Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

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Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby Bob Ross » Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:14 pm

WTN: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

I've always like half bottles, particularly since Janet often doesn't have wine with dinner. The half bottle is perfect -- a glass with my meal (a second available for Janet if she loves her sip of my glass), and a second glass to dawdle over after dinner. Generally these have been fairly recent vintages, but a few years ago I bought a mixed case of half bottles of Bordeaux.

Storage was reportedly pretty good; I know for sure they've been kept for the past six years at 75% humidity, 52F. My son David and I tried a sampling of the bottles two nights ago -- we had to have something to do, since FedEx retained (and still retains) our three bottles of Seven Deadly Zins.

Based on this sampling, I would have preferred the zin. :-(

Our lineup was:

1989 Lynch Bages Pauillac Bordeaux France. Imported by William Grant and Sons, New York, NY. 12.5% alcohol.

1985 Gran Vin de Leoville Saint Julien Bordeaux France. Imported by William Grant and Sons, New York, NY. 12.7% alcohol.

1986 Ch. Lafite Rothschild Pauillac Bordeaux France. Imported by William Grant and Sons, New York, NY. 12.7% alcohol.

None of the wines were spoiled in any way, but they all were over the hill -- limited aroma and taste, very mild tannins, no improvement over time. Drinkable, but no more than 2* for any of the three.

An aberration? Or do half bottles of Bordeaux need to be drunk up early?

Regards, Bob
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Re: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:48 pm

My guess is that they would age more quickly, based on the volume to surface area ratio, the surface area of the cork in this instance. Likewise, I would expect magnums to age slower. All three bottle types have the same bottle neck diameter, therefore, the same cork surface area. Similar aging characteristics take place in barrels. The wine in a 60-gallon barrel will age slower than a 20 gallon barrel.
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Re: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby Charles Weiss » Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:21 pm

Bob,
It is commonly stated that half bottles age more quickly, and Howie's explanation is certainly a logical one. However, I'm surprised by your experience with the particular wines.
I posted a positive note 8/29 on an '84 Ormes de Pez, of all things, from half bottle. An '86 talbot earlier this year was singing:

  • 1986 Château Talbot - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (1/24/2006)
    Excellent. From a half bottle, still very youthful color. Some tobacco on nose. Exceptional cassis fruit, tannins providing structure but no rough edges. Just a very little barnyard for added interest. A very fine wine.


I've had both of these wines since release in a not particularly cool cellar.
I'd not give up on Bordeaux half bottles.
Best,
Charles
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Re: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby Dale Williams » Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:33 pm

I think halves age more quickly. But not to the extent you experienced. How comfortable are you re the storage before 6 years ago? I've had the '86 Lafite and the '89 Lynch-Bages within the last year, both well short of maturity. I'd be very surprised if halves were past it. I haven't had the '85 LLC, but I'd expect it to be a pointe from 750, and maybe just a little tired from 375.
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Re: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:03 pm

The oft-quoted figure is magnums last 50% longer than standard bottles and standard bottles 50% longer than halves, though on my limited experience I'd have guessed closer to 33% in both instances.

Whatever, these should have been at or close to peak from what I understand. Of course it also depends on your preferences for older wines, but this does sound like you're either very unlucky with bottle variation, or they may have suffered a little before you got them. Limited aroma sounds odd for these wines, especially as the wines were drinkable. That it was two nights ago removes the possibility of the early stage of a cold.

Anyone got access to the Broadbent 50 years of vintage wine, as he generally gives good views on longevity?

regards

Ian
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Re: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:34 pm

I have to believe that those 375s were mistreated at some point. I had a bottle of 1988 Sociando from 375 on a business trip about two months ago, and it was delicious and still on the upslope. I'm quite confident in Bordeaux 375s and buy them on release for my own cellar.
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Re: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby Bob Ross » Mon Sep 04, 2006 1:32 pm

Thank you all for the thoughtful comments. I've tried to trace the history of these half bottles -- I know that Grant imported them, but I'm not sure where they were for four years between their arrival in the States and the time my friend purchased them.

One good lesson for any wine with age on it: be sure the provenance is impeccable or recognize that you're taking something of a flier.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Question on older half bottles, Bordeaux in particular.

Postby Otto » Mon Sep 04, 2006 5:13 pm

I love half bottles. I've found that with the same storage they will show almost identical to ,75s. Based on purely personal experience and only a small sampling I would dare to cellar them almost as long as ,75s. I have also noticed that the same care in handling isn't lavished upon halves as fulls, so I suspect this might be the cause for the bad showing.
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