Fine Bordeaux is always recommended for laying down – but for how long? That is the eternal question. When we study the dramatic movement in prices as the wine matures, is the liquid inside actually getting more and more special? Or could we be like Abe and his sardines – do you remember what happened when he opened the can? “The sardines were terrible. He telephoned Joe from whom he’d bought them only to be told ‘But Abe, those sardines are for trading, not eating!’" … This was clearly the case with the now infamous Jefferson Bordeaux wines that were supposedly bottled at the latter part of the eighteenth century. When Michael Broadbent MW was flown in to New York on Concorde to witness the opening and first tasting of one of these special bottles, his comment was “interesting”!
I have tasted a few old bottles and some have been more than “interesting”. In particular a bottle of red Malaga from 1790, offered at a private dinner by David Molyneux Berry MW, who was then director of Sothebys Wine department, was truly magnificent oozing fruit and elegance. But I digress, this is not Bordeaux!
One thing that it is important to remember with old bottles is never decant. Don’t let the decanter enjoy that luscious first moment when the wine finds the outside world. Your best decanter for such wines is your glass. Then watch it, observe it, appreciate it and drink it. I remember to my great regret producing a bottle of Ch Palmer 1929 at a dinner we had at home to celebrate my passing the Master of Wine exam. I opened the bottle and poured. We all marveled at the prospect of enjoying such an icon wine and then talked too much about the treat of it all while the wine quietly died. Slowly cobwebs -I am speaking figuratively – came over the flavor and all of a sudden it went. With hindsight, we should have nosed and consumed the wine within ten minutes. The fruit of an old wine is very special and departs like a phantom into the ether. So catch it and marvel at it straightaway!
I had three bottles of Chateau Margaux 1892, an awesome wine in its time. I drank the first with friends and reminded them to focus on the wine. It took twelve minutes for the “cobwebs” to appear. Up to that moment we had delicate, elegant, fruit, clearly very old but well preserved. I have two bottles remaining and I am waiting for the right moment.
I also have a bit of an enigma and I need your help. The photo is of my enigma. It is a hand-blown magnum with a sticker on the side saying it is Chateau Margaux 1868! The cork is not leaking but I cannot see any chateau branding. Nevertheless the level is very low – in fact I have marked in the dust this level. So what do I do? I want some good ideas. I could attempt to bring it over to the States for a happening. As for provenance? I know it came from Christophers, a company founded in the seventeenth century that was based in St James’s London where the wine lived for most of its life.