After my intro with two modest private wine cellars from the previous post, a visit with the big guns. My three top wine cellars around the world. One from Paris France, the other in London, England and the last one representing The Americas a wine cellar in the Bahamas with close ties to Italy (the owner’s Homeland)
E’videmment we start with Good old PARIS
La Tour D’argent cellar
The wine cellar at La Tour D’argent, is one of the most extensive wine cellars in the world. The wine cellar lies beneath La Tour d’Argent Restaurant and has a special lift leading to it from the restaurant’s ground floor where you will meet “the gate keeper” he has got the keys that allows the lucky few to travel and enter the most historic and celebrated wine cellar in Paris, with treasures of unsurpassed quality and variety. It stores around 450,000 bottles of wines and spirits dating back more than two centuries. According to stories, most of the bottles were saved by Claude Terrail (the present owner’s father, whose family still owns the restaurant) from the German occupation during World War 2. Legend has it that on the night of June 14, 1940 the day the Germans entered Paris, he personally walled off (brick and plaster) part of the cellars keeping the lesser wines in sight for all to see, and most of the better wines hidden behind the newly built walls and the wine loaded on the rearranged shelves. I believe this is a true story since those greedy guzzling thieving Nazis would have surely consumed or confiscated/stolen the treasures of this legendary cellar.
The restaurant’s wine list is a heavy thick endlessly long book that lists thousands of the best wines of France each grouped perfectly by their origin / wine region and vintage year. The collection also includes Historic gems like a cognac from 1788, the year before the French Revolution, vertical collection of the Best Sauternes, Red Bordeaux’s the Best of Bourgogne both reds and whites all from estates that make wine “Properly”. The “name” of the estate is immaterial, it’s wines, made in a meticulous winemaking process, that is the pride of our cellar, says David Ridgway, the restaurant’s chief sommelier. Amongst the dusty bottles he continues are some distinctive wines which are well past their best, this is unfortunate since wines are meant to be DRUNK!
You cannot select a wine from such a comprehensive list just by a quick glance at the list. Careful reading would literally take HOURS! It details a wine selection from the 18th and 19th centuries to date and is the best wine list I have had the chance to lay my eyes upon in France, or anywhere else in the world. If you look carefully you can also find inexpensive gems such as the 2 wines we chose for our Lunch (before visiting the cellar), but we had the chance and time to select the wines well in advance at Yair’s flat which lies one floor beneath the restaurant, how convenient! They were 1986 Domaine Francois Raveneau Butteaux, Chablis Premier Cru, a 25 year old Chablis with all the fruit and acidity to keep the wine afresh yet with complexity that has developed within the wine, to equal white wines from grand cru lots around Bourgogne in the south.
The Red was: 1990 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Clos des Réas: Medium bodied brownish red, brick color, with notes of sweet red and black fruits, some sweet dried plums and figs and a wonderful earthy smell of wet mushrooms, still retaining nice acidity, vigor and a long finish. We were told it was the very last bottle of its kind in the cellar, mixed feelings from the sommelier of happiness for us a “sad” moment for a 21 year old chapter closed as the bottle was opened… Incidently I had The Quenelles de brochet “Andre’ Terrail” (Pike dumplings) baked (gratine’) in sauce Mornay, and grated cheese, fluffy light sublime. and the legendary Roasted Duckling for main course, The two Flag dishes of the restaurant.
The Clos des Réas is classified as a Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru, and is a monopole of the Gros family, since the mid 90’s vinified and marketed by Domaine Michel Gros. The vineyard was acquired by one Alphonse Gros in 1860 and has stayed within the family ever since. Above it, up the slope is the Vosne-Romanée 1er Chaumes which itself touches on the even more ‘upslope’ 1er Cru vineyard of Malconsorts and Grand Cru La Tâche.
After our perfect Lunch with my good friend Yair Haidu (who lives one floor under the restaurant) arranges a tour for us in the cellar, and the photos speak for themselves.
La tour d’argent :
Berry Bros. & Rudd Wine cellar
BBR are the oldest wine and spirit merchant in England, having traded from the same shop for over 300 years. The business was officially established in 1698 by the Widow Bourne at 3 St James’s Street in London, opposite St James’s Palace. At first the company was selling mainly overseas provisions: exotic spices, tea and coffee, around 1760 after entering the business of fines wines and quality Scotch whisky, Berrys are appointed ast suppliers of wine to the British Royal Family during the reign of King George III (1760-1820) and has continued to do so to the present day. The first Royal Warrant (seal) was awarded in 1903 by King Edward 7th and today they hold two Royal Warrants for H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.
In addition to the Finest Reserves Room, hidden beneath Berry Bros. & Rudd’s historic wine shop are the Georgian vaulted cellars which date back over 300 years, and hold around 20,000 bottles of wine, Simon Berry believes there’s a passage, (now blocked by wine racks and plastered brick work), that leads from this room to St James’ Palace (southbound across the Mall).
The company holds in their wine cellars rare wines for sale and export. Red Bordeaux wines, dating back to 1860, Tokaji Essencia dating from 1870 and later, fine wines and port and spirits dating back to the turn of the 19th century 1820 to date including all the “Important” Vintages of the 20th century of all existing wine, all tucked in behind iron gates to all the underground nooks and crannies.
Back in 1998, when I asked the Simon Berry direct descendent to the founders of the store, what are the special bottles he would select from the vast collection in the company cellars, he found it hard to answer, but gave me two stories he believes would give a fitting image to his special and wise approach to his fine wine collection : ” I believe that in most cases, it is not the wine itself but rather the event and company for which a certain wine is opened. To celebrate our 300 Jubilee we invited for lunch eighty Chateaux Owners, with whom BBR had working relations relations for centuries, here at No. 3 St. James’s we served:
Chateau Langoa Barton Saint Julien 1982, Chateau Cos d’Estournel Saint Estephe 1970, Chateau Haut Brion Pessac Leognan 1961, and Porto Quinta do Noval Nacional.1954 (“the last 2 receiving prolonged applauses from the all attending”).
The second story Yesterday we invited for lunch one of our most veteran of Berry customer (since 1935) enabling us to give him the first wine ordeal from us In 1935, the Chateau Margaux 1926 we have it now only in half bottles, and although the wine is already old and tired, it was still a great way to celebrate our long-lasting relations .
The building of the palace laid the foundations for the development of the entire area and by 1662 Henry Jermyn had begun his ambitious building programme, starting with St James’s Square. A small row of houses had been built along the eastern side of what is now St James’s Street and it was in number three that a lady we know as ‘the Widow Bourne’ lived. (from BBR site)
In 1698 the Widow Bourne she set up business at number three, buying the famous coffee scales and the mill – that are still in the shop today. There’s a leather bound book complete with records of customers’ weights spanning three centuries.
Someone once said that if you’re not included in the Scales book at BBR will not be included in the “Who’s Who” list of the London society., Around 1760 William Pickering Jr. & John Clark’s (George Berry grandfather) offer their customers the “sublime experience ” Know Your weight, the names and weight of each person is entered in a Registry which reveals the names of visitors through the history of the century 18, 19, and the 20″ registered here kings and nobles from around Europe, the sons of King GEORGE The 3rd, all relatives of Queen Victoria, Lord Byron, The architect, John NASH (who designed the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Buckingham Palace & most of Regent Street), Lord Melbourne Prime Minister and personal friend of Queen Victoria, Lord Balfour, Anthony Eden, George Cruikshank the illustrator of Charles Dickens books, Louis Philippe, King of France after the revolution, Prince Louis Napoleon, theater and film stars such as Lawrence Olivier , Vivian Leigh, Michael Redgrave, Gertrude Lawrence and others.
Berry Bros & Rudd: ADDRESS: 3 St James’s Street, St James’s, London SW1A 1EG. TELEPHONE: 0870 900 4300
Graycliff Hotel, Restaurant
Graycliff’s Wine Cellar is world renowned. The wine list has won the Wine Spectator’s best wine list, Grand Award since 1988. The wine cellar has an inventory of over 250,000 bottles of fine wine from 15 different countries.
The cellar is a fulfillment of Enrico Garzaroli (the owner) passion for wine and Cuban Cigars: “Over the years, my passion for fine wine has grown, and today, Graycliff’s cellar stores around 250,000 bottles, with 3,000 different wines from over 400 vintners and 15 countries”. the inventory ranges from such wines as an 1865 Château Lafite, to the oldest and a prize bottle of 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Bremen Ratskeller in the “Rheinghau” Region, to today’s most significant wines and vintages.
Graycliff’s wine list and cellar receives The Grand Award Restaurant Wine List since1988. This award is given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine list and inventory.
As we descend one flight of wooden stairs leading down to the basement, Enrico pulls out the key to the cellar, it is stuffed with wine cases from all over, from anywhere in the world Old and New, Europe Australia and the America’s. It is a 6,000 square foot labyrinth has of small rooms branching off the hallways piled high with unopened cases and shelves of wines from top to bottom.
There is a Vertical collection of most of Chateau D’Yquem wines from the 1875 vintage on to the present days. (A somehow “must” for a cellar of this caliber)
It was New Years Eve of 1996 as we sat down we were served a champagne cocktail made from 1976 Dom Perignon champagne and 50 years old cognac. On New year’s eve they stop at nothing to make this occasion / Bahamas Junkanoo a feast to remember. We take the 80 page wine list (it’s 125 pages long now) and sit by the pool to choose our wines. With list like that this is not an ordinary matter.
There are Chateau Latour 1911, Haut Brion 1924 50 vintages of Lafite, 1858 Chateau Gruaud Larose and others all at thousands of $ a bottle. We opted for white we chose the Francois Raveneau Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 1976 which was so delicious and fresh at 20 years of age. The color is golden yellow, without its greenish hints of youth Refined nose with flavours of ripe peach and apricots, preserved lemon or orange peel and honey, with floral touch of lily and freesia On the day, a wine of incomparable quality and finess. A great wine, perhaps the one most able to express what the terroir of Chablis really is.
The Foie gras came with a glass of Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 1975 which was a divine, Nectar of Botrytized honey and iced orange peel.
For red we took the affordable Chateau Talbot 1975 which had Light-medium garnet color with some tinges of brown. Nose of red and blackcurrants, and dried cherry aromas with hints of mushroom, earthy notes . ripe plum flavors on the palate with some earthy tones a hint of coffee and tobacco, the tannins rounded and well blended in the overall balance with enough acidity to express the fruits. (went extremely well with the saddle of Lamb)
To wrap it all up we celebrated the countdown to the new year with a glass of 1976 Dom Perignon champagne.
We did not go out for the Jankanoo (Local fancy dress Carnival) it came in to us and with it each and every guest was rolled on site his very own cigar different cigars and flavours for different guests, this certainly called for our very last lavish move we ordered Armagnac’s from 4 different Vintages 1896,1918,1928 1934 what a joy of smoothness and subtlety.
Thanks Enrico, the Garzaroli Family, Husdon Clarke, Willie Armstrong, and all at Graycliff.
Graycliff Hotel, Restaurant & Cigar Company 8-12 West Hill Street Nassau Bahamas West Hill St, Nassau N 10246, Bahamas (242) 302-9150
A wine cellar is a storage room for bottled or barreled wine, in which some important factors for wine keeping such as temperature and humidity are maintained either naturally (underground) or by a climate control system.
Wine cellars protect wine bottles from potentially harmful external influences such as light, heat,dryness. Since wine is a beverage that can ultimately spoil, proper storage of wines, protects their quality and with certain wines will even improve their maturing stage adding tertiary aromas, flavors, and complexity as they continuously mature in the bottle.
Most wine bottles are tinted green because direct sunlight can react with the phenolic compounds (polyphenols) in wine and create “wine faults” mainly to color stability and in lowering their anti-oxidizing qualities.
Most underground European Wine Cellars keep temperature of between 7–14 °C with variations developing gradually during the hotter months. Lower Temperature will slow down the evolving / aging process of the wine, it keeps wines fresher and fruitier for a longer time. French wine caves and English wine cellars naturally maintain 60-70% relative humidity. Low humidity can be a problem because it may cause organic corks to dry prematurely causing either seepage from the bottle through the cork or oxidation due to lack of tight seal.
So if you are about to build yourself a wine cellar it must be DARK, COLD & HUMID (basically a dungeon).
If you follow these rules most wine cellars will look the same. Some wine cellars are more impressive than others, the kind that get stuck in your mind for a very long time, for ever!
Caves or winery cellars Like the Ruinart famous deep chalk cellars (called the crayeres) which were excavated by the Romans around 50BC, (considered a French archeological monument), or some of the old “Grandes Maisons de Champagne” with kilometers upon kilometers of chalk cave/cellars at a constant 11º C, serve their purpose by providing the best conditions for wine making and winery storage during production and maturation, these are not the wine cellars our post is concerned with (yet a virtual tour of the Ruinart cellars is on their internet site is a “must visit: http://www.ruinart.com, check it out (there’s also a wonderful free, I pad app version).
My three most impressive wine cellars contain wines from many different makers and wine regions, they are in fact Grand Libraries of the great wines of the world (some more than others).
My choice of wine cellars, of those I have personally visited or was guided through with the owner or Chef de cave are:
La Tour D’argent cellar at the basement of the restaurant in 15 Quai de la Tournelle Paris, France, the Berry Bros. cellar, in 3 St. James’s street London and across the Ocean in the “Americas” The Graycliff Hotel, & Restaurant wine cellar in Nassau, Bahamas. These belong to large or well established groups or companies. All of these on the next “Post”, For now I prefer to start with two, more private cellars:
My own cellar, between us, I have a wine room (it used to be our bomb shelter which is obligatory to every house in Israel) but by definition because it is A. Underground and B. has more than 500 bottles it satisfies the wine cellar “definition”.
It had, has and will have GEMS of it’s own I know you like names so I will tell you what I do not have. You will not find a Petrus or any DRC’s, but you will find Great Bordeaux’s from amazing Vintage years 1970,79,82,83,85,86,88,90, and on… some single bottles cause I drink my wines, some full or half cases, Lovely Sauterns, spanning over almost 45 years (Yes I have D’yquem’s), but mainly Rieussec, and Suduiraut from the 70’s onwards, Excellent Vintage Ports from 1937 onwards (mainly super Vintages), some great Vouvrey, Vintage Champagnes from 1979 onwards, White and Red Bourgognes etc. It is a live cellar wines flow in and out and it is always a great pleasure to open a great wine with a good company for a meal. Lets say my Cellar Book is much larger then the wines I have at any given moment, I have no regrets ONLY great memories!
The private cellar at the Galton House, just across the wall from Hampton Court Palace. The Palace of the Tudor Kings and queens, Built to House and feed the kings of England from around 1529-1760 including the Court of King Henry the 8th, with kitchens expected to provide meals for up to 600 people twice a day.
I had the privilege to visit my friend Lisa Galton at her dad’s house, her dad is by the way the legendry Ray Galton, scriptwriter and author (in collaboration with Alan Simpson) of Radio and TV shows such as Hancock’s Half Hour, (without a doubt amongst the finest examples of British comedy). But never mind that, for quite some time I have heard this guy, Ray, is into wine and has some fine collection of wines in his cellar. So when I finally got to visit them (with a very modest “offering” of the best available Israeli dessert wine).
I asked to see the wine cellar if possible, “be my guest, which cellar would you like to see?” D’you have more than one? Yes one for whites and one for reds! Well I said: Both I guess… “Choose any bottle you like and let’s drink it…” I was lead down the stairs to a cellar quite large with 2 doors. One for the whites and then the Reds as you might have guessed, there was a musty smell in the air, the shelves around the walls were not full and in the center of the room a large heap of some wooden but mainly cardboard wine cases, partially rotting, hence the smell. Wines kept “pouring” in on a yearly basis, from the merchants but there was no one to keep the order and spread them around in their rightful place, and so they were heaped in the center of the room. The lucky bottles on top were drunk occasionally, which left the older vintages right at the bottom. In the “white room” although most wines were from Bourgogne Premier and Grand Cru lots some have gone over their prime like the 1975 Bienvenue-Batard-Montrachet JJ Vincent, I have chosen out of curiosity although I knew it was going to be problematic, from a mediocre vintage but a Grand Cru lot which usually transcends the general quality of the Vintage Year.
The Batard-Montrachet portion of the wine’s name is a reference to the illegitimate (bastard) son of a local lord Chevalier-Montrachet the lot’s owner. Bienvenue means ‘welcome’ as the site is a direct entry point to the Grand Cru vineyards from Puligny village The wine has mineral qualities, With the limestone reflecting heat and light back up to the vine the grapes reach optimal phenolic ripeness, making it the white wine with Red wine qualities making for slightly heavier, richer wines. It is lacking the more elegant fine qualities of wines from the Great Le Montrachet. It was slightly over oxidized still with firm traces of minerality and black truffle aromas it was a perfect example to a wine that was great in it’s times and was fading away lacking the fruit and acidity leaving all the secondary and tertiary aromas locked in the bottle..
The Red room was at a better state since most wines came in wooden cases There you had some of the best of the rest from Bordeaux , the likes of Petrus Pavie etc. and some lesser known premier Crus reds from Bourgogne, all of which I yearned to taste but did not dare!
Now 10 years after I am told by Lisa: “We nearly finished all the whites, some good reds left..” I guess it’s time for a revisit…
You will be posted re: Galton House revisited in due course Till than