March 5, 2009

Too Good To Be True?

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.


ned said...

I don't know where you got it but I don't doubt the authenticity at all.
A. No one would fake that estate
B. Good storage and a quality cork would result in that ullage.
C. The cork was original, surely.
D. The mainstream american wine media have over the past 20+ years and led by a certain RMP promoted the idea that hardly any wine lasts. I constantly see posts about older bottles from famous french regions, from lesser sites or unknown producers that the poster fully expects to be vinegar and then isn't. They may not have evolved magnificently, but they evolved some and held on.
Tasting old often means a little damage young.
Did you get $25 worth of pleasure and maybe learn a little something too? Happy Birthday!

Laboratory Chief said...

Hi Ned, Thanks for stopping in. I agree on all points. Tongue was firmly in cheek to suggest that Hardy Rodenstock was printing Soutard labels in his basement. Merely trying to stress how remarkably well-preserved this was. Worth every penny of the 25 bucks.

I would love to hear more on D. I love a good conspiracy!


Brian said...

Yes, what Ned said.

I don't know the first thing about wines but that was an interesting post.