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Recommended 40 year old red wine?

Hi, a family member of mine is about to turn 40 and I was wondering if you can recommend a 40 year old red wine for this special occasion?

I understand this will be down to personal taste but interesting to hear if there is any stand out favourites?

Appreciate any help with this.

1981 was as I recall a mixed year. Dry whites will be too old, I would think. My suggestion would be a top cru classé Bordeaux, such as Lynch Bages, or possibly a Barolo?
Your other problem is knowing how the wine has been stored all this time. Whatever quality you buy in terms of what is on the label, it could be disastrous if it has not been stored in a cool dark place. So if you find a bottle ask about its provenance. You are better off going to a very reliable merchant and asking them to try and source something for you.
Have you thought about port? it will have more staying power than a still wine. 1981 was not a great year but generally rated good.
1981 was not the best year for Champagne, which was another possibility.

If you do go for red Bordeaux, and find bottles that you know have been well stored, go for the one with a higher level of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. It has better longevity than Merlot. So a Pauillac may be your best bet.
The only other thought is a Barsac/Sauternes but not sure what 1981 was like in terms of vintage quality. An 'Yquem may be your answer…they go on for years.
I hope that is of some help.


How about a 40 year old tawny?


Musar 1981?

Should be possible to purchase from a merchant who has direct links to the UK operation.

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Domaine Vieux Telegraphe produced an exceptional CH9dP in 1981, as did Ch. Beaucastel.
BUT, because of the age of the wine, ONLY perfectly cellared examples should be considered.
It rained in Northern Rhone in 1981, so should not be considered.
Here is the full and up-to-date list of a specialist.

You did not state a budget.
For a quality wine that is still drinking well at 40 years old, I would expect to pay well over £200. :dragon:


1981 Rioja for me


Taffy, I had forgotten Ch. N. De P.
You are dead right, Excellent advice all round.

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My pleasure!! :wave: :+1: :dragon:

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What a tough challenge. I couldnt immediately think of any red wine region that had a strong year in 1981 - old world or new. I’ll bow to @Taffy-on-Tour on Rhône and focus on Bordeaux.

Most 1981 Bordeaux will now be long past their best. They were mostly quite lightweight - and not built for the long haul (although better than 80, 84 or 87). I drank a lot of 81s trying to learn about Bordeaux while waiting for the 82s to start drinking.

Most 81s probably at their best in the mid 90s. The last one I tried was Palmer. That was part of a vertical about 5 years ago. It was definitely on the downward slope having been very enjoyable, if a bit light, a decade earlier.

The only 1981s I’ve tried that might still be more than an interesting curiosity today are Mouton, Dom de Chevalier (my favourite 81) and possibly GPL. The latter may have lasted the distance - especially in larger formats. My last bottle drunk in 2006) was still holding on. Others I recall being more generously rated (but not tasted) include Pichon Lalande and Leoville Las Cases.

Best price I could quickly see for the Domaine de Chevalier was here


Hope you find something.


Leoville Barton 1981 would do the job. :dragon:
See Cellartracker.com

And Ancient & Modern have it for £102!! :dragon:

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1981 was a good vintage in Rioja. I haven’t tried one myself, although I would like to!


Some great suggestions already, with provenance being key, when one is purchasing wines of this age.

In terms of Chateau Musar, it would be worth contacting their UK office directly, as i understand that they can be very helpful with sourcing older bottles. Google suggests that their UK office phone number is 01508 482733. The 1981 is still reportedly drinking very well. I have never had a bad Musar and certainly tasted this vintage in the very distant past but not recently.

If you can obtain a bottle of Bordeaux that meets the criteria above, then there are some good options but I imagine that it could be a big if. Wine Searcher brought up this London wine merchant/broker https://www.crsfw.com/, which is offering Léoville Las Cases and Lynch-Bages for a little over £100, which seems good value for producers of this quality. Cellar Tracker reviews suggest that both are still drinking well. I don’t know the merchant but I imagine that they are known to other posters on here, so hopefully somebody can comment upon their reliability.

Personally, I would go for the 40 year old Tawny port, preferably Graham’s, in my opinion, although it can be quite sweet and is extremely rich, so if you prefer a slightly more refined style, Taylor Fladgate may be a better choice. The Graham’s is one of my ultimate treats and one of my favourite memories is tasting this against some top vintage ports and Colheitas in the ‘Churchill’ room at Graham’s port lodge in Porto. It blew everything else away and was a truly hedonistic experience. Amazon is currently listing it for just under £100, as is Costco but many independent wine merchants will stock this as standard

Please let us know what you eventually choose and good luck with your search.


Though not a red wine I would put Madeira in your list of suggestions. I typed ‘Madeira 1981’ into wine searcher and there seem to be quite a few.

The advantage of Madeira is that it seems slightly cheaper than some of the suggestions and there will be no question that it will have kept well.

But you did say red and Madeira certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste.


While not red in terms of grape and winemaking, it is as red as tawny port in terms of colour and taste - actually not at all :slight_smile:

That said, I would agree that Madeira should be considered

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It would help to know

  1. Your budget

  2. Whether you expect the recipient to really enjoy drinking the wine, or is it mainly the novelty of having a 40yo wine

  3. Whether the recipient knows and likes the flavour profile of mature wine

  4. Whether it could be a fortified wine, and would tawny Port or Madeira be acceptable. Technically tawny Port is red and Madeira white, but they are both actually a brown colour, and neither taste much like most red wines

Some of the questions might sound curious, but my concern is that some compromises will need to be made unless you have a very generous budget. That is, if you want a 40yo unfortified wine that might appeal to someone who is not a lover of very mature (possibly too old) wine, then the wine will be pretty expensive.

You can get 81 clarets for under £100, but I am not sure how enjoyable they would be for someone used to younger wines - others might have a better idea, but I would be reluctant to recommend them myself.

Ultimately, the wine you chose might depend more on availability than anything else. With more information about what you are after I could look around.


I was gifted 6 bottles of 1971 wine for my 40th.

A mix of Bordeaux classified growths and Barolo, Barbaresco.

Couple of amazing wines and the other 4 were pretty grim and well past their best. It was a lovely gesture but 1971 wasn’t a great year and buying 40 year old wine is a gamble as you don’t know how it’s been stored for that period.

I always thought, but could never say, that I’d have much preferred to have that money spent on wines that were say from a great (and younger) vintage like 1982 but for obvious reasons he wanted to get wines from my birth year.


In my personal experience, the wines I have tried in the past that aged gracefully have been the following (all notes from Berry’s):

Moulin Touchais

Moulin Touchais dates back to 1787, when the Touchais family first managed the wine estate. Eight generations on, it is still family owned and is amongst the most traditional properties in the Loire Valley. The traditional methods of viticulture are still in place; low-yields, careful harvesting and meticulous winemaking. Although they have been built upon and improved over the years.

Moulin Touchais has one hundred and fifty hectares of vineyard, thirty five of which are dedicated to sweet wines of the Chenin Blanc grape. The harvesting strategy is to pick 20% of the grapes under ripe so they are still fresh and high in natural acidity, and 80% are picked late with the grapes yielding high sugar levels and concentrated flavours. This creates the smooth and elegant style of a Moulin Touchais wine. The fermentation process is spread over several weeks, and the wine is bottled early and cellared for a minimum of ten years before leaving under the Moulin Touchais name.

Le Mont, Domaine Huet

The entirety of the vineyard plantings at the estate were given over to the versatile and often under-appreciated Chenin Blanc. Climate plays a huge part in the wine-making in each vintage with warmer years creating unctuously sweet wines (mo?lleux for which Huet is renowned and doux the sweetest of all styles). Cooler vintages result in fruit which is used in the production of vivacious demi-sec, bone-dry sec or pétillant sparkling wines. It is important to emphasise that regardless of the sweetness level, the hallmark of Chenin Blanc and indeed Domaine Gaston Huet is an unmistakable freshness and natural acidity which permit the wines to age for centuries

Biodynamic techniques have been used at all of Domaine Huet’s vineyards since 1990. The estate comprises three vineyards, all with their own unique blueprint and personality: Le Haut-Lieu, Le Clos du Bourg and Le Mont. The original vineyard, Le Haut-Lieu (literally meaning ‘the high place’) surrounds the house and extends for some nine hectares. The soil is made up of three metres of clay at the surface, underpinned by Vouvray’s famous sedimentary limestone. Its wines are opulent and approachable when young but are genuine vins de gardes and benefit from long-term ageing.

Le Clos du Bourg, which was purchased by Gaston in 1953, is the oldest site in the appellation of Vouvray, dating back to the eighth century. The allure of this vineyard is not entirely contained within its neat and historic walls but moreover its reputation for producing formidable sweet wines. The final musketeer completing the trio is the most famous, Le Mont, with its green-tinged soils and late-harvesting vines from which Gaston produced his longest-lived and arguably most famous wines.

Chateau d’Yquem

Chateau d`Yquem is often described as the greatest sweet wine in the world. After centuries of family ownership, Yquem was finally sold in acrimonious circumstances to Louis Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy in 1999. However, its former owner and director Alexandre de Lur-Saluce remains in charge.

Yquem is located on the highest hill in Sauternes and enjoys the best growing conditions in the whole appellation. The 110-hectare vineyard is planted with 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Only fully botrytized fruit is picked by the 150 highly skilled pickers and yields are so low that each vine produces only one glass of wine.

Yquem is fermented in oak barrels (100% new) and is left in barriques to mature for up to 36 months. Intensely opulent when young, Yquem develops an extraordinary complexity and exotic richness when fully mature, with the best vintages lasting for over 50 years. Château d’Yquem is classified as a 1er Cru Classé supérieur.


A lot depends on your friend’s preferences in wine I’d say, and your budget of course.

Another vote for Huet Vouvray, these will always impress and will usually reliable in terms of provenance, unlike 40 year old Bordeaux that may have been all over the place.

Another vote also for '81 Beaucastel, one of the best CDPs I’ve ever tasted, now about 15 years ago and obtained from somebody who bought it on release. Right up there with the best of Clos des papes, Bonneau and almost Rayas. A sensational wine which should still be shining, but provenance is key and don’t just blindly trust when the fine wine salesperson is telling you it’s been sitting in a cold Scottish cellar for the last 35 years :slight_smile:


1981 was a superb year for Rioja. In my experience the best vintage of the 70s or 80s. 1981 CVNE Reserva is one of my all time favourite wines. I should think you would have a good chance of success with any well-stored reserva or gran reserva wine from La Rioja Alta, CVNE or other reputable houses.


Quite right. I’m sure I was served blind an '81 Imperial Riserva bought from TWS a number of years ago when WS got hold of a rare restaurant/hotel stash of old Riojas, and it was brilliant.