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Chateau Musar

I don’t know about you, but in my wine cellar, there are certain bottles of wine that have multi scuffed back labels. These tend to be my older, finer wines. Wines that I earmark for ‘that special occasion’. They have become friends over the years, gently reposing in my wine rack until smilingly disturbed by my eager right hand.

The label looks up at me helplessly, but with a sense of pride, of provenance and of friendship. Is this the moment that we both have been waiting for? Is this it? And then I hesitate. I reflect upon my guest or guests. Are they really worthy of my treasured old friend? Will they really appreciate what true age can bring?

With a sigh, and an unworthy thought that I will see my guests again soon, and maybe next time… I gingerly replace my old friend back into its bin, scuffing the back label for the umpteenth time.

The moral is clear. That elusive ‘special occasion’ never comes. We all have to make our own special occasion. Now, in lockdown, is that time. When you feel the urge, the need to open that magnificent 100-pointer of Le Pin 2009 or 2010, (or indeed, any bottle of Le Pin), that grand cru burgundy that cost just a bit too much, that exhilarating bottle of Chateau Musar (is it a Bordeaux in style? is it Rhône?) you are saving for that special occasion, go into your cellar or cupboard under the stairs. Seize the aforesaid target, try not to tremble, then with heart pounding thrust the corkscrew downwards and prepare for enjoyment.

These are the perfect days to enjoy those special vinous moments, alone or with the family. Get to know your inner cellar better.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the day job. Now that spring has clearly sprung, the daily preprandial ritual of manzanilla or fino is hard to resist. For that additional achievement, such as weeding that goddam border for the nth time this week, something more substantial such as your favourite palo cortado or proper amontillado may be called for.

Over Easter, for once I followed my own advice. Actually the bottle was already open, but such is the joy of sherry that it was like opening it for the first time. Fresh as a daisy after several months. Well, if you can call a 100-year old bottle by such a dainty name.

Yes, I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a glass of Amontillado de la Bota de Don Thomas Barbadillo. This single cask of amontillado is one of five casks that belonged to the five Barbadillo brothers born in the 1890s. Topping up has only ever been with old amontillado to keep the cask full.

The aromas are like ancient church pews; the pure, intense flavour explodes in the mouth and does not want to leave.

Hooray, that makes two of us. I decided not to garden for the rest of the day.