Is there a better time of year to drink Port than at Christmas? It’s just the thing to share around the table, especially when it comes in a larger format. Take this Tappit Hen. As custodians of the world’s largest privately owned collection of fine wine, we often discover bottles that encapsulate the eccentricities of the wine world. The story behind this rare bottle is shrouded in mystery, which is exactly what makes it so fascinating.
The Tappit Hen is a bottle peculiar to Scotland, where it came into fashion in the 18th century. The measure would originally contain a “Scot’s pint” – equivalent to three modern-day imperial pints – but the agreed size of a Tappit Hen has evolved over the years. Sometimes it was used to refer to three quarts, sometimes as 2.1 litres, but it can most commonly be found as a 2.25 litre measure – also known as a tregnum.
Although the tregnum and the Tappit Hen both measure up to three standard 75cl bottles, what distinguishes the two is their shape. While a tregnum looks like a conventional bottle shape, the Tappit Hen has a knob on top with an elegant curve reminiscent of a hen’s crest.
There are multiple other theories as to how the Tappit Hen came to be known as such. Another is that the name is a derivative of the old French word “cuppetin”, as described by T.G. Shaw in his book Consumption of Wine in the United Kingdom, released in 1866. The cuppetin was the barrel carried by the vivandières, the wine-bearing men from the old French regiments.
Another origin story hails from its native Scotland, where if you were to say you had a “Tappit Hen under your belt” you were guilty of having over-indulged in Claret – three pints, to be precise.
Whatever the origin of the Tappit Hen, there’s no denying that this elusive bottle is a hard-to-find rarity in the fine wine market. Even more so, considering that only 600 cases of Stone Terraces were produced – barely any were put in a Tappit Hen – which makes the arrival of this bottle on BBX all the more exciting.
Take a look at the Tappit Hen on bbr.com. For more information on listing your wines, placing bids or purchasing on BBX; please contact the BBX team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each month, the BBX team share the latest market trends and insights from a month’s trading on our fine wine exchange.
October’s figures for BBX appeared to buck the wider trend that is being seen in the secondary market – more specifically, Bordeaux’s slice of the pie is diminishing. Or, to put it another way: we’re seeing an emerging ‘broadening’ of the market. Bordeaux’s share of total BBX sales actually increased month on month, with notable demand for Château Lafite, Mouton and Palmer. Sales for Burgundy, usually BBX’s biggest monthly mover, were down 4% on the previous month, accounting for 29% of all BBX sales. And Italy, which normally sits comfortably in third place, shifted to fourth to make room for Champagne. Champagne’s rise continues apace and is up almost 3% on last month, to now hold a 10% share of all sales. Spain also saw increased sales thanks to strong performances from Vega Sicilia and Rioja Alta.
Year on year, Bordeaux has seen both its total sales value and wine prices increase on BBX, but its overall share has been drifting, with a staggering 30% fall since October 2013. This is an undeniable reflection of what is happening in the wider secondary market. Burgundy has been the main winner here, with its share of all BBX sales increasing by 5% in the past 12 months and 13% over the last decade. Other significant gainers include Italy, the US, Champagne and the Rhône. Regions such as Jura, the Savoie, China and Greece – who did not feature on BBX in 2013 – have since joined the mix and now receive regular bids. Burgundy tops the list with almost £40 million worth of bids, but Bordeaux has more actual ‘bidders’. With its high volume of production providing good fluidity on the market plus great aging potential, it stands to reason that Bordeaux will continue to be the popular choice.
Burgundy’s prices have skyrocketed over the past 18 months, but buying Burgundy is a game of numbers – there will simply never be enough of it. Because of this, savvy buyers are looking elsewhere for value. One such place is Piedmont. The Italian region has often been described as the new Burgundy: very producer-led with a focus on single vineyards (a good example of this are the Barbarescos and Barolos of Luca Roagna). Tuscany may have led in terms of sales for Italy, but Piedmont has seen some of the biggest price movements.
With more buyers than ever before, more wines from emerging regions and a relentless search for value, this broadening of the market is surely set to continue.
For more information on listing your wines, placing bids or purchasing on BBX; please contact the BBX team at email@example.com.
Nothing makes a statement quite like a magnum of fine wine. But beyond its magnificence, a bigger bottle also helps a fine wine to age more slowly, while offering plenty to share around the Christmas table. Below, you’ll find stories and advice to help you make the most of magnums over the festive season.
For Joshua Friend, Christmas is all about creating special memories with friends and family – and magnums, he believes, are the secret ingredient that brings it all together.
Christmas is coming, but for me, it can never come soon enough. It’s my favourite time of the year, all about family, friends, good food and wine. When I recommend wines for my clients to drink, I often rave about magnums at any given moment, which led to someone asking me a very simple question: why are magnums better?
The first thought in everyone’s head is an obvious one: let’s face it, they are incredibly Instagrammable. But let’s briskly brush the hashtags and Insta-nonsense aside and focus on what really matters: the wine.
They’re considered to age better than 75cl bottles; the greater volume within the bottle allows for a slower interaction with oxygen, leading to an arguably better wine in the long term. To give you a recent example, I recently tasted a magnum of 2014 David Moreau, Santenay, Premier Cru, Clos de Rousseau: it was singing, still incredibly fresh with great acidity and plenty of crunchy red fruit. Alongside a 75cl bottle of the same wine, the difference really showed. The smaller bottle was still bright, but more autumnal, with notes of bonfire, smoke and forest floor. Yes, it was delicious, but it showed its age in comparison.
There’s a sense of awe and theatricality when you slam down a magnum in the middle of the table. Burgundy winemaker Jacques Devauges, of Clos des Lambrays, explained it to me quite well. He said that if you put down a normal-sized bottle of Clos de Lambrays, people will start to think, “Is there going to be enough to go around? Paul certainly likes to drink – he’d better not have it all!”. Whereas with a magnum, all anxiety disappears. You’re guaranteed at least your fair share of a wine you’ve been dying to taste. It brings a sense of calm.
Typically, when I think of magnums, I think of special occasions. My cellar is stocked with an array of magnums, with many future Christmases in mind. The longevity of the ageing brings a sense of assurance that these wines will perform exactly as they should, when the moment to uncork them arrives.
Magnums are still a bit niche. You might not have the space in your fridge or cellar – especially with the turkey taking up a whole shelf – but my advice would be to make room. Celebrations and Instagram likes aside, magnums facilitate something more special: sharing magical moments with friends.
How to decant a magnum
As we enter party season, Henrietta Gullifer shares some key advice for serving a fine wine magnum to your guests.
This is going to be the year of the magnum. Gone are the muted, intimate festivities of last Christmas; this time, it’s all about large parties, extended family get-togethers and prolonging the festive season as much as we can. I believe a magnum is the best way to get into the celebratory mood, as well as being perfect for larger gatherings.
Magnums may seem a little daunting, particularly when it comes to decanting the wine. I’m afraid that opening the bottle early won’t give you the same benefit as decanting, as the oxygen exposure is minimal. The main purpose of decanting is to aerate the wine slightly; exposing it to oxygen will soften the texture and enhance the flavour. An older wine may also need to be filtered and decanted to remove any sediment that has collected over the years as the wine ages. The physical act of pouring is more important than the shape or size of the decanter that you use – especially as many of us don’t have magnum decanters around.
Any large jug should work. Ideally, I’d recommend investing in a good filter funnel. Pour slowly, keeping the bottle on its side to reduce the chances of transferring the sediment. You can serve your wine from the jug. Alternatively, you could pour the wine back into the bottle – this is known as double decanting – for a little wow factor. Bear in mind that, for this, you will need a funnel. I would also recommend rinsing out the bottle. There isn’t a strict time frame for decanting wine, but I recommend doing it a few hours before, which gives you plenty of time.
Cooking for a crowd
Michelin-trained chef Stewart Turner is used to cooking for a crowd; he does it every day from the kitchens of No.3 St James’s Street. He imparts a few quick dinner-party wins.
Large formats are always a bit of a showstopper. They’re great if you’ve got a full house or if you have a crowd coming over at Christmas – or any time, for that matter. Preparation is key: you want to enjoy the party as much as your guests. Being stuck in the kitchen all night is no fun – that I can tell you from experience! My top tip is to think about your menu carefully. Consider which dishes can be prepared in advance, like canapés that just need a quick finishing touch, or a starter that can be pre-plated.
Like a magnum, a large sharing dish has a real wow factor. Think beef tomahawk with a gratin dauphinoise or a whole roast turbot. A classic wellington is always a winner, whether it be beef, venison, or vegetable. The whole thing can be done in advance – it just has to be cooked at the last minute. I recently made a salmon wellington, which was a real success. Cooking on a theme is also a great idea. For instance, a spiced, slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with couscous, flat bread and homemade hummus makes a great Levantine feast, and most of it can be prepared in advance.
Champagne enjoys an unmatched reputation as the go-to celebration wine, built on centuries of festive associations. Adam Holden shines a light on the best-known historical moments which have helped to shape an iconic legacy.
Wine of kings
For as long as it’s existed as a sparkling wine, Champagne has been inextricably linked to festivity, celebration and the grandest of occasions. Nothing ushers in a joyeux noël like hearing the unmistakable pop of that mushroom cork.
Perhaps the link is as old as France itself: Clovis the 1st was baptised in the Cathedral of Reims on Christmas Day, where he was later coronated as the first king of the united Franks. Celebrations were, presumably, well-oiled with what would then have been the still wines of the region.
With the addition of bubbles, these rather thin, acidic, still wines from the cold vineyards of Champagne found their raison d’être, with much of the credit going to the famous Dom Pérignon himself. His exceptional palate (which improved the quality of the wines), his skill in coaxing perfectly white wine from red grapes and his tenacity in pursuing a more stable, consistent effervescence to reduce the ever-present threat of exploding bottles, left him with a permanent spot in Champagne’s Hall of Fame.
A sense of theatre
If not for Dom Pérignon, perhaps we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the luxury of Champagne’s frothing mousse. The first aristocrats to enjoy this novel, bubbly wine appreciated its liveliness almost more than the wine itself. The unpredictable expulsion of a pent-up bottle was frequently spent dousing guests for festive entertainment rather than making it anywhere near a glass – a tradition which is mercifully less common today, except among Formula 1 drivers.
As if this were not theatre enough, we can further indulge an impulse for festive showmanship by reaching for the sabre. The practice of sabrage, which was favoured by Napoleon and his captains, involves running a sword along the bottle to make contact with the lip and send the collar and the cork flying as one. It certainly adds to the sense of occasion – be sure to equip all bystanders with essential eye protection or the laughter may turn to tears.
Far from being reserved only for victories, Napoleon considered defeat just as good an excuse for a glass of Champagne. Louis XVI would probably relate to this sentiment, having drunk generous amounts of Champagne just before losing his head to the guillotine.
Enter the Widow Clicquot
A century later, The Widow Clicquot (of iconic label Veuve Clicquot), spared no effort in making the manufacture process for Champagne easier and more consistent. And she wasted no time in capitalising on her enthusiastic new customer base either. The Russian aristocracy greedily purchased whatever they could get their hands on, having developed a taste while occupying Reims at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars – a fitting way to commemorate their long-sought triumph over The Great General’s imperial ambitions.
Where the British consumer surely influenced the style of sparkling Champagne wines is in its dryness. The sugar levels of early sparking Champagnes were adjusted to suit the destination, but even the dry styles were generally sweet. The Russians had a taste for wines with sweetness well above that of modern-day Sauternes or Tokaji, whereas the British favoured the crisper style.
The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) enjoyed the 1865 vintage unsweetened, subsequently giving dry Champagne his royal assent. Importantly, these increasingly dry wines necessitated an improvement in overall quality, given that the addition of sugar was an effective way of concealing a wine’s shortcomings. Today, despite our modern palates having adjusted to the presence of sugar in almost everything, low or zero dosage Champagnes are increasing in both number and popularity for their freshness and purity of fruit.
A grand legacy
The Widow Clicquot’s revolutionary process for removing the dead yeast cells which remain from the second fermentation – critically without losing too much wine or causing it to go flat – allowed Champagne to reach a far wider audience.
Once the sole preserve of royalty, an increasingly affluent middle class could now access this noble delicacy. Still, its associations with aristocracy and grandeur have endured, and have us reaching for our sabres on all of our most treasured occasions.
There are few better reasons to indulge a lavish impulse than gathering with loved ones on Christmas Day – still the perfect excuse for a glass of wine at breakfast. And what can compete with Champagne for early morning appeal? As Noel Coward once said “Why do I drink champagne for breakfast? Doesn’t everyone?”.
Explore our selection of festive Champagne and sparkling wines here