10 Desert Island Wines Choices
The one wine to most enjoy drinking if marooned on a desert island
 for one year and the one if for life

A girl and a glass of wine are saviours, and he who does not drink or kiss is dead anyway” (Goethe)
Johann Wolfgang Goethe once was asked which three things he would take to an island. He stated: "Poetry, a beautiful woman and enough bottles of the world's finest wines to survive this dry period!" Then he was asked what he would leave back first, if it was allowed to take only two things to the island. And he briefly replied: "The poetry!" Slightly surprised, the man asked the next question: "And Sir, what would you leave back if only one was allowed?" And Goethe thought for a couple of minutes and answered: "It depends on the vintage!"

Many years ago when practicing vocational guidance, I sometimes asked the following question of a new client unsure of their future life calling (vocation):
"What would you do if you initially won the lottery, and then what later after a year?"
Their answer, far distanced from the usual worrying about the issue of money, often provided insightful clues to how a person really wished to live their life.

To hopefully discover some new fantastic wines, I asked the proverbial desert island question to twelve wine experts what wine they would desire to drink if they had to spend a year away from civilization and also, if different, what wine would they choose if stranded  for the rest of their lives apart from new supply.
Their responses include many well chosen wines which I intend to taste, whether I am ultimately marooned on a desert island or hopefully not!
I believe you may feel the same way after reading their twelve answers:

"Oh great. all we've got to eat are fish"

    #1 "Depends on how long.  Musar Rouge 1972 if I'm there for a year; Musar Rouge 2001 if I'm stuck there for life."
WHY? The 1972 is drinking wonderfully right now.  But if I'm stuck on an island for the rest of my life, I would at least have the pleasure of watching the 2001 evolve...and evolve...and evolve."  
Christy Frank, owner, Frankly Wines and Musar lover.

    #2 "I was going to say a Cult California Cab, but then I started to think about all the practical problems associated with your question.  No refrigeration, huge temperature swings, hot days.  Does anyone want to drink a huge cab on a hot day?  My revised answer is a good vintage bubbly if I was there for a year.  For a lifetime it would have to be a well made MadeiraMadeira is abused from day one and only gets better with age and more abuse, no worries about temperature fluctuations, refrigeration, drinking on a hot day…"
Wine Freak aka Matthew Amerson, General Manager, Court Square Wine and Spirits

    #3 "It would be Champagne as it lifts the spirits, which one would need, especially if there for life!   Champagne is also a great wine in its own right, with all the differences and nuances of flavour and bouquet that you get in, say, a top Bordeaux or Burgundy.   If pushed, it would be Roederer, vintage or Cristal, as it also has great nostalgic memories for me as my husband (of 33 years!) and I drank it the evening of our first ever dinner together, so it ticks all the boxes."
Serena.Sutcliffe, Director, Sothebys Wine Dept.

    #4 "
If the climate is hot I would pick Joseph  Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc.
If the climate is temperate I would pick  Oregon’s Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Grace Vineyard."
Roberta Morrell, President, 
Morrell & Company

    #5 " For one year: La Tache Domaine de la Romanee Conti 2005
    For life:
    La Tache Domaine de la Romanee Conti 2005
    Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Olivet Lane2007
    Marcassin Pinot Noir MarcassinVineyard 2006
    Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2006
    Pisoni Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard 2006
all together they may have made enough wine for life."
Nikos Antonakeas, Owner, Wine Director Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe

"Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet 1974"
Mick Yurch, President,

     # 7  "The greatest wine I have ever had is 1945 Romanee Conti, and this would be the last wine I would want to sip, closely followed by 1945 Petrus.
However, on a desert island I might prefer a crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc for everyday drinking :)" 
John Kapon, President, Auction Director Acker Merrall & Condit

     #8  "Champagne: Krug  Grande Cuvee if I had to choose one, but of course there are dozens [of champagnes] I would be happy with."
Drew Nieporent, owner, Crush Wine & Spirits

    #9 "Champagne – absolutely the best wine in the tropics (which is where my dessert isle is located – I refuse to be marooned in the Hebrides, for instance). It’s very hard to have to pick just one, but I’ll go with a current fave: Cedric Bouchard Brut Infloresence Blanc de Noirs (from you know where for $54.99) – lively, rich and complex with some nice red fruit tones, and great racy acidity."
Jamie Wolff, PartnerChambers Street Wines

     #10  I’ve thought about your question before and long ago decided that, assuming the desert island would be tropical, for one year it would definitely be a really extra fine Beaujolais Cru (the best currently being the fantastic Chiroubles 2009 of Domaine Cheysson, (a true bargain from you know where at only $15.95)! 

Why? Because as I prefer red wine over white and since I’m probably going to eat mainly fish (if I’m a good fisherman), I know I’ll want a delicious, yet constantly charming and interesting wine with some vital liveliness that I won’t get tired of drinking every night for a year! Plus…as I hope it will be a warm tropical desert island, with no cellar, perhaps I’ll find a cool cave to lower the temperature of my 600 plus bottles of Chiroubles (lunch + dinner) a bit! Try Cheysson’s 2009 Chiroubles and you will see why I choose it.

Well… to answer the lifetime part of the question, I refer you to the late (great) Len Evans’ remarkable Theory of Capacity below…after re-reading his vinous-wise philosophy, if I had to make a choice of only one wine to drink for the rest of my life on a desert island (with a cool cave that I would dig myself (if I had to) to preserve my lifetime one-wine cache) I want to drink La Tache 1990 forever! 

I have to tell you that I must be accompanied on this island whether for a year or the rest of my life by my wife, Cathy,  because: 1. She is the love of my life, 2. She knows how to exquisitely prepare absolutely every variety of fish (with or without Bocuse’ sauce choron!), 3. Great bottles of a wine such as the inexpensive but fabulous Chiroubles and the astronomically costly (and fabulous) 1990 La Tache must always be shared! Plus, I wouldn’t make it a week on a desert island without her! Plus, she can be counted on to always have a corkscrew!!! Plus, imagine being on a desert island with all that great wine and no corkscrew??? There is no bumper sticker to describe the place in hell that would be!

 Here is Len’s brilliant Theory of Capacity: 

  1. There is an awful lot of wine in the world, but there is also a lot of awful wine.
  2. No sensible person drinks to excess, therefore any one person can only drink a certain amount in a lifetime.
  3. There are countless flavours, nuances, shades of wine; endless varieties, regions, styles. You have neither the time nor the capacity to try them all.
  4. To make the most of the time left to you, you must start by calculating your future capacity. One bottle a day is 365 bottles a year. If your life expectancy is another 30 years there are only 10,000-odd bottles ahead of you.
  5. People who say “You can’t drink the good stuff all of the time” are talking rubbish. You must drink good stuff all the time. Every time you drink a bottle of inferior wine, it’s like smashing a superior bottle against the wall. The pleasure is lost forever - you can’t get that bottle back.
  6. There are people who build up huge cellars, most of which they have no hope of drinking. They are foolish in overestimating their capacity but they err on the right side and their friends love them.
  7. There are also people who don’t want to drink good wine and are happy with the cheapies. I forgive them. There are others who are content with beer and spirits. I can’t worry about everybody.
  8. Wine is not meant to be enjoyed for its own sake; it is the key to love and laughter with friends, to the enjoyment of food, beauty and humour and art and music. Its rewards are far beyond its cost.
  9. What part is wine of your life? Ten percent? Ergo, 10 percent of your income should be spent on wine.
  10. These principles should be applied to other phases of life.

Peter Morrell, Chairman & Senior Wine Advisor, Morrell Wine Store  

For some of the above choices, the issue of island terroir was important. For others, it is only a sidebar to one's deepest wine passions. Today I question whether it is even possible to be stranded on a desert island (or stranded at sea) for more than a few months in a world that even has cell phone service on Mount Everest. Be that as it may, my pick would naturally be my favorite berry- Pinot Noir.  If just a year, it would hail from New Zealand as it would be the most likely to best match the local island foods.  However, if for life, I would instead choose a Grand Cru from Burgundy, which while not the longest aging of wine varieties, should none-the-less keep me content enough over the long years I was marooned. * 

But I also would be very concerned about the fate of my investments! As  I am writing this post in December 1, 2010, my Desert Island investments picks for 2011 are:
1. Water (how ironic), 2. Gold and 3. Shorting US Bonds. 

If for I were stranded for life, the wealth preservation portfolio I would design would be similar to those I would do for multi-generation wealth transfers.  These are balanced across eight asset classes (stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, currencies, commodities, collectibles** and private equity).  However, I am unsure about including private equity funds which normally only have up to a 7-10 year horizon.  While a FOF (fund of funds) has a longer time horizon, these are not  typically designed for the 30+ years I may be marooned. I also prefer to do fund selection myself as I do with stock picking (vs. investing in mutual funds or ETFs) as I believe I provide more Alpha; and let us not forget we live in a post Madoff world! Both reasons demand active monitoring.  (I am assuming no Internet or cell phone reception like Mt. Everest. Otherwise why would I be marooned for life?)

 * Please read my forthcoming Pinot Love blog post for some Pinot favorites from Burgundy, Oregon and New Zealand.
** When thinking of collectibles: art, books, coins, jewelry, silver etc., many overlook Wine's potential as an investment class. Interested readers can visit my forthcoming post
Wine as an Investment Part III: Wine as an Investment Class (Collectibles).


1.    Many readers have their own unique "desert island" list, with favorite books, music, movies, foods and of course wine. However, given the best champagne is the most common first choice as the favorite desert island wine, I think it makes sense to also include here the following wine/food pairing post:   Desert Island Lists of Champagne & Food pairing_嘉 明与逸轩论酒

Wineopolis: Desert island dreams - Time Out Hong Kong



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(c) 2010 Henry Weingarten