This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, March 29, 2006.

Really, really old wine

What's the oldest wine you've ever tasted? There's something rare and exciting about opening an exceptionally old bottle that makes any wine occasion special, and one litmus test that defines a dedicated "wine geek" is to ask whether he's ever enjoyed a wine older than he is.

Ancient wines can offer an ethereal experience, developing subtle and elusive flavors that can be almost impossible to describe; and of course, in an all-too-obvious metaphor for life, the most ageworthy collectibles seem to gain richness and complexity with age ... but then they turn frail and weak and eventually they die.

Most of us get to taste very old wines so rarely that we vividly remember them, and they tend to come out for special occasions when good friends gather. I still count among my most enduring wine memories a few ancient bottles and the friends I shared them with: A 1942 Vega Sicilia enjoyed with wine-forum pals in Madrid; a 1947 Seppelt Para Port shared with other friends in Sydney. The 1948 Niepoort Port opened with a small group of friends on the eve of the Millennium, and an amazing wine-forum tasting in 1993 that featured more than a dozen Chateau Palmer Margaux from 1921 through 1989. Memories are made of this, or wine memories are, anyway.

Speaking of really old wines, Parisian François Andouze, a participant in our WineLovers Discussion Group, is a dedicated collector of old wines, which he frequently enjoys with fellow enthusiasts who gather for old-wine dinners, paying their way by their own older bottles to share. You might enjoy his detailed report on one such event in this recent wine-forum post:

Tell us about the very old wines you've enjoyed! I've set up a simple online poll in our Netscape WineLovers Community. You can vote in the poll and view the tally without registration, although of course you're welcome to hang around and add your comments. Here's the ballot: