I was googling around to find out how much the staff paid for my birthday present.
What? Like you've never done that.
While I was searching, I happened to stumble upon another old Bordeaux. A Chateau Petit Faurie de Soutard, 1966. I'd never heard of the producer, but it was $25. So I bought it.
Ullage is how aficionados refer to the fill line. And they have a further set of terms to describe exactly how full the bottle is. Old Bordeaux can be "mid shoulder" or "low shoulder." Old Burgundy doesn't have a shoulder; the bottle is different, so the ullage is measured in centimeters.
This bottle had a very high (although not unheard of) ullage for a wine of its age: "Base of neck" (see photo). The bouquet smelled surprisingly young, bright cherry fruit, though with time in the air, it would evolve into a more age appropriate nose of baked tomatoes and cedary spices. In the mouth, this was really exceptional; bright cherry and other red fruits with interesting secondary flavors of orange rind, spearmint, burnt sugar and some few dusty, still breathing, tannins.
On this data alone, I'd assume the wine couldn't have been over 40 years old. Forgery in old Bordeaux has been a big business lately. But who has time to make fake claret that sells for $25?
There were, of course, clues that supported the vintage on the label. The wine was the brick red of antique Bordeaux. The cork was stained almost all the way to the moldy end. And came out in 3 pieces, then crumbled.
But the wine didn't taste old. At least, it didn't until all the fruit fell away and the acid swelled. After an hour in a decanter is when the magic died.
I put it in the fridge which knocked down the acid. After a couple more hours, some secondary elements emerged, mocha and mint and the fruit came back, but tasted more like dried cherries.
So was this the real deal? A forty-three year old Bordeaux?
I think it's likely.
Although I couldn't say for sure.