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December 15, 2021

Sweet fifteen: Marking Spear’s birthday with the perfect vintage wine

By Jonathan Ray

Spear’s is lucky to date back to 2006 — but marking a special anniversary with the perfect vintage wine isn’t always easy, writes Jonathan Ray

Happy birthday Spear’s! Still but a precocious teenager, Spear’s was born in 2006, a very decent – if not quite a 10/10 – vintage in all the major wine regions. A doddle, then, to find an appropriate bottle with which to celebrate (see below).

But what if – like me – you were born in a dire vintage? Although 1960 was a decent enough year for port, it was an atrocious one for Bordeaux, irritatingly sandwiched between two copper-bottomed, ocean-going belters both, at various stages, declared the vintage of the century. These days I happily neck whatever bottle kind folk lob my way, but little wonder my father took such delight in celebrating the year of my conception with some cannily sourced 1959 Château Lafite.

And that’s the key, if you’re an adoring parent, grandparent or godparent keen to mark the birth of a new nipper I suggest you invest in the next best vintage and buy only a bottle or so of the birth year just for fun.

Oh, and don’t forget that whatever birth year wine you’re after won’t have been bottled by the time of the christening. You’ll have to bide your time and grab some later. And if you want port or champagne in the little darling’s birth year, bear in mind that there might never be any – such wines only ever being re- leased in exceptionally fine years.

Do go to a decent independent merchant. They will give excellent advice and explain the ins and outs of laying down wine, how you can delay paying VAT and duty and avoid capital gains tax entirely when you sell the wine.

And if you’re after a special anniversary or birthday bottle, you’ll find the best independents all have lengthy broking lists with wines from every imaginable vintage, all with excellent provenance.

When I was at Berry Bros & Rudd yonks ago, we had a customer who didn’t give two hoots about provenance, good or bad. He was interested in some 1972 Château Beychevelle he’d spotted. ‘Any good?’ he asked. No, we said, 1972 was a terrible year and the wine was vile, with no business being on our list other than as a vinous curiosity.

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‘Do you have it in magnums?’ he pressed. We replied that we did but had to reiterate how awful the wine was. ‘Marvellous!’ he said. ‘Box one up and wrap it. It’s my brother-in-law’s birthday and it’ll suit the vile little creep perfectly.’

Three of the best bottles for celebrating Spear’s 15th birthday

Image: Finest Bubble

2006 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill (Buy now: Finest Bubble, £234)

Although from an underrated vintage somewhat overshadowed by the spectacular 2008, this Pinot Noir-led beauty is still a stunning wine that will continue to improve. There’s not much of it left, so grab it now before the 2013 is released early next year.

Image: Justerini & Brooks

2006 Château Lafleur (Buy now: Justerini & Brooks, £1,540)

Family-owned Château Lafleur produces astonishing wines from Cabernet Franc and Merlot, in tiny quantities of just 1,000 cases a year, and what better way of celebrating the birthday of such a stimulating and provocative magazine than by uncorking the 2006 vintage of this famously ‘intellectual’ star of Pomerol?

Image: Whisky Exchange

Frapin 15-Year-Old Cognac Grande Champagne (Buy now: Whisky Exchange, £108)

From the heart of Cognac’s Grande Champagne region and bottled at cask strength (45.3 per cent vol), this is exactly the same age as Spear’s and similarly thought-provoking, contemplative, enlightening and downright satisfying. Full, rich, smooth and full of spicy dried fruits and vanilla, it’s one of Cognac’s finest gems.

Image: Shutterstock

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