Port in a storm: battered colleges reap booze bonanza

Swirl, sniff, sip – then cash in. Oxford’s colleges have amassed vast wine cellars worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In total, the University’s colleges hold collections of vintage wine, champagne and port worth over £2 million.

Wadham boasts the most pricey cellar, with a vast array of wines worth a total of £425,000. It includes 30 bottles of 1990 Cos d’Estournel claret, purchased for £31 but now worth at least £130 a bottle.

The cellar also holds a single bottle of Napoleon Brandy 1911, which is now worth thousands of pounds.

Pauline Linieres-Hartley, the Domestic Bursar, said: “The Wine Steward is aware this must have been purchased for some event and its cost may even have been indemnified with money provided by a benefactor, but at present we are not clear why we have this bottle and are making enquiries.”

Many other colleges hold collections worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, including Lincoln (£250,000), Trinity (£204,000) and Christ Church (£175,000).

But others are not quite so flush. Somerville’s cellar is worth just £186, and their most expensive wine cost £6.

Many colleges have several bottles from the same exclusive vintage. Exeter stocks 72 bottles of 2005 Chateau Montrose at £55 a bottle, 12 bottles of £66 2005 Chateau Hosanna and 300 bottles of £25 port.

Merton is one of the canniest investors. It bought 24 bottles of 1995 Chateau Latour for £55. They are now worth £375 each, making the college a £7,700 profit.

Teddy Hall’s SCR is keen to keep up with its JCR’s less-than-sober reputation, with a cellar comprising a whopping 12,584 bottles of wine, worth £124,000.

Those sober Tabs seem rather more eager to invest in their wine, rather than drink it, amassing collections worth much more than Oxford’s.

Cambridge’s Trinity College, owner of the 02 arena, has, perhaps unsurprisingly, notched up the largest investments, with a wine cellar worth £1,667,000.

The college owns 118 bottles of Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases 1996, worth a total of £10,034. Their sommelier has noted: “Good, but not yet ready. Taste again 2013.”

Trinity Hall, meanwhile, is keeping a close eye on its ten magnums of Chateau Latour 1988. Each bottle is worth £450, and the college thinks their bottles are “the best showing yet for a wine from this under-rated vintage”.

The notoriously squiffy dons at Peterhouse, satirised in Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue, preside over a wine cellar worth £390,000. There was consternation at the college recently when some members of the SCR proposed extending the computer room into the wine cellar, much to the chagrin of other dons.

In the meantime, they can still enjoy 59 bottles of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1970 and 72 bottles of Chateau St Pierre St Juliens 2005. The college has just 45 fellows.

Magdalene has the oldest wines, including a bottle of Madeira Old Bual 1872 and six bottles of Madeira Silver Jubilee Bual. In total, the bottles cost the college just £26, but are now worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Sunday Times.