England’s highest cellar
Author: Tom Cave
It all started one searingly hot mid-August day as we marched, lightly armed, in annual pursuit of Lancastrian grouse through the heather and over the just-too-wide-to-jump drains towards a beckoning Trig Point. The 1,800-foot summit, deep in the heart of the Forest of Bowland, was the spot where, by habit, we took pause from the chase for a picnic lunch of Baxter’s Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps and ham baps.
Taking a seat on a peat hag I declared wantingly that I could murder a glass of chilled white Burgundy.
Quick as a flash my host volunteered me, the following August, to haul in a rucksack two magnums of white Burgundy to the top of the hill: one for that day’s lunch, the other to be buried in anticipation of the following year’s. Hence, what could be called England’s Highest Cellar was founded.
This was back in the mid-1990s; I recall that the first magnum which, with the aid of what was claimed to be a First World War trenching tool, we sunk into the soft, damp peat by the Trig Point was a flavoursome 1992 Meursault, Clos de Mazeray, Jacques Prieur which drank very well a year later. Others followed: in 2002 we enjoyed a 1997 Tokay-Pinot Gris from Hugel (that would have gone well with potted shrimps). My Game Book notes a 1997 Meursault Blagny was deposited in the very hot August of 2003, while a 1997 Meursault-Blagny, Les Ravelles from Michel Bouzereau was knocked back – each having seemingly survived a year buried a metre-or-so under the damp sod. There was a 1996 Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru from the Chavy brothers sometime around then too.
Poor record-keeping prevents further mention of individual wines but it was around this time that, much to our chagrin, a magnum was (heavens!) lost. No one could remember quite where it had been buried: after much digging and poking, and even some amateur water-divining, that magnum was regrettably lost to the moor. We went thirsty that day.
In a more recent year, a magnum of 2005 Meursault-Tessons, J-P Fichet was found to have suffered from a hard winter and had succumbed to the cold – the perma-frost had won. We probably persevered with it all the same.
In 2011 a magnum of already-aged NV Louis Roederer was dug up and, on a hideously wet and windy day gave considerable comfort to the shivering band of sportsmen.
It’s always been a case of take one up and drink what’s there, and the ritual looks set to continue. If the weather allows, there’s really “nowt finer” than sipping a perfectly chilled, white Burgundy looking out over Morecambe Bay, or t’other way to mighty Ingleborough, while contemplating the long, but thankfully downhill, walk home.
For information on Tom’s more conventional Cellar Plans, go to bbr.com.