Despite our Annual Conference delivering a great day and evening, some of the WSTA team hadn’t quite had enough excitement for one week and headed off in search of more. The next morning we hopped on a train from Paddington and embarked on a visit to WSTA member, Octavian, a fine wine cellar buried in the heart of Wiltshire.
The word buried is fitting as the business’s Corsham Cellar is quite literally 30m underground: Situated amongst picturesque country lanes lies an old stone mine, previously used by the MoD for storing munitions and also played host to thousands of soldiers during the Second World War. The mine itself is vast – stretching 2/3s of a mile long and half a mile wide. It is entirely encased in solid Bath stone which helps keep the air naturally balanced and is key for preservation.
Once we descended the stone steps inside the mine (sorry, no lift!), rows and rows of perfectly conserved cases and bottles are carefully stored; Octavian has over 10,000 private collectors, investors and wine merchants located in almost 40 countries.
Being careful not to touch anything, we tiptoed along after MD, Vincent O’Brien, who gave us a fascinating insight into the operation. The staff - 115 in total – operate a tight ship when it comes to the labelling and numbering system; highly important for the ‘picking’ process of finding a wine for delivery to the owner.
Occasionally, clients may simply want a photo of their bottle/case for keepsake or to aid selling. In cases such as these (excuse the pun), capturing a single photograph could take up to a couple of hours. Slightly perplexed, Vincent soon enlightened us by explaining the important challenge of balancing value vs. time. If something has a high value to you (which fine wines have; both financially and emotionally) then surely preserving that value iscritical. Especially when remembering that the mine is over 1m sq ft so with picking, opening cases and placing them carefully to be photographed can take up to over an hour. With a less than 0.0001% chance of breakage (that’s an impressive record!) and perfect repacking, permitting such should be a no-brainer.
Throw in high security, a passionate and dedicated team, expertise in storage and a second-to-none delivery service, and this makes Octavian a world class service. A client in Hong Kong can email requesting their case and in three days have it sitting in front of them in pristine condition.
Thoroughly impressed, we resurfaced into the world wiser and grateful for the more favourable temperatures – 13 degrees may be optimal wine preservation conditions, but our Indian summer this year has raised our standards to dizzying heights of at least 15 degrees.