Kent Life wine columnist Stuart McCloskey: view from a glass
PUBLISHED: 07:56 21 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:31 20 February 2013
After encountering a rare collection of vintage Moutons ruined by bad storage, Kent Life's wine columnist asks: are you taking care of your wine?
View from a glass
After encountering a rare collection of vintage Moutons ruined by bad storage, Kent Lifes wine columnist Stuart McCloskeyasks: are you taking care of your wine?
There are magnificent wines and then there is 1945 Chteau Mouton Rothschild. For me this is the greatest wine I have and most probably will ever taste. So, when the call came in to assess, value and potentially purchase an incredibly rare collection of old Moutons containing 1941, 45, 47 and 49 vintages, I packed my bags, booked my flight and headed 11,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Mexico City.
Extreme? Perhaps. Bonkers, some may say and if truth were known, I cant really argue. However, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I could not decline - and we do have an office in the city, which made the expenditure a little easier to justify to my accountant!
I conducted the necessary due diligence regarding the wines provenance and condition prior to my departure and discovered that many bottles had remained in the same family for half a century or more.
In fact, it is a fascinating story to how these great Bordeaux arrived in Mexico, to keep it brief, the then-President of Mexico gifted these wonderful wines to the current owners grandfather.
I vividly recall the long flight to Mexico City; my excitement was palpable as I sat there thinking about the events happening when these bottles came to fruition.
In 1941, the Second World War was at its peak, the Enigma code was broken, and the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour, thus drawing the US into the Second World War. Consequently, the US, UK and China officially declare war on the Empire of Japan.
1945 saw Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci executed, the Soviet Union announced the fall of Berlin, V-E Day as Nazi Germany surrendered, the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister and September saw the Second World War come to an end.
On arriving at the office where the wine could be assessed I was, to my horror, led to a small cupboard where all the bottles lay; this was nothing more than a broom cupboard, no bigger than a large wine rack.
Years of bad cellaring had taken the wines life away and left behind only a shadow of its former self
There were obvious signs of seepage too a brown stickiness oozed through some of the wine capsules and the vast majority of labels were neatly stored in a shoebox which posed a further problem regarding identifying the various vintages. Nonetheless, I carefully removed each and every bottle and placed them upright in the air-conditioned office. It was such a shame these historical bottles did not receive the same cooling atmosphere as it was clearly evident that each and every one had been subjected to hot, dry conditions which had slowly ruined them over the decades.
Prior to my departure I had requested photographs of the bottles some were sent and these bottles showed fully intact labels with varying degrees of ullage (referring to the space of air between the wine and bottom of the cork), but the vast majority that stood in front of me were not of the same quality.
I was asked to open a bottle of the 41 Mouton, which was a surgical task in itself as the cork was extremely fragile. The nose was attractive and sweet at first but faded quickly once in contact with the atmosphere. I was surprised with the wines structure; firm and medium bodied, there was no sign of fruit. Instead, the 41 was lean, rustic and offered little if any enjoyment. Years of bad cellaring had taken the wines life away and left behind only a shadow of its former self.
Naturally, the owner was keen for my approval and valuation for his prized collection. Simply put, a collection of this historical rarity and size would easily command over 150,000 but in this condition, I would not part with 500.
I left empty handed, a little numb, but I found solace in a few good bottles of wine at one of Mexicos top restaurants, Biko (their equivalent to El Buli very good by the way).
Until next month, I raise my glass to you all and beseech you to look after your wine.
Wine storage tips
A constant temperature (ideally between 12-15 degrees), lay the bottles on their side (the corks need to be kept moist) and in the dark. Humidity is another important fine balance. Ideal humidity for wine storage ranges from 60-75 per cent RH.
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Z&B Vintners Limited, Weavers Cot, Cot Lane,
Biddenden TN27 8JB
01580 292080 or 07811 362559