Somewhere in the south of England lies what is probably the most valuable wine collection in the world: nine million bottles worth around 1.2 billion euros are well hidden - and well secured - in an old mine. Matthias Stelzig was able to look around at a depth of 30 metres.
"How long are the tunnels down here? Nobody knows." The man casting a checking glance at the laptop in his teeny-tiny office deep underground should know. But Vincent O'Brien, the chief financial officer of the Octavian, perhaps the largest wine warehouse in the world, has never worked it out. The modest office with a formica table in front of bare walls is deceptive: with his Excel spreadsheets, the accountant manages around nine million bottles of wine in stock - and can access every single bottle at the click of a mouse.
The Octavian in Wiltshire in southern England is a warehouse where any private wine fan can also let his wine mature. In the branching corridors of the former mine, wines and spirits from around 10,000 customers with a total value of 1.2 billion euros languish. That works out to an average of 130 euros per bottle. Outside Vincent's office door, the 93,000 square metres of mine tunnels are a constant twelve to 14 degrees Celsius. There are almost no temperature fluctuations 30 metres underground. The humidity is an equally constant and optimal 80 per cent. "Temperature and humidity ensure that the wines don't exchange with the air, their greatest enemy," Vincent explains, "that's our great potential." He takes his guest on a walk through nowhere-ending corridors. The map of the mine on the wall looks like a hidden object. In the 19th century, the amber-coloured sandstone was quarried here, which London patricians used to build luxurious villas in the nearby and famous seaside resort of Bath.