Liquid legacy: Fine wine’s role in the moments that make history

Fine wine is not just a consumable or an asset class, but a marker of momentous occasions.

Fine wine is not just a consumable or an asset class, but a marker of momentous occasions. Events steeped in history and tradition offer a glimpse into the relationship between cultural milestones and the fine wines that commemorate them.

As we explore iconic moments where wine played a pivotal role, we also delve into the notion that wine investment can be akin to capturing and owning a piece of history.

Corking the cosmos: Petrus 2000’s space odyssey

On the 20th of July 1969, in the hours before making history as the first man to step foot on an alien world, Buzz Aldrin partook communion over 250,000 miles away from Earth. In doing so, he became the first person to drink wine that had travelled through the stars. Yet, he is no longer the last.

In November 2019, 12 bottles of Pétrus were sent hurtling to the International Space Station (ISS). For 440 days, the Pétrus 2000 journeyed across the heavens on the ISS as part of research into the effects of zero-gravity on agriculture. The wine returned in January 2021 after covering 300 million kilometres, and to this day, just one bottle is available for ownership.

Pétrus wines are among the rarest and most expensive in the world. The vines are unusually old and grown in blue clay-dominated soil, producing incredibly rich merlot. Most bottles are aged for a decade but many rest for much longer, reaching 60 or 70 years without deteriorating.

Indeed, Pétrus’ ability to age is the reason such a prestigious wine was chosen. The expedition had strict oenological criterion, requiring a structured wine that was dominated by one grape variety to aid chemical analysis.

Alongside the ongoing scientific examination, there was a formal tasting after the wine made Earthside. A group of expert wine tasters were given the privilege of tasting the Pétrus 2000 with an Earth-aged bottle for comparison. Reviews noted that the usual aromatics were more floral and smoky, and the tannins softer, in the space-aged variety. Many considered the changed taste profile to reflect a more evolved wine, mirroring the expected changes that would occur to a wine two or three years older.

At the tasting event, three bottles of the space aged Pétrus 2000 were opened, with eight reserved for further analysis. A singular bottle, marked for sale, presents a unique opportunity to acquire what could be considered the rarest wine globally. This sale not only offers a taste of exceptional winemaking but also embodies an extraordinary union between the cutting-edge scientific exploration and the age-old tradition of winemaking.

Cinema and Champagne: The Piper-Heidsieck story

The Cannes Film Festival is a monument to cinematic excellence. It remains to this day a cultural institution, premiering some of the most significant works of cinema and shaping the global film industry. As the first international film festival, it has become the ultimate testament to the power of creativity, innovation, and storytelling, all topped with red-carpet glamour.

This May will mark the 78th anniversary of the festival, and as they have done since 1999, film professionals will raise a glass of Piper Heidsieck Champagne. The Champagne house sprang forth from its own romantic drama-worthy love story. Founder Florens-Louis Heidsieck abandoned his career as a draper when he visited Reims to sell textiles but ended up following a young woman he had fallen ardently in love with. His mad escapades ended in discovering a second appreciation for the Champagne region’s wine.

Passion and love drove him to start the Champagne house in 1785, and its illustrious history only grew from here. Fabergé designed the 100th anniversary bottle featuring white gold and lapis lazuli in 1885, while in 1968 Piper Heidsieck recreated the vintage loved by Marie Antoinette, producing the world’s most expensive bottle of Champagne.

Nods to cinema continue to feature in the house’s story. In celebration of Rex Harrison’s Oscar win for My Fair Lady, Piper Heidsieck created the largest bottle of champagne in the world: standing 1.82 metres high, the Melchizedek contained 64 bottles of Vintage ’59. Most famously, Marilyn Monroe is rumoured to have always held a month’s supply of the brand. As her character in The Seven Year Itch exclaimed, “I go to bed with a few drops of Chanel N° 5, and I wake up each morning to a glass of Piper-Heidsieck.”

Royal toasts: Tradition and diplomacy in wine selection

With access to cellars the world over, the wines of the Royal Family are as rich and complex as the monarchy itself. From grand state banquets to more intimate family gatherings, the choice of wine is more than just a matter of taste—it’s a reflection of tradition, diplomacy, and personal preference.

The newly-coronated King Charles’s reign has also seen a tapestry of stories woven through the choice of wine. During the Royals’ state visit to France in September 2023, King Charles attended the Versailles banquet. In his honour, they served, among others, Château Mouton Rothschild 2004, adorned with the King’s own artwork.

The labels of Château Mouton Rothschild are as famous as the wine. Since 1945, the prestigious winery has decorated their bottles with artwork from some of the world’s greatest artists. Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon, and Picasso have all graced the Château’s bottles, and in 2004, the then-Prince of Wales joined their ranks.

Château Mouton Rothschild’s 2004 vintage was dedicated to the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, a series of agreements that resolved crucial tensions between the United Kingdom and France in 1904. King Edward VII had been instrumental to the agreements; in honour of his relation, King Charles allowed his watercolour painting of the Cap d’Antibes to decorate the 2004 vintage.

The wines of the Royal family are laden with their own history, standing testament to thousands of years of tradition. Their presence is more than a matter of taste, but a testament to family, legacy, and history.

From cellars to the stars

These stories highlight how wine transcends its role as a mere beverage to become a symbol of triumph, artistry, and royal tradition. Fine wine holds a distinguished place at the intersection of culture, sports, and history, serving not just as a symbol of celebration and prestige, but as a testament to the richness of human achievement and tradition. Investing in fine wine is akin to investing in a moment in history.

If you are interested in fine wine and whisky investment, contact our team here. Or, come in and see us at Oeno House at The Royal Exchange, London EC3V 3LL.

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