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Château Fontesteau vertical - advice


Last year, on a slight whim, we bought the Château Fontesteau vertical case:
Having little experience of properly mature claret, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to try it out, and hopefully learn. We’re having some like-minded friends round to taste it with us, but aren’t sure about what order to taste them in. Youngest to oldest seems like the most common that I’ve experienced, but there seems to be conflicting advice out there, and sometimes people go oldest to youngest. Everyone here seems to be so helpful and friendly, it seemed like a natural place to come to for help.

What advice would you give us? Youngest to oldest? Oldest to youngest? Attempt to work out likely lightest to heaviest from the vintages? Hide the vintages and just taste in a random order? Or for wine that age, does it really matter?


For these, I would say young to old, because the oldest is really good (so are the others, but not quite…), but it might be interesting to let people try to guess; depends on your friends, I suppose.


Hi Rob

(You ARE the Rob, I know in real life, aren’t you?)

I would go youngest to oldest rather than oldest to youngest, but mainly because that seems to be more conventional in the UK, and is less likely to attract comment that might detract from the actual wines. There are arguments either way, but I don’t think it is something to get too hung up on.

I would definitely not do it in random order though, or by vintage quality. Too difficult to keep track of which wine was which when tasting, and it gives fewer opportunities to taste “adjacent” vintages side-by-side for comparison if you only have a small number of glasses each. You might well find that an older wine tastes younger, but tasting in a chronological order is most likely to highlight such occurrences.

Hope it goes well!



Hi Steve - yes, I am am the Rob you know.

Youngest to oldest was going to be my default, but I think it’s worth asking the question. I’ve experienced other strategies, though to be fair, mainly at producers who know their wines. Your point about adjacent vintages is a good one though.


@robertd It’s a really interesting case, and a nice opportunity for a vertical tasting of vintages. The wines in the case were at the TWS Christmas press tasting that myself, @SPmember and @Bargainbob were lucky enough to attend. At that tasting they were arranged oldest to youngest and if I remember correctly the consensus in the room was that tasting them the other way, i.e. as @SPmember suggests was a better option. All our notes from the time are in this thread…

I hope you enjoy them, by the time I tried them I was 70 wines in and my palate was done for!


I hope you also bought some: they are good as individual bottles, too.


Afraid not, there were too many other tempting bottles around at the time! :slightly_frowning_face:


Yeah, same here. I’m not sure that the 1996 was available on its own, but if so I really should have picked it up.

I ended up buying quite a lot of the wines that were on show from that tasting, and have had maybe 10+ already. All of them were as good as I’d remembered. I’m absolutely regretting a few that got away though (Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes in particular).


Absolutely - didn’t mean to suggest it was not worth asking. I was just trying to stress that I don’t think there are compelling objective arguments either way.


Thanks for the advice. Looks like youngest to oldest is the way to go.

Those are some impressive write-ups over on the Christmas Press Tasting thread, @Bargainbob, @Alchemist and @SPmember. I’m very jealous.


Don’t forget to make notes and let us know how you get on :slight_smile:


I had the '96 in early December at a Bordeaux tasting. Impressed me in so far as the fruit was still very much there and the tannins and acidity were pretty well balanced at this point. Let us know what you think.


But of course :slight_smile:

We’re having them next Saturday (19th Jan), and will report back.


I’d go Oldest to Youngest. Because the older wine will be more delicate so best to drink it while your palate is still fresh. If you drink it at then end not only will you be merry but you’re palate will be more jaded too - assuming you’re eating as well.


@M1tch, @Leah - here’s the report

We drank the wine with our friends last night, and it was a very successful occasion. We tasted from youngest to oldest, and then used the wines to accompany some roast doe and red cabbage. Seen purely from the point of view of wine enjoyment (and that’s surely the main thing anyway), all of the vintages were very drinkable, and enhanced the food. From the point of view of educating our palates, it was also very successful, if challenging when trying to come up with ways of describing how the wines tasted, and the distinctive features of each vintage. Neither Mrs Robertd or I are very familiar with mature claret, and it was interesting to note how this affected our tasting vocabulary - there are some very distinctive smells and tastes that fall outside our normal experience, and it’s hard to describe what you’re perceiving, even though you know full well that you’re perceiving it.

So, with that caveat as to the accuracy of my notes compared with someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, here’s what I wrote. For what it’s worth, the 1996 was everyone’s favourite, and the 1999 my second favourite.

Quite brown/red, mid-intensity. Cassis and tar on the nose. Smooth acid, taste is less intense than nose, well integrated tannin. Oaky on the finish.

Maroon, mid/dark. A bit farmyardy - brett? Deeper fruit and less savoury nose. Smoky palate, evolved tannins, firmer than 2001. Green peppercorns.

Brown/red. Cinder toffee and blackcurrant crumble nose. Well knitted, good acidity and intensity to the palate, tannins are very smooth.

Bricky, mid/dark intensity, a bit darker. Cassis on the nose and some wood. Less fruity in the mouth, and shorter. Saline, and some bitterness. Coming round in the glass.

Brown/red. Green bell-pepper nose. Lighter in the mouth, drinkable, lightly fruity and not that tannic. Less complex. Would match lamb.

Brick and evolved colour - darker. A bit “nappy” on the nose, some smoky and savoury notes. Intense in the mouth, still fruity, and nicely integrated tannins and bitter almonds. Long and smooth.

Weekend drinking 18-20 Jan 19


Sounds like a real education and a very enjoyable one at that!

Good that you had some like minded friends to try this with. It does take a lot of effort (and glassware) to host an event like this and thankyou for posting your notes.

Finding that as I get older that I am enjoying more mature wines. Assume that this is not uncommon among wine geeks.


Just checking our vintage chart for the vintage ratings to see the comparison between them etc:

2001 - 7
2000 - 9
1999 - 6
1998 - 7
1997 - 6
1996 - 8