Drinking Old Wine

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Many of our favorite wines have been old bottles. While the great majority of wines are made to be consumed within a couple of years of their production, the relatively few wines that are intended to age can offer absolutely magical tasting experiences.

We are pleased to offer older wines for sale at Chambers Street Wines. We source the wines from private collections, and we guarantee the condition of the wines we sell; if you have a bad bottle from us we will always offer a store credit for the wine. Since we do offer this guarantee, we are very careful about where we buy wine.

It’s inevitable that we have returns, because it’s inevitable that there will be bad bottles in any batch of wine – old, or new. Assuming – as is true of the old wine we sell – that the wine has been stored in proper cellar-type conditions, then the cause of condition problems can almost always be traced to the cork.

Cork, being a natural substance, lacks the consistency of man-made materials, and comes to wineries in a range of quality; even the most expensive corks can be irregular. As a wine ages, the cork will dry-out and shrink, which can cause bottles to leak; even a new cork can leak a little bit in shipment – cork is not a perfect seal. Cork can also be contaminated before bottling by the chemical TCA (Trichloranisole), which gives wine powerfully off-putting aromas of wet cardboard, mold, sometimes ammonia-like chemical.

Mould on the top of a cork is not cause for despair, as this is almost always confined to the part of the cork that doesn’t touch the wine. Some older corks will be quite damp or partially saturated with wine – again not cause for alarm. Some older corks will be very dry and crumbly and difficult to extract; this is not cause for despair either – when in doubt, taste the wine!

The following summary should be very helpful in getting the maximum enjoyment from your bottle of old wine:
 

1) Manage your expectations: old wine is not like new wine. This is due in part to changes in the way wine is made; we are accustomed to wines that are intended to be consumed young, which are often made in a rich, fruity and dense style; many fine older bottles never had those characteristics in the first place. As those bottles have aged they have the potential to develop much more complexity and nuance both aromatically and on the palate, but – as suggested above - they are also less beefy and fruity; more subtle, nuanced, sometimes softer, sometimes a bit more austere.

2) Let the bottle rest before you open it, preferably standing-up to allow the sediment to settle. Travel – even locally – can adversely affect wine, especially by dispersing sediment throughout the bottle, so ideally you’d wait at least several days before opening the bottle.

3) Don’t despair if you have some trouble with the cork (see above).

4) Decant the wine. It’s very important to eliminate the sediment from the wine, and no amount of very careful pouring will achieve this (unless you’re really expert and pour out the bottle in one-go). When not separated from wine, sediment will make the wine taste bitter and astringent, will shorten the finish of the wine, and of course is unappealing in the glass. In addition, many older wines will also benefit from some exposure to air.

5) Don’t despair if the wine isn’t immediately spectacular – or even very appealing. We can cite numerous instances of older wines improving with air / time open.

6) For most of us, drinking old wine is something of a special occasion, and it’s fun to treat it as such: handle the wine with care, share it with someone you love (or at least like), take some time to find something good to eat with the wine, let yourself relax and breathe along with the vino.

 

Click here for a link to a how-to-decant guide, also on our website.

Here’s a list of some fine older bottles – condition guaranteed!


 

 

Cordero di Montezemolo 1971 Barolo Monfalletto

A consistently excellent wine — we've been lucky to get to taste this several times in the last few years. It needs a lot of time to breathe, and then it provides a classic example of fully mature Nebbiolo. Jamie Wolff

  • red
  • 21 in stock
  • $179.99

  • red
  • 11 in stock
  • $199.99

Caparzo 1990 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

A few years back a bottle of this wine provided an aha moment — as in, "Aha! Brunello can really be something very special!"

Just last week a friend who is an old-school Burg fiend wrote to say that she had just shared a bottle with some friends and that it was fantastic — not necessarily what you'd expect to hear from a lover of Truchot, Roumier, Mugnier, etc.

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $159.99

Castello di Ama 1985 Chianti Classico Vigneto San Lorenzo

With ample reason, one doesn't necessarily think of Chianti as being long-term wine. But there are quite a few exceptions, and when you are considering an old-vine, old-school wine of top quality like this one, you will have found one of them. 1985 was a very good vintage, and the wine's original beefy character has been softened and it has gained a very appealing Burgundian character — woodsy and mineral, with some subtle cherry fruit, good tannic structure. A very nice wine.

  • Out of Stock
  • 0 in stock
  • $74.99

Cordero di Montezemolo 1971 Barolo Monfalletto Punta Diamante

The Punta Diamante was a designation given to wine from fruit from the sweet spot of Monfalletto, or so says the Italian collector we bought the wine from. The label is identical to the 'regular' Monfalletto except for the addition of a very small drawing of what appears to be a diamond seen head-on — so small in fact that we might easily have missed it in the past.

1971 Cordero Monfalletto is a benchmark wine for us, and it's drinking beautifully — fully mature, of course, but with a base of fruit and still quite fresh and lively — a very fine wine. We're always happy when we find some to offer. JW

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $149.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $159.99

Oddero, Fratelli 1964 Barolo

Oddero is one of just a handful of producers who made excellent wine in the past and who continue to do so now. Admittedly our opinion of their current vintages is biased, since we admire Oddero's fidelity to Barolo made in the traditional manner. Anyway, the old wines are great, and we're happy to have old vintages whenever we can.

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $179.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $169.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $179.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $199.99

Prunotto 1985 Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano

Montestefano is one of the great Barbaresco vineyards, producing long-aging, structured wine. Prunotto was making very good wine in the 1980's. This should be a real treat.

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $139.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $139.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $199.99

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $289.99

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $74.99

Jadot 2004 Montrachet Grand Cru

This is a great wine.  I tried a bottle at dinner, it was a friend's birthday and a real splurge but every now and then you gotta live large.  Boy oh boy was it great!  The flavor went on and on and on.  It has more body than some red wines.  There is real weight in the mouth.  The color was a pale straw gold.  It kept opening up and opening up even though the wine had been decanted an hour before dinner.  This is a fantastic bottle of Montrachet from a very powerful vintage.  A tour de force and a very good value at this price.

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $324.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $99.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $149.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $299.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $349.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $299.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $324.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $99.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $84.99

  • Out of Stock
  • white sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $89.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $99.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $79.99

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  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $79.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $99.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $149.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $219.99

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $139.99

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  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $59.99