The Pointe-a-Calleire Museum in Montreal had a fascinating exhibit this past summer that traced the history of wine from the Middle East (Persia and Armenia) to Gaul with stops along the way in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. My overall impression after leaving the exhibit was that things haven’t changed much in the 7000 or so years that we have been making wine.
For example, even in ancient times, there was the demand for aged wine as a luxury good. In ancient times, old or “maderizied” wines were highly valued and sought after and often served at important festivals or feasts. In the exhibit, they recounted a story of Petronicus in the Satyricon where he talked of a 150 year old wine being served at an important banquet and how Pliny had described the serving of a 170 year old wine that had been made in 121 BC. Is a wine over 100 years old still good? I have to answer. Yes – it is possible. I once tasted 1907 Ch. Beychevelle at a dinner at Ch. Beychevelle and it was still showing well.
Recently, the oldest known bottles of wine were consumed. These were 200 year-old wines found in a shipwreck in Finland. They were opened at an official tasting. One of the participants provided this description of the wine: “Despite the fact that it was so amazingly old, there was a freshness to the wine. It wasn’t debilitated in any way. Rather, it had a clear acidity which reinforced the sweetness. Finally, a very clear taste of having been stored in oak casks.” (The full story on the tasting can be found here).
How old you prefer your wine is simply a matter of personal taste. Some people believe a wine that is 10 years old is over the hill. Others, including me, believe that a good Grand Cru Classe needs at least 15 years to reach its peak. I prefer my wines 20-30 years old – but that is largely limited by my pocket book. Wines of quality that are older than that are very expensive.
How old do you like your wines? If you don’t have an opinion on this yet – you should consider trying wines of different quality levels and different levels of maturity to find out. Of course, Rooftop Cellars can help you with that. We specialize in importing mature wines. To see our current inventory visit here.