FROM BORDEAUX TO BURGUNDY
BY CECILY CHAPPEL
Since his first foray into wine by way of his father’s cellar, Richard Orders has become a passionate wine collector and drinker, with a collection that he enjoys sharing with a wide network of fellow fine wine lovers – very much in line with the Chelsea Vintners philosophy that great wine is made to be drunk and enjoyed with friends!
Our CEO Cecily Chappel caught up with her long-time family friend to discover his insights into the world of fine wine and find out what his thoughts are for aspiring collectors who are starting their own journey into this wonderful world.
Where did your love of wine begin?
My father worked with wine companies for many years whilst I was growing up. As a happy consequence of this he had a fine collection of clarets, largely comprising interesting bin ends that he’d acquired along the way. This inspired me to spend my gap year before university living and working in Bordeaux at Château Beychevelle in Saint-Julien. I stayed in the Château and did everything from cellar tours to boxing up the 1970 vintage (I’m showing my age!). I think I may even still have a bottle or two of that exact wine somewhere.
I then went to Oxford to study English Literature and became very involved with the University Wine and Food Society and their events. We benefitted from visits and tastings from many of the best-known merchants of the time, who were keen to capture aspiring collectors at an early stage!
When I left university and joined Barings Bank, I used my first bonus to buy a 12-bottle case of Château Talbot 1970, bottled by Berry Brothers & Rudd – I’ve one or two of those left as well. From then on, if I had some spare cash I always put it into wine and have continued to do so ever since.
How have your tastes developed and changed since you first started collecting?
I’ve been influenced by both single events and general trends in the wine world. For example, in the course of my time with Barings I moved to Singapore, where I won a blind tasting competition sponsored by Champagne Deutz. The prize was a weekend in Champagne hosted by the House, so I naturally became quite keen on Champagne from then on!
Gradually, my path led me to Burgundy (all roads lead to Burgundy eventually, it seems). I had my first trip to the region in the mid 1980s, visited regularly from then onwards and ultimately my love of the region overtook everything else. Throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s I became extremely focused on Burgundy in all its guises and it’s been that way for me ever since.
What in particular drew you to the wines of Burgundy?
Traditionally, most collectors and drinkers from the UK started their wine education in Bordeaux; British families tended to drink mostly claret and port, with Hock and Moselle for whites, and as a result the wine trade was largely focused on those areas.
However, for my generation, there was a natural progression from the classicism of Bordeaux to the hedonism of Burgundy, as a consequence of a surge in quality resulting from the emergence of a group of young, passionate winemakers determined to make the best wine they could. As I gained more independence and started tasting outside the box, I discovered Pinot Noir and I’ve never looked back. Now, Burgundy really is my true love although increasingly I’m drinking Barolo and Barbaresco too and finding them very appealing. They are very similar to Burgundy in that certain sophistication and lightness of touch.
For me, the appeal of Burgundy is the luscious combination of flavours, with sweet red and black fruits, exotic spice and a unique complexity of flavour offering a level of sheer hedonism that is impossible to find anywhere else. It also makes the wines incredibly versatile in food pairing which is fantastic. The added bonus now is that the wines are made so much better today than they were back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Of course, it is entirely possible to find great old drinking wines from Burgundy but frankly these old wines are always a bit of a lottery.
Is there anyone in particular who has inspired and helped you along the way?
I remember more than 20 years ago when the late Clive Coates told me without hesitation that the next big wine focus was going to be Burgundy. I was surprised and somewhat dubious then, as quality in the region at that time was not where it is today. In those days you could get Rousseau Chambertin for £60 a bottle…! However, Clive’s advice turned out to be very prescient.
There are many other people from whom I have learned and continue to learn so much. I would single out the late Bill Baker, a wonderfully acute taster; Jasper Morris, whom I have known since he started his career in the wine trade and whose views I respect enormously; and the incredibly thoughtful Jancis Robinson, whom I follow religiously. Also Allen Meadows and Anthony Hanson on Burgundy, David Peppercorn, who was a huge influence on my perspective on Bordeaux, and Serena Sutcliffe.
Finally, I must mention the late Becky Wasserman and her husband Russell Hone. I have enjoyed so many happy times with Becky and Russell over the years, mostly over amazing Burgundy tastings where we’ve tasted all kinds of grower verticals from Méo-Camuzet and Grivot Richebourg, Leroy Clos de Vougeot to Drouhin and de Vogüe Musigny… and many more.
Do you have any advice for those seeking to start or grow their own wine collection?
That’s a tough question! I think what I would say is that firstly you must decide whether you’re a collector and drinker or a collector and investor, because those two approaches are very different … although you can be both.
Collecting for investment is relatively simple. Just spend your time buying the maximum amount of the finest and rarest wines that you can get hold of and afford, store them properly and hope that time does the rest (it doesn’t always though, timing is everything and there is always an element of luck!).
For a drinker, collecting is very different. My advice would be to buy small amounts of a whole range of different wines across the quality spectrum and don’t just confine yourself to the best-known names. For example, don’t neglect village Burgundies or less fashionable growers – there are some wonderful Volnays, Pommards, Marsannays, Givrys and St Aubins, for example, and Nuits St Georges has many much-neglected climats offering relatively good value. I drink a lot from producers such as Gouges, Chevillon and de L’Arlot, and latterly I find myself drinking more and more white Burgundy in particular.
Finally, I would say be open minded and follow your palate! Don’t confine yourself to just a few classic countries or regions but look around the world. There is so much good wine being made in virtually every corner of the globe now from the New World to Eastern Europe, Asia even – quality is universally higher than ever before, competition for the market is fierce and there are fantastic wines to be found in all sorts of places at very affordable prices.
What persuaded you to buy land in Burgundy and what advice could you give others considering making a similar investment?
Well, I would say once you’ve identified a wine region that you love, try do something that helps you to feel as much a part of it as possible.
With that philosophy in mind, in 2008 we bought a parcel of vines in Meursault. We had been on the lookout for land for some time because we wanted to have an emotional and physical stake in the region and to feel that we were more than just wine tourists. Jasper Morris helped us to find a plot in Les Clous, and our grapes are now made into a village Meursault by Jean-Philippe Fichet.
I remember the notaire telling me when we concluded the purchase that I could now describe my occupation as ‘viticulteur’ in my passport.
This was in 2008 where the alternative for me was ‘banker’, so it felt rather handy because at that point bankers were not flavour of the month … to put it mildly.
All that being said, don’t make a purchase like this expecting a financial return. It’s about passion, not investment or profit. If you have the means, then do it for fun and simply enjoy it.
Which producers could your collection not be without?
The trouble is that this is going to sound so obvious, but there are good reasons why the top Burgundy growers are who they are! In no particular order, Rousseau, Dujac, Mugnier, DRC, Raveneau, Roulot, Roumier, d’Auvenay, d’Angerville and Leroy, many now well beyond my personal budget!
I also love Port from Graham’s and Fonseca, whilst my two favourite Champagne Houses are Salon and Pol Roger. My nod to the New World comes in the form of Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace, and I must also mention Bordeaux, where it all began for me … my must-haves being Cheval Blanc, Latour, Trotanoy and of course Beychevelle.
What have been your greatest wine experiences?
I mentioned earlier the many, many lunches and dinners enjoyed with Becky Wasserman, her husband Russell Hone, Jasper Morris, and my partner Ivy over the years. These were always wonderful occasions and are treasured memories. Whilst on the subject of Burgundy, the Corney & Barrow DRC dinner in November 2019 when I was privileged to chat at length with Aubert de Villaine was an especially memorable event.
Aside from this, I look back particularly fondly on a 1961 magnum dinner in London earlier in 2022 which I was very fortunate to be included in – the two stars of the evening were Mouton and Cheval Blanc. Sadly, the Latour was corked but the concentration and energy of the other wines served was extraordinary, just an unmatched vintage. It made me wonder if, even with all the technology, expertise, selection, and investment available to winemakers today, whether the greatest Bordeaux vintages such as ‘45, ’59 and ‘61 will ever be surpassed … I somehow doubt it, and in a way I hope not. Nature should always be a critical element in winemaking, reminding us to remain humble and remember that this great beverage cannot just be churned out with sophisticated manufacturing technology.
Finally, what is your one desert island bottle?
Can I have two?!
I’ll be kind and allow you one red and one white …
Aha! That’s better. For many reasons, my red is a sensational bottle that I have enjoyed with Ivy on a couple of occasions – Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 1966.
For a while I wasn’t sure if I would settle on a Montrachet, because there are so many great white wines that I love. However, if I’m playing it safe then my white has probably got to be Ramonet Montrachet 1978 (on a good drinking day) which I have been privileged to taste just once in my life, courtesy of a very generous collector.