desert island wines

Desert Island Wines: Why a good bottle is the ultimate luxury item

A Desert Island Discs guest’s choice of wine is just as telling as their musical taste says Arden Fine Wines founder Stuart George...

Guests on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs are invited to imagine themselves cast away on a desert island, to which they can take eight recordings, a book, and a ‘luxury’ item (which must be inanimate and of no use in escaping the island or allowing communication from outside). Needless to say, wine has been a very popular choice of luxury over the years.

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, for example, plumped for “two enormous casks of Château Margaux”, which he imagined had been released from the deck of his wrecked vessel and sent “bobbing towards the beach”. Host Kirsty Young suggested a batch from the “very good” 1990, the year of his wedding. “Yes, let’s go with that,” he said. “I feel then I could stand anything.”

Château Margaux was also chosen by the Russian ballerina Natalia Makarova when she guested in 1984. Unlike Fellowes, she named a specific vintage: the great 1961. General Sir John Hackett, speaking in 1980, was equally prescriptive, requesting “two dozen bottles of Château Latour 1962” by name, the last — and very good — vintage of Latour made under continuous family ownership (de Chavannes, de Clauzel, de Ségur, de Beaumont) since 1670. Sir John had tried, rather sweetly, to ask for “the presence of [his] wife”, but host Roy Plomley quickly told him that this was against the rules. Plomley later rounded up the General’s lot to “six dozen bottles — just so there are no hard feelings”.

Most Desert Island Discs wine requests are generic and without a specific amount. Journalist and politician Julian Critchley asked for “a case of wine”; Cecil Day-Lewis simply for “wine” in 1960 (though on a second appearance in 1968 he had switched to bourbon); and the actor Donald Sutherland wanted a “case of really good vintage wine”.

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