A year or more has passed since we last wrote about handling old wine. A happy number of fine bottles have passed across our table since then, and the additional tasting experience has reinforced our conviction that old Piedmont wines need to be decanted, and that they only benefit from time in the decanter. It’s common wisdom to decant old Bordeaux and Rhone for a relatively short time, and old Burgundy at the last minute (or not at all, which is an unfortunate error to make unless you relish your wine grossly compromised by sediment). But no other old wine behaves the way Nebbiolo does, even to the point that bottles that don’t appear to have any life left upon being opened can completely transform over a few hours to become something very special. Don’t despair if the cork breaks, or if the wine doesn’t seem so great at first; as an Italian friend says, you too might need some time to show your best after being cooped-up for decades.
The best way to enjoy these bottles is at home – aside from home comforts, the wine doesn’t have to travel before being decanted. When we do want to bring a bottle to a restaurant or to friends’ home, we double-decant. Wine service in NY restaurants has improved a lot, but the number of sommeliers or waiters who have much experience handling older bottles is still very small; to avoid disaster and sediment in our wine, we decant at home, clean the bottle, and put the wine back in the bottle. This has the added benefit of giving the wine more time to breathe – something your Nebbiolo needs to a surprising extent. If you'd like to read more, here are two short articles about with some technical suggestions on handling old wine and decanting.
After many years of enduring the roller coaster ride that is Burgundy, falling in love with old Piedmont became even easier when we discovered that the wines are remarkably consistent. Of course some wines / bottles are better than others, but overall the ratio of satisfaction has been vastly higher than with Burgundy, and probably much higher when compared with other supposedly age-worthy wines. This extends to off-vintages, which makes Nebbiolo an ideal candidate for your friend born in 1973, the people with the 1987 anniversary, etc.
Please remember that you can see live inventory on our website, and thus avoid any disappointment if a bottle has already been sold.