December 2, 2008

Tastes Like 1964

Dear and Gentle Reader, You recall when last we spoke, we were setting off to open a wine from the 1964 vintage. The year the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. When Cassius Clay knocked down Sonny Liston to begin his reign as "the Greatest." MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize. Goldfinger was in movie theaters. And t-shirt icon, Che Guevara, addressed the UN.

It was a very long time ago.

We carried our little antique to a work table and gingerly cut away the capsule. We gently removed the crumbling cork and delicately poured the wine. It was an anxious moment, fraught with the many tensions of possibility.

The nose is lovely. Warm and welcoming. Sweet, ripe fig and cigar box, with light hints of peppery spice. The first impression in the mouth is sweet cherry. There is some bitter, acetic tang on the finish, but on balance it's still drinkable!

There were a few high fives and fist bumps shared by a small coterie of dedicated lab workers. I thought one of our viticulture specialists was actually crying, but he explained an errant high five had caught him in the eye.

Fifteen minutes passed before we returned to the glass. The fruit bouquet is fading. Now it just smells like a musty attic, old and waning. But the fruit is still bright on the palate, and a few secondary flavors are beginning to emerge, nutmeg spice and leather.

After thirty minutes, the secondary elements take over. The glass smells of warm bread pudding with Christmas spices.

When an hour had passed we went back again. Wow! All of the above are now twirling about in the glass together, and the palate has settled down and softened. There is no acidic bite, no acetic tang. There's even a sense of smooth, soft tannin on the finish.

Our excitement, no doubt, had more to do with not opening a bottle of vinegar than with the quality of the plonk. And it was certainly interesting to chronicle its evolution in the glass. But, in truth, it was only okay (even if it did welcome sexy and exotic descriptors).

But there is no question that drinking this was more fun than we would have had with a $20 bottle of something off the shelves at the Foodmart.


Edward said...

J David,

Good for you. To date the handful of old (30+ years) wines I've bought from auction houses have all been vinegar. Which, these days, makes me a little wary of the intentions of the seller.

Was 64 a birth year wine?

Chief Executive Researcher said...

I'm not quite that old. But close. This was just as advertised... The oldest/cheapest bottle on auction at some weeks back.

I was more than a little surprised, pleasantly so, that it was potable.

Joe Manekin said...

Fun post.

Old wine, like Cassius Clay, is the greatest! Well, not always. But the thrill of discovery, the pleasant surprise of drinking a very good 25 year old CA chardonnay, or maybe some random 40 year old Rioja, is a nearly unmatched feeling in the world of food and wine.

Mature wine has restorative powers. It is good for the skin. It aids digestion. Cures the hangover. Deprived of mature wine, I would lead a much less interesting and pleasureless life.

Chief Executive Researcher said...

Apropos of nothing and nothing to do with this post, I just happened to noticed you wrote the tasting note for the Pere Ventura, Brut Nature on the K&L site. I just opened my last bottle. That is one of the great and heroic QPRs of all time. What brilliant juice. Pure and precise. When will there be more? I've already got the jones and I'm not even done with this bottle.