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Covert

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Unsatisfactory Anniversary Wines

by Covert » Sat May 13, 2006 9:26 am

Unsatisfactory Anniversary Wines

The 1966 Bordeaux that I bought for our 40th is at camp and we are not; so I chose another important bottle, I thought.

Opened an ’88 Mouton and it was oxidized or cooked or both. It’s been a while since I drank an obviously oxidized or cooked bottle; I have lost some of my pointed analytical sensitivity for a reliable determination.

The oldest bottles in my cellar that I bought upon release are from 1989. When I occasionally treat myself with one of these bottles I find the watermark of wine maybe a quarter way up the cork. The top 3/4s looks pretty much like it did when it was pushed into the bottle. The wines are always good. (Haven't found one to be corked, yet.)

But almost anytime I buy a bottle that old, or older (and it usually sets me back between $200 and $300), I find the wine water mark further up the cork. Last night’s Mouton had a totally soaked through the cork. It was not loose; it took some work to get it out.

The wine was tart – not really like oxidized in the usual sense of Mercaptanization nor even the stale taste of cooked wine – but it didn’t taste good. It seemed like maybe a combination of slightly cooked and oxidized. The longer it sat in the glass, the worse it got.

So Lynn suggested opening a 2001, because it is our favorite vintage, at this point. Checked Parker’s drinkability records and settled on Pichon Baron, which he said could be touched in 2004. Yes, it wasn’t horribly tannic, but it had almost completely closed down. We decanted it and made the best of it before enjoying our veal loin roast. I am going to put my foot down against opening anymore 2001s, except lesser properties, for maybe ten years.

What makes corks get soaked? Is it usually a little heat? Nothing had pushed past the cork and into the seal. My luck with wines from other cellars, or garages, or whatever, has been really bad. This bottle came from a very big-name outlet for vintage wines.
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Re: Unsatisfactory Anniversary Wines

by Jenise » Sat May 13, 2006 1:19 pm

Opened an ’88 Mouton and it was oxidized or cooked or both. It’s been a while since I drank an obviously oxidized or cooked bottle


Covert, first of all Happy Anniversary to you and Lynn. Now re the wine, first let me say that I had an 88 Mouton. Opened it about two years ago, and it was a dog. When I complained about it at the time, someone who knows Mouton well said "Yeah, that was a crappy vintage for Mouton." Now I don't subscribe to vintage-typing and bottle variation is a big deal on wines at this age so what the other person said may have had nothing to do with what I found in my bottle, but bBest as I remember, it was thin and way more advanced than it should have been, where the Haut Brion was drinking beautifully and the Lafite was fall-down gorgeous but really too too young (I bought a complete set of 1sts out of the same cellar. I still have the others.) Anyway, suffice to say that your bottle just sounds like a worse version of mine. So if the 'someone' I just mentioned was right, and even if you're right about your bottle being cooked, you would not have had a thrilling wine anyway. Based on my bottle, I vote for 'oxidized'.

The oldest bottles in my cellar that I bought upon release are from 1989. When I occasionally treat myself with one of these bottles I find the watermark of wine maybe a quarter way up the cork. The top 3/4s looks pretty much like it did when it was pushed into the bottle. The wines are always good. (Haven't found one to be corked, yet.)


Several things here: now, as you know, I open a lot of older Bordeauxs. And I'm here to tell you that I've had great wines with crappy corks, lousy wines with fair perfect corks, and mostly great but some lousy wines with pristine corks (the cork from the 53 Lafite we had a few weeks ago should be in a museum, talk about pristine!). The degree of saturation on the cork is possibly a data point but maybe not--it may only tell you that it's a better thing that you're drinking the wine now instead of ten years from now. The corks that come out in pieces are usually more a harbinger of a slightly compromised wine to come.

But what sets my ears flapping is your comment "Haven't found one to be corked, yet." I know you know that TCA taint has nothing to do with the condition of the cork, and yet it concerns me to see that comment in a discussion of cork condition. So why did you say that? Oh, and what's your sensitivity to corkiness anyway? I seem to find more corked wines among recent bottlings than old myself, but still, you should have come across a corked bottle or three by now.
Last edited by Jenise on Sat May 13, 2006 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unsatisfactory Anniversary Wines

by Bob Ross » Sat May 13, 2006 1:21 pm

Happy Anniversary, Covert, to you both. Regards, Bob
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Re: Unsatisfactory Anniversary Wines

by Dale Williams » Sat May 13, 2006 1:52 pm

I'll join the others in wishing you a happy anniversary.

And though I'm not a person who knows Mouton well, I'd second the opinion that's not a very memorable vintage. One of the prime arguments for the idea that Mouton shouldn't be a first.

I'm with Jenise that cork saturation is at best a minor indicator of wine condition. Certainly a cork that is so saturated that it falls apart MIGHT indicate that the seal was really compromised. But I'm not sure that a cork 3/4 saturated is neccessarily worse than a 1/4 saturated cork. Actually, the cork I'd be a bit more worried about is the one that's not saturated, but has streaks on one side, which might indicate seepage. But like Jenise I've had pristine corks where the wine sucked, and completely disintegrating corks that yielded great wine.

I'd also echo Jenise's comments that cork condition and cork taint have no relationship. And I think IIRC that we established at a NYC dinner that you're fairly TCA insensitive (which of course has no relationship to tasting ability otherwise, it's just genetics).

Come to think of it, "I agree with Jenise" could have summarized by comments! :)
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Covert

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Re: Unsatisfactory Anniversary Wines

by Covert » Sat May 13, 2006 2:30 pm

Jenise,

The forum software apparently won't allow me to respond to you directly. Every time I push the reply button it goes to someone else's response. So I cut and pasted your response to my re-response. This might come out on Dale's or Bob's response.

First, that's interesting about the '88 Mouton progeria. I suspected something like that when I saw the bottle's ratings tumble from the initial WS 100 to a more recent Parker 89. He had scored it 96 initially, or something like that. When I drank it a few years ago I found it fabulous, especially the nose. The taste was a bit thin in comparison, but beautiful nonetheless. That's why I bought a bottle to save for a special occasion.

Your description favors my inability to pinpoint the flaw. Like with human progeria, there is probably no known etiology for the '88 Mouton syndrome.

I also concur with your analysis of cork condition being a week datapoint with regard to wine quality, until it completely falls apart. The cork from a glorious '59 Gloria crumbled upon removal. The saturated cork from the Mouton smelled bad to me, while I have found other saturated corks in old wines to smell wonderful.

I was nevertheless curious as to why some corks get saturated and considered that it might be a stronger indicator of wine condition than it apparently is. That's why I asked.

I mentioned the corked bit to separate corked wine from this discussion of the relationship of cork condition to wine condition in the short run; because, like you said, it is not related. I have drunk very few oldish wines from my own cellar, which probably explains why I haven't experienced a corked bottle, yet. I've experienced old corked bottles from other cellars. I get quite a few corked Cal Chards. I would guess my sensitivity to the corked condition is average. I have tasted with experts and found my recognition comparable with theirs. Yet, I drink a lot of Bordeaux and almost never find them corked; so I am probably selective and biased as to when I want to be finely attuned.

I'm a nut in some ways, as you know. Honest to God, I just realized something at this very minute. I do indeed find my Bordeaux corked occasionally; although, a minute ago I wouldn't have admitted it. When I wrote the word, "biased," I started to think about it - then realized that when I do find a corked bottle, I ignore it unless it is really corked - then I open another one like it immediately and kind of suppress the episode. Just last weekend, I mentioned that a Clerc Milon was slightly corked. Lynn said, "Oh don't tell me that, now I can taste it...tell me at the end if you have to, or the next day." We kind of treat our Bordeaux like our children and excuse flaws. I can't believe that I have stated a few times on this forum that I don't find corked Bordeaux.

Jenise wrote:

Covert, first of all Happy Anniversary to you and Lynn. Now re the wine, first let me say that I had an 88 Mouton. Opened it about two years ago, and it was a dog. When I complained about it at the time, someone who knows Mouton well said "Yeah, that was a crappy vintage for Mouton." Best as I remember, it was thin and way more advanced than it should have been, where the Haut Brion was drinking beautifully and the Lafite was fall-down gorgeous but really too too young (I bought a complete set of 1sts out of the same cellar. I still have the others.) Anyway, suffice to say that your bottle just sounds like a worse version of mine. So if the 'someone' I just mentioned was right, and even if you're right about your bottle being cooked, you would not have had a thrilling wine anyway. Based on my bottle, I vote for 'oxidized'.

Quote:
The oldest bottles in my cellar that I bought upon release are from 1989. When I occasionally treat myself with one of these bottles I find the watermark of wine maybe a quarter way up the cork. The top 3/4s looks pretty much like it did when it was pushed into the bottle. The wines are always good. (Haven't found one to be corked, yet.)


Several things here: now, as you know, I open a lot of older Bordeauxs. And I'm here to tell you that I've had great wines with crappy corks, lousy wines with fair perfect corks, and great wines with pristeen corks (the cork from the 53 Lafite we had a few weeks ago should be in a museum, talk about pristeen!). The degree of saturation on the cork is possibly a data point but maybe not--it may only tell you that it's a better thing that you're drinking the wine now instead of ten years from now. The corks that come out in pieces are usually more of a harbinger of a slightly compromised wine to come.

But what sets my ears flapping is your comment "Haven't found one to be corked, yet." I know you know that TCA taint has nothing to do with the condition of the cork, and yet it concerns me to see that comment in a discussion of cork condition. So why did you say that? Oh, and what's your sensitivity to corkiness anyway? I seem to find more corked wines among recent bottlings than old myself, but still, you should have come across a corked bottle or three by now.
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Clinton Macsherry

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Re: Unsatisfactory Anniversary Wines

by Clinton Macsherry » Mon May 15, 2006 12:11 pm

Covert wrote:The forum software apparently won't allow me to respond to you directly. Every time I push the reply button it goes to someone else's response.


Covert--try hitting the "quote" button instead of "reply." You can pare down the quote as much as you want after that (to respond to a single passage, as I do above, for instance). Just be sure to leave the text within the brackets intact at the beginning and end.
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