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Monday 20 October 2014

Downing Street’s £3.2m wine cellar revealed

10th February, 2014 by Lauren Eads

A fascinating insight into the wines enjoyed by British politicians and visiting heads of state have been revealed with the release of tasting notes for No. 10’s £3.2m wine cellar.

wine cellarA 61-page document lists the 36,527 bottles held in the Foreign Office-administered cellar beneath Lancaster House in central London, according to a report by The Independent, revealing a collection that includes some of the world’s most sought-after wines from Château Lafite to Krug.

Last year thedrinksbusiness reported on the cellar’s tasting notes from 2012 which saw Obama served a “soapy wine” during a state visit in 2011.

The re-released notes show a rise in the value of the cellar from a reported £2.95m to £3.2m.

One wine housed in the cellar, the Corton 1961 Grand Cru Côte de Beaune valued at £500 a bottle, is described in the notes, released under the Freedom of Information Act, as a “national treasure” with “great charm and staying power” adding, “use with extreme caution for Heads of State – fabulous wine.”

The Meursault Charmes, valued at around £40 a bottle, is described simply as “do not use.”

Worldwide austerity does not seem to have stunted Downing Street’s thirst for wine with Government Hospitality, which runs the cellar, serving up 5,547 bottles – a 20 per cent increase on 2011-12.

This was apparently due to the increased gatherings of political figureheads driven by the London Olympics and Paralympics, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The most popular claret served last year – 55 bottles of the 1988 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron – is described in the notes as “downgraded to B and thought aggressive – no hurry to use”.

The tasting notes, based on the opinions of a retired senior diplomat and four MWs, offer an insight into the tastes of British politicians including Margaret Thatcher who enjoyed a glass of 1961 Château Margaux Premier Cru Classé, according to a 1989 comment which reads: “The Prime Minister calls it silky.”

A spokesperson said: “Whether it is national celebrations, state visits, or receiving guests of government, the UK prides itself on giving a warm welcome through its business hospitality. The Government Wine Cellar supports this work in a cost-effective way.”

The cellar, taxpayers’ will be somewhat pleased to know, now operated on a self-financing basis, following a review in 2010, selling off valuable wines to buy new stock.

In 2013, 54 bottles of high-end claret, including a case of the sought-after Château Pétrus, were sold for £63,000 to fund purchases of nearly £49,000 worth of wine for future banquets.

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