01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

The Society's Community

Tasting notes or thoughts for old wines recently discovered!

Hi, my first post on these forums so I hope this is in the right place. Just wondering if anyone has advice on old wines - I’ve just discovered a little stash of about 30 or 40 bottles in a cellar at my fathers house and I’m curious as to what to do with them - daft question in some ways of course but I opened a 1999 St Pelorus Cloudy Bay (a sparkling wine) last night and it had clearly gone, it was quite unpleasant. But it calls itself a “vintage” wine. There are various other things in there - is the only way to open and try? Or can I just write off the very old stuff - eg there’s quite a few 1982 Chateau Durand Laplage Pusseguin-St Emilions which are nigh on 40 years old now. And there’s a Dom Perignan 1983.

When I look online I haven’t managed to find any recent notes or anything that might help me predict. I’m asking because I’m clearing things out and I don’t want things hanging around if they’re dead, but equally don’t want to throw out anything that might be a really great wine. And I can’t just open them now, life is too busy!

There are some ports which I guess should be fine - but what about a case of 1971 Cognac Grand Fine Champagne? Or a case of ordinary Moet and Chandon, which I would guess is from the early 80s - will it have survived?

Any thoughts much appreciated!

7 Likes

Welcome to The Wine Society Community @JohnH

1 Like

Thank you

John, as you undoubtedly know it all depends. Often old wines turn out much better than expected, even modest wines can surprise. The storage can be very important, do you know if it was temperature controlled?
Not too surprised about the new world sparkling being off but the Champagne has a good chance of being nice. The Dom Perignon 83 should be lovely.
The cognac will be too, although not my thing. 1982 in St Emilon was fantastic so there’s a chance there too.
You haven’t listed any more but happy to comment if you do. Otherwise have you tried cellartracker, a great website with people’s tasting notes.
Here’s the page on the DP 83


If you aren’t going to drink things like the cognac it will have a value so you might like to sell it on.
3 Likes

That’s a brandy. Cognac. Spirits don’t improve or deteriorate in the bottle so will be as good as when your father bought it. (the reference to Champagne refers to the chalk lands where its grapes were grown, not the sparkling wine .)

Oh, and welcome to the community!

4 Likes

Ah that’s a great website, thank you. I did google the Dom Perignan but the most recent notes I could find were over 10 years old and one mentioned that it might be getting to its peak so I wondered if the extra decade would be too much.

The cellar wasn’t temp-controlled but I’d think it was fairly constant anyway and it’s dry, if that’s relevant. I have never really drunk fine wines, I buy a couple of WS cases every few months all for drinking now so I’m really ignorant about aged stuff.

Do you know of any website that has advice on dealing with old port? There’s a case of 1974 “Fine Crusted” Port from Smith and Woodhouse and I had the idea that anything except vintage should be drunk relatively early but the internet disagrees. I picked up one bottle and even in the murk of a cellar I could see a lot of sediment (which will probably take another year to settle down after being yanked around this morning!) - if this is drinkable I’d need to decant it and it’d be great t get sme good advice on how to do that.

1 Like

Thanks for this Peter, I’m not a cognac drinker so I know literally nothing about it.

1 Like

Leave it upright for a week and then decant through a coffee filter paper and you shouldn’t have any problem at all.

2 Likes

Welcome @JohnH, some good advise already here for you.
I agree with @strawpig re the port. It has a high alcohol and sugar content so should be absolutely fine to drink but definitely stand up and filter whist decanting.
Come back and let us know how good all that wine is, and enjoy it!

2 Likes

I agree with @Russ. Why would you want to throw a wine out without trying it first? You never know, and tastes differ anyway. Just make sure you have a back-up in case it is disgusting. Either way, you would at least learn about old wine and your taste.

I’d just say don’t bother trying to sell a wine that conventional wisdom says is too old. Unless it is an impressive bottle for display on a shelf in a restaurant or wine bar there would be little interest.

4 Likes

This is a great forum for any questions that you may have about Port.

http://www.theportforum.com/

2 Likes

A while ago I heard on the radio someone from one of the major port houses saying that port sediment is such that it only takes a matter of minutes to settle (probably assuming gentle handling from horizontal to upright). Better safe than sorry though.

2 Likes

Any filter or mesh should really be used as a safety net (and normally I would not bother with it) . Put a good light under the bottle (note Port bottles can be very dark), and pour the Port slowly in one continuous movement until the sediment gets close to the neck. Then stop. The sediment in Port is often chunky, and easy to separate from the liquid, but the filter/mesh will catch the odd rogue bit.

Do NOT invert the whole bottle into funnel, relying totally on the filter/mesh. The mesh will not keep out all the sediment, and a coffee filter might clog.

4 Likes

I think that"s right. Unless you’ve been shaking the bottle around it shouldn’t need a week to settle. I would have thought a day would be more than enough.

These days I carry bottles (usually not Port) horizontally carefully from my “cellar”, hold them at a slight angle in a heavy bowl for the uncorking, and decant straight away. It works well.

The reason people age wines is because they change over time in the bottle. Some people say improve, but that is a matter of taste. Some love the taste of really old wines, some don’t and I think the first camp are mainly experienced wine lovers. The problem with aging for decades is the cork closures have a finite life - even the best rot and shrink with time letting in air that turns the wine bad.

So, as Steve says, open and try. If it’s no good you’re no worse off than if you’d thrown it away untasted.

The case of Moet & Chandon dating likely from the '80s may well be no good now. I have found Champagne corks tend to shrink quicker than standard closures, and even if this is not the case the Champagne is unlikely to taste like any you are used to, being a lot darker in colour and probably with fewer bubbles. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Re the '99 Pelorus calling itself a vintage wine: all vintage wine means is that the wine comes from grapes picked in the year shown on the label. So Pelorus '99 was made from grapes picked in (probably) February of 1999. Your case of Moet & Chandon is made from a blend of years so is a NV (= non vintage wine.

I would suggest opening the wines sooner than later, and do advise against keeping them to leave in your will for your descendants :slight_smile:

6 Likes

Many thanks everyone for your advice.

Obviously I should try before I sling; I say “obviously” but that’s not what I was thinking earlier, I think I was in psychological chuck-out mode when I found them and having tried one dud I was ready to throw it all. There’s also perhaps a confidence issue - I have only really drunk fairly young ‘normal’ wine and I really don’t know if I’d be able to appreciate any depths that an aged wine has developed.

I think I’ll just go ahead and buy the Christmas wine I was going to and try the old ones alongside them. If they are enjoyable great, if not, nothing lost.

6 Likes

Definitely! Though much of it might be a wonderful surprise (I certainly hope so), don’t count on it.

2 Likes

If you are nor fussed about the older wines - sell them at auction and buy stuff you would rather drink !

Older spirits can/do make very good money from collectors

2 Likes