de Chavignol cheese.

Alsace – 2001 Riesling, Cuvée Frederic Emile, Trimbach

Burgundy – 2002 Chablis, Les Clos, Billaud Simon. Billaud Simon ages beautifully.


Spain – 1976, 1986 & 1996 Rioja, Vina Tondonia, Bodegas Lopez de Heredia. An interesting comparable tasting.

Australia – 2002 Runrig, Torbreck Vintners, Barossa

Burgundy – 1996 Chambolle-Musigny, Roumier. In fact anything by Roumier.

Bordeaux – 1970, 1990, 1996 & 2001 Ch. Lynch Bages, Pauillac . I do enjoy Lynch. It is special every vintage!


Sauternes – 1988 Ch. Rieussec. Sauternes like Rieussec works with savoury (Foie Gras) and sweet (Crème Brulee).

Vouvray – 2000 Cuvée Constance Moelleux, Domaine Huet. Most quality Chenin Blanc simply gets better with age.

Purchasing a few cases of wine each year is the most exciting way to develop your interest, improve knowledge of older vintages and have the opportunity to taste a wider selection of fine wines knowing you could have significantly saved quite a few pounds.

Aside from the potential financial benefits, there is something rather romantic about purchasing wines in their youth and holding onto them through maturity ready for the suitable moment to draw the cork. The aim for buyers and drinkers is to capture wine at its perfect drinking window; the best example of what the winemaker wanted to create for us all of those years ago. It is now widely recognised that a wine moment is more than just the droplets of liquid in the glass. It is the story of its creation, a sense of drinking historic moments, the weather outside, the type of day you have had and the occasion in which led to the opening of each bottle. It is also the company you are surrounded by. If indeed you do chose to share… Owning a wine for its entirety will surely lead to the most rewarding wine moments.

So shall we toast to the future?

Laura Atkinson – Berrys’ Wine Advisor