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Secrets of British Government Cellar Unveiled

Posted: Monday, 16 May 2011 17:16

Secrets of British Government Cellar Unveiled

May 16: In Indian government officials circles, one may talk about wine in hushed tones only because of a Section in the Indian Constitution, but the government in UK owns a wine cellar which has choicest of wines fit for Kings, Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, with an inventory valued at £2 million.

The government had kept the contents of its wine cellar a secret till very recently although the stocks have been purchased with the taxes paid by the citizens. A recent visit by a journalist reveals some vintage treasures stored at the correct temperature, underneath a grand London mansion. The building is owned by the Queen and leased to the government.

Britain’s love for claret is apparent as one sees about 200 varieties from Bordeaux, by far the maximum and way ahead of the nearest region Burgundy which has about 60 reds and 54 white wines. The love for French-at least the wines, is further obvious when one finds the next spot is also held by Rhone, with 22 varieties. Champagne and Barsac/Sauternes are next, followed by Italian and German wines from Mosel. It does not seem to have any wines from India yet, though hopefully, they will keep some wines as support or their exotic value.

Oldest wine in the cellar is the Bordeaux First Growth- Chateau Latour 1955, although the oldest bottle is the 1878 Grand Fine Bois Cognac made in Poitou-Charentes around the town of Cognac. The favourite fortified beverage of the British, is the relatively young 1931 Port from Quinta do Noval from Douro Valley, Portugal. The 1964 Krug may not been in the pink of health but it is the oldest Brut Champagne among 17 varieties in the cellar that has approx. 39,000 bottles and valued at £2 million at today’s market prices.

The wines have been also graded and categorised as A1-the topmost vintage grade in which all the above wines undoubtedly fall, followed by A, B and C. The cheap and lower end wines have been grouped in the U group which is minimal in size, suggesting that the quality of wines will make any Brit proud- the serving politicians or the citizens who have to pay for the maintenance.

Of course, all the wines have been bought over many decades ago. A bottle of 1961 Chateau Latour purchased for a little over half a pound sells currently for over $8-10,000. Some of the dust suggests certain bottles have not been touched during much of the time after laying the bottles down. The access to the cellar is strictly limited. This information is courtesy of BBC journalist who says he tried for months before he had the opportunity.

The more expensive vintages in the A1 or A are unlikely to be served to any guests. During the course of next year, around £50,000 worth of this category will be sold in order to help buy new bottles. This will be repeated over the subsequent three years to make the wines entirely self-financing. However, the day-to-day maintenance of the cellar will still be paid for by government and hence the tax payer.

The British Foreign Office (equivalent of our Ministry of External Affairs), which manages the wine cellar seriously considered shutting it down entirely due to several pressures and even criticism from the public but an 11-month study recommended that this was still the  most cost-effective way of supplying wine for various events of the government.


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