Octavian Vaults mine wine row is bubbling to the surface at Corsham Cellars
It markets itself as probably the finest place to store a bottle of wine in the world, but the firm utilising part of the old stone mines beneath the countryside of Wiltshire to store the most planet’s most expensive bottles of wine have a problem – they are running out of space.
So successful has Octavian Vaults been at keeping the vintage owned by the world’s super-rich in pristine condition that they are now looking to expand.
But the problem is that no new redundant stone mines are being chiselled out of the Bath stone near the town of Corsham, so Octavian is having to go above ground instead.
The firm’s Corsham Cellars offer storage for fine wines worth more than an estimated £1 billion, with the world’s super-rich paying a premium to have their wine stored 100ft below ground in a redundant stone mine where the temperature doesn’t change, there’s no sunlight or vibration and the humidity is carefully controlled.
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Such is the demand that Octavian wants to expand, and has been storing trade wines – not the really valuable stuff owned by the likes of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber or Sir Alex Ferguson – at the old hangars at the former RAF base at nearby Colerne.
Now it wants to build a "substantial" warehouse storage facility right on top of the entrance to the mine which, like the conditions 100ft down, will be controlled to exact specifications.
However, local residents in the nearby village of Gastard have objected and around 70 residents met in the village hall to oppose the 6,000sq m building proposal.
Corsham town council has now formally objected, saying that the development is too big for the countryside, that the shiny roof – designed to keep the sun’s warmth out of the climate control surroundings below – will mean the building will be visible for miles around and that it would create traffic problems.
So far, 32 residents have objected officially, among them Ian Thompson, who chaired the Gastard meeting. “It is totally inappropriate,” he said. “It is an industrial business and should be on a trading estate.”
Octavian said it needed to expand. “The current site operates as arguably the world’s leading storage facility for the long-term storage of fine wines,” the firm told Wiltshire council planners, who will decide on the plan in the New Year.
“The conditions found within the underground mine at 90ft below ground level are ideal to achieve the optimum temperature and humidity.
“The company has become extraordinarily successful. It has moved a lot of the trade wine to a nearby airfield at Colerne, and now finds that it is no longer able to accommodate all of the premium wines being offered to it.
“The proposed building is to be fitted with equipment capable of holding the temperature and humidity at constant levels, consistent with those in the mine.”