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What Is the Oldest Wine You've Ever Tasted? And the Oldest Wine in Your Cellar?

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The other thread where foie gras and Sauternes and so on were being discussed made me think about the oldest wines I have tasted.

A 1970 vintage port (Dow's?) that was amazing (had it in maybe 2003-2005 time range).

A wino buddy offered to share a 1971 Petrus with my wife and I - it was pretty eye opening. Tasted in maybe 2003-2004.

Other wino buddies have shared some gems, mainly from 1990 onward, but some interesting 1970s and 1980s Napa Cabs as well. Most of these tasted in the 2005-2010 time period).

I think the oldest wine I have in my cellar, at the moment, is the 1993 Diznokyos Tokaji Aszu (I think it is either the 5 or 6 Puttonyos). I have tasted it maybe 4 or 5 times and it is amazing. When I bought them maybe 15 or so years ago, they were of a very pale honey color. Now, I think I have two bottles left, are much darker. One is approaching the color of buckwheat honey.

I am still wondering if and when I might pull the trigger for a birth year wine for myself and my wife. But I have lots more important things to spend money on (travel, dining out, haha), so it may never happen.

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At the risk of sounding like a wine snob, I have to say, when I worked at the Watergate Hotel in the 1980's, I got to taste some amazing old wines. The wine that provided me with my first "Aha" moment in Burgundy was a 1949 Doctor Barolet Latricieres- Chambertin. It was like nothing I had ever encountered before. Forward and utterly delicious, smooth, deep, fragrant. I was floored. The flat out oldest wine I was able to taste: Chateau Margaux 1903. The best tasting old wine I ever tasted: 1945 Mouton-Rothschild.

A fun book to look for is Michael Broadbent's Great Vintage Wine Book. As a famous wine auctioneer, his book has tasting notes on wine back to THE 18TH CENTURY. If you need to know the tasting notes for Chateau Lafite 1874, this is your book.

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I have some 90 and 93, birth year wines for each of my sons.  Probably the oldest I've drank as well.

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A 1972 Italian Pinot Grigio - probably retailed for a couple bucks when purchased, but I sampled it around 2003.  Have to say it smelled a bit like paint thinner when it was first opened, but tasting really brought the paint thinner essence straight to the forefront.  I'm lucky I didn't die and am still not sure what I was thinking.  My wife's grandfather, who didn't drink, had been saving it for a truly special occasion.  

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It was something red, something French, vintage 1966-- my birth year. 

My tasting notes: battery acid, rotting onions, sun-dried squid, and broken diaper genie.

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3 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

It's funny, my wife said the 1971 Petrus smelled like an old, previously flooded basement.

That's not a good sign. Wet basement is the definition of TCA.

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21 hours ago, Mark Slater said:

That's not a good sign. Wet basement is the definition of TCA.

Normally I would agree, but that is what is so interesting. My wife generally has a better palate than me, but I am far better at detecting TCA that she is. This wine did not suffer from TCA, IMHO. It did not make me go gaga (at the time, it did - but subsequent tastings of a wide variety of wines made me realize this wine, will excellent, was not in my sweet spot of wines I like - not really then, and certainly not at the moment).

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I am sure my parents have some really old Manischewitz in their "wine cellar".  Does that count?  Some of it may be approaching 40 years.

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5 hours ago, pras said:

I am sure my parents have some really old Manischewitz in their "wine cellar".  Does that count?  Some of it may be approaching 40 years.

One of the first things you learn in the wine biz is that bad wine doesn't get better with age. I'm sure the residual sugar would preserve this wine from Brooklyn's oldest winery for a long time.

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Sometime around 2007 I bought a bottle of white wine from the discount shelf at Schneiders.  I can't remember what exactly it was, but it was a 1982 vintage.  Since the cost was only about $5 I thought, "Why not?"  If it turned out to be terrible I wasn't going to be out a lot of money. 

When I applied the corkscrew the cork fell into the bottle.  I poured the wine into a pitcher and it turned out to be just fine.  Quite nice, actually.

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1 hour ago, lovehockey said:

Sometime around 2007 I bought a bottle of white wine from the discount shelf at Schneiders.  I can't remember what exactly it was, but it was a 1982 vintage.  Since the cost was only about $5 I thought, "Why not?"  If it turned out to be terrible I wasn't going to be out a lot of money. 

When I applied the corkscrew the cork fell into the bottle.  I poured the wine into a pitcher and it turned out to be just fine.  Quite nice, actually.

A coffee filter (preferably a metal one) can be your friend here.

(In case anyone is curious: 1830.)

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An 1850 Madeira in the dessert room at Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa. A memorable wine and one of the most fun evenings of my life.

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Bern's is amazing.  I need to go back.

Next Tuesday with my wife and 2 sons at Lewnes in Annapolis I'll be bringing 1990 Bordeaux and 1993 Napa Cabernet, birth year wines which have been stored well.  Lewnes is old school and IMHO kicking ass on Ruth Chris down the block.

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I would have to say that it was a 1927 Domaine Bory Grenache Rivesaltes, which, if I remember correctly, Pool Boy shared with me with the rest of the DC Cru at Proof back in 2012.

As to my cellar, currently the oldest wine I have is a 1985 Graham Port.

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4 hours ago, dinwiddie said:

I would have to say that it was a 1927 Domaine Bory Grenache Rivesaltes, which, if I remember correctly, Pool Boy shared with me with the rest of the DC Cru at Proof back in 2012.

As to my cellar, currently the oldest wine I have is a 1985 Graham Port.

Clearly you are mistaken dinwiddie! I've never had a 1927 anything!

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On ‎11‎/‎3‎/‎2017 at 5:47 PM, Mark Slater said:

One of the first things you learn in the wine biz is that bad wine doesn't get better with age. I'm sure the residual sugar would preserve this wine from Brooklyn's oldest winery for a long time

I spent an afternoon in Napa with Dennis Johns Now at Round Two http://www.roundtwowines.com/ and previously making wines all over Napa for 30 or 40 years.  His Philosophy is exactly what Mark says above, "an ugly child can't get beautiful with age.  The wine should taste great now and taste great later".  One of my best wine experiences as my wife and myself sat with Dennis in his house for several hours drinking wine and soaking up his philosophy.  Not available here, I do order Round Two wines to drink and cellar.

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18 hours ago, MarkS said:

I spent an afternoon in Napa with Dennis Johns Now at Round Two http://www.roundtwowines.com/ and previously making wines all over Napa for 30 or 40 years.  His Philosophy is exactly what Mark says above, "an ugly child can't get beautiful with age.  The wine should taste great now and taste great later".  One of my best wine experiences as my wife and myself sat with Dennis in his house for several hours drinking wine and soaking up his philosophy.  Not available here, I do order Round Two wines to drink and cellar.

This said, I remember having the 1986 Mouton-Rothschild on release, and it was undrinkably tannic. It wasn't a bad wine (it was a great wine), but it tasted *terrible*, and needed twenty years of bottle age to be pleasant - I suspect even now, it's only in the early years of maturation. This is but one example of many - I'm not addressing either of the two Mark S's here; rather people in general: Don't assume that because something is tongue-curdlingly acidic when it's young, it won't mellow out with some bottle age.

At the opposite extreme, I find drinking young, vintage Port to be like being whacked with a sugar-stick. Port needs time to soften, and many years in the bottle will produce a wine that has less perceived sweetness.

All I'm saying is: Don't confuse "tastes bad young" with "is bad wine."

To the point above: A really bad wine will not get better with age - that is absolutely true. *But*, do not conflate "a really bad wine" with "a wine that isn't pleasant to drink upon release."

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To Don’s port point, we enjoyed a bottle of 1937 port over New Years. My father-in-law received a number of ooooold bottles from an friend’s estate. The 1937 was even better than a 1965 we tried a couple years ago. 

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To be fair, I think we should separate the discussion between fortified wine (port, madeira, etc.) and non-fortified wine.  Fortified wine, with the extra alcohol added, can last almost indefinitely  (no one has lived long enough to prove or disprove of this theory.  Also in my house, it is difficult to get it to last more than one night.) 

That being said, I attended a wine dinner at Plume Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel many years ago.  (For those of you who do not know, the Jefferson is one of the premier boutique hotels in DC. The food was exquisite and the service was impeccably European, meaning tuxes, formal service with no real interaction between the wait staff and the customers other than describing the dishes.  They were seeking a Michelin star at the time, and Michelin prefers that type of service.  My personal taste is for a more informal interaction with the staff.)    In any event, each course was paired with a different Madeira, some over 100 years old.  The guest of honor was Mannie Berk from the Rare Wine Company.  If I recall correctly, Mannie told us that Madeira was preferred by the pirates because it could withstand the conditions on a pirate ship for sometimes years at a time.   A wonderful experience overall.

On the non-fortified side, the oldest wine I have tasted and currently have in my cellar is a 1982 Chateau Lynch Bages. my girlfriend's birth year (yes, I am old), bought from Rare Wine Company.

For major birthdays for family and friends, I have now made it a habit of visiting RWC in search of a bottle from their birth year.  I also purchased a case of Penfolds Grange from my son's birth year.  We have been sharing them on special occasions and Tuesdays ever since.  For those of us without the foresight to buy a case from our children's birth year upon release, places like RWC are a savior.  

Stock up, enjoy, and share with friends and family.

By the way, I have no affiliation with RWC other than being a satisfied customer. 

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Oops! Just realized that I typed the wrong date for the Chateau Lynch Bages.  It is 1962.

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6 hours ago, Finatic said:

Oops! Just realized that I typed the wrong date for the Chateau Lynch Bages.  It is 1962.

If this is a Nicolas bottling - and there's a chance it might be - it could be very good if it has been stored well.

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8 hours ago, DonRocks said:

If this is a Nicolas bottling - and there's a chance it might be - it could be very good if it has been stored well.

I do not know what that means.  I can tell you that the last one we drank was really good!

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1924 Vosne Romanee recently. Really not bad but more of an experience than a great wine.

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We had a birth year wine from my birth that we found at some point, it wasn't saved for that purpose, just the irony.  We dreaded opening knowing it likely wasn't going to be any good, so we just put it off for a while, and we had no idea where it came from (it might have been our old house before my parents divorce and we never owned good wine).  Anyway it was in my Aunt's shelf of wine and someone at some party when they needed more wine must have opened and drank it because at some point we discovered it was gone.  So we will never know.  I haven't had the opportunity to sample any wines of the age noted on this thread, maybe someday at some point.

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