Wine and port make excellent presents for a godchild's Baptism or christening, maybe you'd like to keep some in bond for yourself? Plus six of the best wines for wetting the baby's head
At a family christening recently the champagne flowed like water. So did a sparkling moscato from Brazil. Not the first country one would turn to for such a delicacy, but it was delicious. Brazil really does make pretty decent wine these days, especially sparklers.
The main selling point was that the Aurora Moscato is only 7.5%vol. It is also light, fresh and delicately sweet, all of which meant that the not-quite-grown-ups (plus several of the driving grown-ups, not to mention the proud new mother herself) lapped it up and were able to join in the jollities and the nipper’s head-wetting with aplomb. At lunch, a cleverly chosen, similarly light German riesling (only 8.5%vol) also helped keep excess at bay. Nobody keeled over and much fun was had by all.
Naturally, the conversation turned to what gifts the blessed baby might expect. Godchildren (and, indeed, nephews, nieces and grandchildren) can be an expensive business, especially if you’re an impecunious hack like me. I’ve eight of the blighters and I love them all and just wish I was better able to over-indulge them in the way my own daft, eccentric, lovable and hugely generous godmother did me. We all agreed, however, that laying down fine wine makes an excellent present. I’ve just been sent my annual stock list by Berry Bros, where I store the majority of my modest wine purchases, and I notice with some shock that my godchildren and two sons seem to be better off than me.
Godchildren who are now 21, say, whose godparents had the foresight to start their collections in 1993 – and who were well advised by their merchant – are sitting pretty with a nice selection of 1990, 1995, 1996 and 2000 vintage bordeaux. In 1993, a 1990 Château Montrose, for example, would have cost around £150 per case of 12. Today, the lucky recipient could sell it for more than £5,000. Not a bad nest egg to put towards a gap year, a new car or a your-godfather-has-to-come-too weekend in Vegas.
If you plan to lay down a dozen bottles, don’t feel that you have to pass over the entire case all at once. Private Cellar, for example, offers an excellent service for forgetful godfathers (and, according to PC’s Amanda Skinner, it is invariably the godfathers who are forgetful rather than the godmothers) whereby you lay down a case of 12 bottles to start off with and Private Cellar then writes to the godchild every subsequent birthday to say that a bottle has been added to his or her reserve. This lets the godparent off having to remember when the blasted birthday is, for 12 years at any rate. The wine has to be paid for up front but it is hugely convenient and saves time thrashing around toy shops or trying to make sense out of ghastly Amazon. And you can always add to the stock whenever you’re feeling flush.
The main thing, however, is to buy wines that are going to benefit from at least two decades in bottle. In other words, port in “declared” vintages (which can last 40 years or more), top clarets and sauternes.
Burgundy has to be absolutely top grade to last the course, and red rather than white, because the wines are not built to last the way ports or clarets are. If you fancy going off piste a bit, syrah from the northern Rhône is a great choice: hermitage, if the budget stretches that far, with côte-rôtie and cornas as fine alternatives. Top Italian wines such as the so-called “super tuscans” are also worth considering.
The important thing is to get good advice from your merchant. And trust them. They want to keep you as a customer. The likes of Berrys’, Private Cellar, Tanners, Corney & Barrow, Goedhuis and Yapps have 800 years’ experience between them and won’t let you down.
There are several basic things you should remember when laying down wines, such as: storing the wines with the merchant you bought from; and in bond if you want to delay paying VAT and duty. They will be listed under the godchild’s name and will belong to them even though you will be the one charged for the annual rent.
Many top wines now come in boxes of six, which makes the pill a bit easier to swallow in these tough times. And there is no capital gains tax if and when the wines come to be sold.
Don’t expect to be able to buy wine from the child’s birth year in time for the christening. It’s unlikely it will even have been made at that stage. And don’t forget that vintage champagne and vintage port are “declared” in exceptional years only.
Oh, and pray that your godchild doesn’t grow up to be a teetotaller.