16 Aug2007

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It isn’t often that I taste a wine made at around the time I was born… In fact, I can probably count on the fingers of my hands the instances when I have had the privilege to savor a wine that was more than 40 years old. So I was stunned when some good friends, (the husband a huge wine buff), who joined us for the Birthday dinner of Mrs. MM, arrived carefully toting this special bottle of wine. Our friend explained that he tried to find a bottle that dated back to Mrs. MM’s birth year but ended up with one “close to the year” instead. Carefully laid to nap in a cool, temperature controlled cellar for nearly 500 months, this bottle could just as easily be vinegar as it could be a wonderful aged wine… The first clue to its age lay in the level of the wine within the bottle. It seemed to have lost a good inch or more of liquid, most likely seeping out through a cork that had blocked its way for so long…

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This special bottle was a 1966 Carruades, a second growth of the venerable Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac. I love food, but I must admit I am still rather uneducated when it comes to wine. I can tell a good one from a bad one blindfolded, but ask me to describe the different flavors as being reminiscent of apricots and blackberries with a tinge of oak and I would be jiving you. At any rate, the first task was to remove the cork without breaking it, if at all possible. I used a Screwpull corkscrew and carefully worked it into the cork and started to extract it gingerly… but I broke the cork, and we very carefully had to extract the remaning cork, bit by bit, in a procedure that took a good 15-20 minutes.

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Next, we decided this wine needed to be placed in a decanter to help capture the sediment that had collected at the bottom of the bottle. We were also able to pass the wine through a small fine sieve to remove any pieces of cork that may have fallen into the wine. Frankly, this was also a good excuse to use this fantastic Baccarat decanter that I received as a present from Singapore Airlines one year for flying them so many times that I logged more miles than some of their flight crew… I have only used the decanter a half dozen times, as it seemed a bit pretentious to use it with a P500 bottle of plonk. I have to say, it looked beautiful on the dining table.

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Next, I changed the wineglasses and took out the finest large red wine glasses we had and we poured a little of the wine. A few swirls, a hint of trepidation, a sip and the sudden revelation that what we had here was indeed a special wine. If you want to get totally technical, 1966 was a brilliant year for wine from this region, but the experts quibble and state that this particular wine was perhaps not one of the stellar ones — mind you, that is comparing different bottles from a year where good to brilliant bottles range from hundreds to thousands of dollars in value. I couldn’t tell… I thought it was wonderful. It was a bit muddy, not a deep clear red, but after 41 years, I would take on a different color as well. It is hard for a non expert to describe it, but suffice it to say, it had serious character, it had complexity, and it was unlike 99.9% of the wines I have tasted before. And it most definitely was NOT vinegar. And we are immensely grateful that our friends saw fit to share this special treasure with us at dinner that evening. We had every single last drop of that bottle…

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Some might be intimidated by the presence of such an old wine, but I have to say, it was a fairly casual dinner, we had a wonderful evening of relaxed conversation that only occurs among long-time friends, and it makes you realize that life is indeed good. Some of our best memories revolve around our dinner table…and this meal shall be one of them. Oh, but let’s not forget dessert, that’s up next!!

 

COMMENTS:

  1. eej says:

    Great food and fine company, definitely one of life’s simple pleasures. Cheers to that!

    Aug 16, 2007 | 5:30 am

     
  2. ntgerald says:

    Inggit ako.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 5:43 am

     
  3. Maria Clara says:

    The wine went well with the table decor and the food and brought cheers to everyone. I could say it came from a good producer the Rothschild. I am not a wine connoisseur or vintner – but a lay person and read lots of books and articles about wine. Most of these materials I read say the age of the wine is determined the length of time it was kept in its oak barrel in the wine cellar of the producers not the length of time it was in the bottle. Once it is bottled regardless, it was kept in a wine cellar, the attic, garage or the pantry for centuries one cannot call it a vintage wine anymore.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 5:57 am

     
  4. Jade186 says:

    Such an original gift for a birthday – vintage wine that corresponds (almost) to the celebrant’s birthyear! A rare find indeed, especially in the Philippines??
    As a rule of thumb I usually let red wine “breathe” for a minimum of 15-30 minutes before serving, just to release the flavour – particularly in the absence of a decanter.
    I love red wine – it’s good for the blood and definitely a healthy drink. A toast to you and your family’s health, MM!

    Aug 16, 2007 | 6:19 am

     
  5. Socky says:

    Anyone would be hard-pressed to find and gift me with a wine as old as I am. Maybe a dvd movie or music cd or a Time Magazine cover repro. So I can just imagine your thrill at receiving that 40-year old wine and the nervousness while you uncorked it. The uncertainty of whether an old wine will turn out to be vinegar or great vintage is always part of the excitement. Gosh, I’m so into this post! Anyway, what generous friend you’ve got. But after many invitations to your sumptuous, elegant and personally-prepared dinners, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would even want to bring you the oak barrel it was aged in. Happy birthday to Mrs. MM!

    Aug 16, 2007 | 7:18 am

     
  6. jingle says:

    What a privilege to enjoy a special wine of old vintage. I am sure the uncorking was one of the “dramatic” moments of the evening. What I am not sure is the 15 – 30 minute breathing spell for this old wine. The rapid oxidation might ruin the flavor, so i would savor it fast. Like Jade186, i usually let red wine breathe a little, especially the young ones. Happy birthday, Mrs. MM.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 8:35 am

     
  7. joey says:

    A wonderfully and carefully prepared dinner like this one is a fantastic (not to mention thoughtful and romantic!) way to spend a birthday…more meaniful too as you spent it with special friends. Gatherings with these friends always deserve the best…even if attire-wise you are all in tsinelas ;) The company is always what’s important to me and really makes an evening!

    I love the look of decanters and I don’t care how cheapy my wine is…I always look for an excuse to use them :)

    Happy Birthday Mrs. MM! :)

    Aug 16, 2007 | 8:49 am

     
  8. Carlo says:

    It’s always a thrill to be able to savor a fine, well-aged red wine. I will always remember the time when I had the good fortune (thanks to a generous family friend) to drink a wine that was older than my birthyear. It was not at some fancy restaurant but at a friend’s place with simple, home-made food. Truly an unforgettable experience.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 10:08 am

     
  9. fried-neurons says:

    How did you like it? The oldest wine I’ve ever had was about 20 years old. I’m always afraid that a really old wine will have either no flavor or too earthy of a flavor.

    But then again, Lafite-Rothschild… I have had Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (birthday present) and it is knock-my-socks-off good… even though I normally don’t like Bordeaux.

    Yum yum.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 10:20 am

     
  10. alicia says:

    What a great friend you have! That is such a special gift, and I mean”special” not because of its monetary value . I have a friend who collects first growth wines for all the significant years in his life, wedding, birth years of kids, etc. He actually does not drink alot so we have been very fortunate to share some wonderful bottles of his. Everytime he is “upset” at one of his kids, he drinks a bottle from their birth year… and says “There goes some of their mana!, College is an overrated experience anyway!”

    Aug 16, 2007 | 10:29 am

     
  11. nang says:

    alicia, that story about the mana of your friend’s children just made me laugh!

    Aug 16, 2007 | 1:57 pm

     
  12. jules winnfield says:

    gotta love that label! think dark narrow steps leading to underground dome caves, dusty wine bottles dating as far back as the 1800s, yellow-ished neck tags hanging from their necks, stored in shelves behind steel gates, cobwebs, dirt, old french guy holding up minimal illumination. the quintessential first growth pauillac cellar, where your 1966 carruades once held residence. ahhhh….

    honestly, if it did turn out to be vinegar, i still would’ve sipped it and enjoyed the bordeaux soil, the weather, the workers, the history. spit or swallow? swallow pa rin.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 3:29 pm

     
  13. lee says:

    crumbled cork remnants look like weird dessert, or ginger something.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 3:52 pm

     
  14. alicia says:

    Nang, I am glad, it makes me laugh too just thinking about it!… Not sure if his children are laughing though!

    Aug 16, 2007 | 9:02 pm

     
  15. Hande says:

    A great wine you had! Just my 2 cents: When you have such an old wine, you shouldn’t decant (or let it breath) it. Filtering is a very good idea but such an old wine will lose much of what is left of the aromas if you let it breath. And, Maria Clara is wrong. What she says is true for ports etc, there the vintage/classification depends on the time it spends in the barrels in the vineyard. But wines are always the vintage they have been havested in. The time in barrels (if any) will determine classification in some countries/wine areas, like “reserva”. And of course the years after bottling should be under good conditions (cellar with constant temp and humidity).
    Sorry for the long comment, I just wanted to clarify some wine-related stuff! Most important is always: enjoy it!

    Aug 16, 2007 | 9:11 pm

     
  16. brownedgnat says:

    Pricey wine!! Good friends indeed!

    Aug 16, 2007 | 11:56 pm

     
  17. jules winnfield says:

    hande is right. vintage, in winespeak, is year of harvest. so the term say ‘2007 vintage’ is technically correct. but of course anyone could also refer to a very old wine like the carruades above as vintage wine. i think the winesnob wouldn’t mind.

    what you could also do mm in terms of what hande has to say about decanting wine, is pour a glass separate from the decanter. try the wine in the glass after something like 5 minutes. then afterwards, taste the wine you have decanted and allowed to ‘breath’. if you taste a difference and favor one over the other, then hallelujah you now have a personal preference in serving ‘vintage’ wine. ü

    Aug 17, 2007 | 8:59 am

     
  18. Dodi says:

    Hahahahaha! Alicia, that “mana wine-drinking” is something originalI I would like to do it for my nephews and nieces but I would probably end up an alcoholic.

    Aug 17, 2007 | 10:03 am

     
  19. nina says:

    My former boss is into wines and he has a collection of vintage wines. He once opened a 1953 wine for us. Wow, it’s really good and different!

    Aug 24, 2007 | 5:19 pm

     
  20. quiapo says:

    In Australa, Penfold’s Grange Hermitage is the supreme red wine. The company offers a service, which travels to different areas, examining any bottles , and should there appear to be a loss in volume, they will uncork the bottle, replenish the wine to he appropriate level, and put a new cork on it. It is a free service but the wines start from about $500 a bottle, and is always sold out a few days after each vintage is put on sale.

    May 29, 2008 | 1:48 pm

     
 

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