‘What nobler substitute than wine?’ asks Lord Byron, in his 1808 Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull. The poem’s macabre subject is a human skull, and the poet ponders whether would it be more fitting to fill this skull with wine and use it as a cup, rather than bury it unceremoniously in the ground?

‘Better to hold the sparkling grape, than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood’, concludes Byron in his third stanza. With the skull-cup of wine a metaphor for both the transient pleasure of life and the inevitability of death, this poem, ultimately, is about the possibility of finding hope, even when we cease to exist.

At Chelsea Vintners, we believe wine is exactly this – a symbol of hope. A source of joy and purpose, which, let’s face it, will outlive us all. “We humans are merely temporary custodians of wine,” says Jon Higgs, Head of Private Client Sales at Chelsea Vintners. “Dust in the wind, compared to wine’s historical relevance, cultural poignancy and everlasting power.”

From Ancient Greece, when wine was so revered it held religious power, to Lord Byron’s halcyon, Claret-soaked early 1800s, to the revelations of the 21st century as wine has become both an art and meticulous science; the tradition of wine has not just survived, but thrived. Unlike us, wine is transcendent. And in the spirit of Lord Byron, who worshipped wine as enthusiastically as he meditated on mortality (a lot, and often) we’ll drink to that … but we’ll probably use our favourite Zaltos rather than a human skull!


Embark on a journey through the sublime world of fine wine and rare spirits with the Chelsea Vintners team. Explore our favourite stories, discover our dream wines and spirits, and gather inspiration for your own collection.