Pichon Longueville 1874 – Is it still wine?

Posted on: June 9th, 2013 by Andrew 3 Comments

I have a bottle of wine,  an 1874 Pichon Longueville from Bordeaux,  that I have owned for most of my working life.   Rescued unloved from a shelf at the back of the shop of my first employers,  Les Caves de la Madeleine in the Fulham Road, now Lea and Sandeman,  it has remained in a succession of cupboards ever since.   I have fluctuated between religiously keeping it away from the light and sticking it on view on the windowsill as my views on it change.   Peering at it closely,  you can see that although the level isn’t too bad,  the colour has faded to a point where it no longer resembles a red wine at all.   If that is the case there cant be any point in not having it on show as it would be foolish to open it and attempt to drink it.

But on the other hand,  its not much to look at,  with its Christies label replacing the original at some long time in the past and as last week it got knocked in its wicker basket off its windowsill and onto the floor,  was put away out of reach, unharmed, back in to the dark.

It got me thinking about the value of wine and how it is arrived at. Previous attempts at putting a price on it was always faintly disappointing. Surely a wine of such antiquity must be worth more than a few quid? But all my researches such as they were came back with the sort of value that puts thoughts of selling out of one’s mind. But the fact it has a value at all is fairly astonishing so I don’t really know what I was thinking. I mean what are you valuing?  The glass? The capsule? The label – long gone- what? The wine is surely turned to vinegar despite its years in the cupboard.

The problem such as it is, is one of provenance. Other scribes far more able than me have talked at length about the current mania for provenance. But in the world of “fine wine” provenance is everything.and the long 100 year gap in the knowledge of where this wine has been kind of ruins its chances of being treated with respect. It might still be drinkable but who knows. It hasn’t been stored anywhere reputable and has no accompanying paperwork.

The provenance thing has doubtless been the downfall of many far more serious bottles than my Pichon, that’s what happens when you turn something into a financial asset. I’m all for assets, but I remain to be convinced that wine should be treated as one. As for my bottle, ultimately its value if it has one should rest on the quality of the product, not the spotlessness of the paperwork. I shan’t be selling it any time soon.


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3 Responses

  1. Julian Moore says:

    If nothing else, it must have great sentimental value to you.
    On a different note, do you remember what the Beaumes de Venise was with a delicate blush and blue lead cap sold by Caves de la Madelaine in the 70’s ?

  2. Hugh says:

    Hi there

    when did you work at the Caves?


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