Beluga is often considered to be the world’s most exclusive caviar, but there is an even more exclusive breed of sturgeon that produces eggs of a superlative quality: the rare albino sterlet. Wild capture is banned, so populations are protected by breeding programmes (acipensériculture), but only a few farmers have the requisite expertise to nurture this prized pale fish and its delicate eggs. The result is a sought-after pearly white caviar with a wonderful balance of buttery richness and delicacy.
In 1966, master cheese affineur Marcel Petite chanced upon an old fort in a forest high in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France. Petite was quick to realise that the fort’s cut and vaulted stone construction, blanketed with a layer of soil, provided the ideal conditions for the slow maturing of his Comté cheeses, near the mountain dairies where they are made. Today, more than 100,000 wheels are ripened here, generally for 10 to 20 months, to achieve Comté’s savoury brown-butter and roasted-nut notes and long, sweet finish. Only a tiny proportion of these are matured for 36 months (or even longer), after which they take on more complex roasted-nut and candied-fruit stones, a crunchy texture, and a long, sharp finish.
Two thousand feet up on the windward slope of the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea in Hawaii grows some of the most deliciously honeyed, delicately spiced tea in the world. Cultivated on a five-acre family farm, batched in soft mists and bursts of sun, the plants take on the qualities of the mineral- rich volcanic terroir. The leaves are then hand-picked and hand-rolled before being pan-fired in 1 kg batches. With such a labour-intensive production, only 12 kilograms of tea are produced each year, so when you sip a cup brewed from these exclusive Hawaiian leaves, it’s truly a moment to savour.
High in the cloud forest in Panama, within sight of the Barú volcano and close to the appropriately named town of Volcán, lies Finca Santa Teresa. Situated along a series of steep ridges and gullies at approximately 1,800 metres above sea level, the rich, volcanic soil and ocean influence combine to produce the perfect growing conditions for the rare Geisha coffee bean to flourish. The variety has taken the coffee world by storm over the last decade, sweeping the board at competitions and wooing baristas the world over for its profound sweetness, markedly aromatic and floral tones, and unusual citrus fruit notes. Its scarcity, however, means that it remains a brew for connoisseurs only.
Long on the palate and long-ageing in the cellar, velvety tannins, huge structure and purity of fruit. Situated on the Right Bank of Bordeaux, Pétrus helped build the reputation of the Pomerol appellation, establishing it as one of French wine’s most revered names. And in the magnificently dense and layered 1990, we have arguably its greatest release.
One of Australia’s most celebrated wineries, Penfolds only releases its Special Bin cuvées in the most exceptional vintages. The last time it produced a Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz was in 1966, under the guidance of its first chief winemaker, Max Schubert, the pioneer of Australia’s most famous wine, Grange. Now, more than half a century later, a special two-bottle release of the 2008 Bin 620 is presented in a specially commissioned Tasmanian oak box and comes with a letter from current Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago. An exceptionally long-lived wine, it boasts a beguiling combination of earthy, truffley aromas over notes of cassis and blackberries, with the complex, layered fruit densely packed on a long, spicy finish.
Made only in the finest vintages, when the weather gods align to produce the perfect balance of heat and humidity for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes to reach optimum maturity, Dom Pérignon is the nonpareil of Champagnes. The house’s Plénitude releases are even rarer – brought to market only after extended ageing, yielding the creamy, toasted brioche-tinged flavours that come only with cellar age. Now, cellar master Richard Geoffroy has assembled a one-off release of two three- bottle collections, both spanning an ultra-rare Triple Plénitude, and all in magnum format. The first features the 2006, the P2 1998 and the P3 1966; the second takes in the 2005, the P2 1993 and the P3 1983. Both are presented in a bespoke box signed by Geoffroy.
Created by Paul-Emile Rémy Martin in 1874, Louis XIII is a blend of 1,200 of the oldest and greatest Eaux-de-vie, selected by successive generations of cellar masters and crafted by their predecessors. The hand-blown crystal decanter in which it is housed is decorated with fleurs-de-lys motifs, dentelle spikes, a 20kt gold neck collar and topped by a solid crystal fleur de lys-shaped stopper. Now a collector’s piece. The Legacy Edition is, for the first time, etched with the signatures of four generations of Louis XIII cellar masters. Only 500 magnum decanters have been made, each bearing a numbered plaque.