The English Royal Cellar

So for those of you who haven’t guessed by the spelling, or by reading the bios section of the blog, I’m English. Honestly, I’d never given too much thought to the Royal family before I moved to America, they were just there, and always had been. But since I moved to the US a few years ago I have found myself talking about the Queen at least once a week. So when I came across a story that combined wine and Royalty, I had to look into it a little more.

So it will come as no surprise that the Queen has a pretty extensive wine collection, in fact in 2007 it was valued at £2 million and it will have only increased in value. The cellars themselves are also quite old, having been built in 1703. The wine is drunk at royal banquets and state dinners, so there is little chance of us getting to try any. However, we do know that the cellars store some of the most famous and desirable vintages. And it’s not just whites, reds and roses that they have down there, there’s also champagne, beer and I would hazard a guess, a fair amount of port.

Now, a side note about port. I’d never had it until I started to ‘dine’ as part of my training to be a barrister.

Warning, it gets even more English here (and maybe a little less relevant to the wine)!

So to be a barrister you have to attend 13 dinners at one of the Inns of Court, it dates back to when the Inns were responsible for legal training. Anyway, you go, you eat, you drink (a lot) and you may or may not be wearing black akin to Harry Potter when you do this. So during my first dinner, they filled my glass up with port without me knowing, I assumed it was still wine. At the end of the meal is a toast, to "the Queen, the church and this honourable society" at which point I took a rather large sip of wine, or port as it turned out to be, and almost choked (well, actually choked and made a small scene would be a more accurate description of what happened!) Port is definitely an acquired taste, and needless to say after that surprise it has taken me a little while to come back around. However, the English do love some port and so the fact that a lot of it has found its home in the Royal Cellar is not a shock.

But how do the cellars get stocked, well that’s the entirely enviable job of the Royal Household Wine Committee. They taste a few times a year, both to see how the wines in the cellar are aging as well as to choose new wines. Surprisingly, it’s not just the expensive wines that they are buying, they shop in Waitrose too! (A UK equivalent to Whole Foods) They have New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and the basic Bordeaux just like we do. Obviously, they also have a lot of wines that we don’t, they buy young Bordeaux for aging and have a relatively free hand when it comes to buying better wine for more exclusive and discerning guests. Apparently they also have a good selection of red and white Burgundies.

All of this comes from Internet research, the opportunity to tour the cellars isn’t offered to the public, but should the occasion arise I am more than ready!

I should also note that this isn’t the only exclusive wine cellar that is funded by the taxpayer. The UK Government also has a wine collection for state dinners, this one is located under Lancaster House and houses another enviable selection of wines, but that’s for a later post. For now enjoy the weekend and if you have some wine remember to toast to Queen and country!