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An Old Wine List

Wednesday, 5th September 2012 by Edward Burnett

The other day I came across an old wine list from The Bull Hotel in Gerrards Cross that had been given to my parents-in-law for their wedding day options in 1971. Anthony Cross, my father-in-law, has been collecting and enjoying fine wines most of his life so I couldn’t wait to cast my eyes over this newly discovered list!

The Bull Hotel

The opening champagne section was pretty impressive with a range of NV Champagne houses along with a few 1964 vintage champagnes from Bollinger and Moet & Chandon and a Krug 1962 for good measure.

The next thing that struck me was the age and the quality of the Bordeaux wines that were listed. There were First Growth wines on the list from 1959 & 1962 along with a few 1961’s. These are legends now and are very rarely available. I have always believed that these top wines were laid down in cellars for decades by private collectors but this clearly isn’t the case. OK, they are already over a decade old, but to find them on a restaurant list is still extraordinary and impressive to me.

Was I so impressed with this list because these sorts of wines have become so inaccessible to most people today? Or was it simply that I had never seen a restaurant list quite like it? In truth, it was a combination of both along with the prices!!

I’ve done some research to put these prices from over 40 years ago into perspective:

Back in 1971 you could buy a dozen eggs for 23p, and fill up your car at 7p a litre. This puts the price of the wines on the list into context. In the intervening years the costs of all these items have risen markedly, but at least the trade-off has been living standards have kept pace. In real terms, household incomes and expenditure have more than doubled since 1971. Now compare this to the prices on the list and these gems look like a bargain to me! As you can see from the photo below, the 1962 Lafite was £5 per bottle and the 1959 Margaux was £6.50. Using a historic inflation calculator, I make it that the equivalent prices would be £60.95 and £79.24 per bottle respectively. Now we all know that you wouldn’t find a first growth in a restaurant for less that at least 5 times that price and that wouldn’t even be from a top vintage.

A page from the original wine list

I suppose what I am trying to get at is that not many of us would ever have these wines in restaurants or anywhere else for that matter, but what is interesting is how global demand has changed not only the prices of these wines but the accessibility to them. I do wonder when I look at a decent wine list these days, whether I will look back in 40 years’ time and think – Isn’t it incredible that you could buy a top claret or burgundy for £100 - £200+ per bottle and how the wine landscape will have changed.

Talking of old wines, at home I have a bottle of 1912 vintage port that the family acquired; again in the 1970’s, but at a very reasonable price I’m sure. Now, 100 years on, it is a legend and simply priceless to the family. A while back I promised that if Team GB exceeded 25 gold medals we’d crack it open to celebrate the greatest Olympics in Great Britain’s history. I’m now very pleased they did because I didn’t fancy waiting another 4 years….

The closing ceremony at London 2012

Congratulations to Team GB and a fantastic Olympics here in London.

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