Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A life in bottles

My sister and I shared a house for a while when we were in our early twenties, she's still there and when I visited her at the weekend I realised she still has my collection of (empty) champagne bottles.

The kitchen had a lot of shelves, something I miss, but we didn't have enough things to fill them with at the time so we thought we'd have ten green bottles. Ten turned into - well I can count twenty six here and I know in the end we didn't keep all of the bottles by a long way.

The first thing that struck me seeing them all again was sheer wonder that I'd ever had that much money to spend on champagne swiftly followed by the depressing realisation that prices have increased entirely disproportionately with my income. Not so very long ago some of those bottles could be bought for around £25, they'd cost closer to £75 now which I imagine puts them entirely out of reach for most of us, something I can only consider a shame.

These bottles roughly chart my twenties - a time when I lived in shared, rented, houses and had a job that gave me access to excellent wine, a generous discount to allow me to buy it, and equally enthusiastic friends to drink it with. Now that I live alone with a mortgage and most my friends have small children those days seem far distant but the bottles remain to prove they existed and remind me of the people I drank them with more than anything else.

There are a decades worth of birthdays here; the oldest bottle is one that dad gave me for my 21st birthday, the last of a case he bought when I was born, and 30 years old by the time I drank it (with my friend Nicola and a very handsome Dutch exchange student). Old champagne has a deep golden colour and a honeyed sort of flavour. It's complex, subtle, and altogether wonderful. It may have been at that moment that the dye was cast and a career in wine became inevitable.

My sister could tell you a story about her experience drinking Taittinger's Comte De Champagne but I'd probably better not repeat it. There are bottles which recall travels with a tour guide friend through various duty free outlets, a Krug and Dom Perignon that my mother and I spent an increasingly hilarious Sunday afternoon drinking just because we could, and a whole lot that chart a wine education. I wish I could do it all over again!


  1. You never forget your first bottle of really good champagne do you. Mine was a bottle of vintage Bollinger when I was 21 ... ah those good old days...

    1. Wonderful champagne Annabel, and what a great way to celebrate your 21st :)

  2. What a lovely post! It reminds me of those days when I was a student. Living in a dormitory there were always friends around to share a bottle of good vodka, ahhh....

  3. Thank you! It's amazing where the money goes once you have a mortgage and so on, it was a nice reminder to realise that life wasn't always bills.

  4. How lovely that each bottle has a story! I think I only really began to appreciate champagne in my thirties and realising there's a world of flavours out there.