Fun with Older Wines

My husband and I spent the weekend in Atlanta, where much of his extended family lives. In between visiting with his maternal grandmother, aunt and uncle, cousins and one of his sisters, we were reminded of how much we enjoy Miami’s winter weather.

Our trip included a visit to his paternal grandparents’ home and a look inside their wine cellar. They have a large collection of wines, some dating back to the 1960s. My husband’s grandparents were not big wine drinkers or collectors. Many of the bottles were likely received as gifts or were used when they entertained guests. Even though I wasn’t expecting big name wines, I was excited to see if I recognized any of them and to try wines that were much older than me.

Of course, we weren’t sure if any would be drinkable. The wines weren’t kept at an ideal temperature for storing and they were recently moved around. Still, we hoped we’d open a bottle and find something really special.

The first bottle we tried was a 1966 Chateau Capet from St. Emilion in Bordeaux. The wine had a deep orange rust color, indicative of its age. We took our first sniff of the wine and were excited to smell red fruits and not vinegar or some other unpleasant smell. Our first sip was quite pleasant. There were flavors of cherry with some strawberry. There was a little bit of earthiness and a touch of smoke on the finish. The tannins were very light because of the wine’s age, which made for a very smooth mouthfeel. Overall, the wine was surprisingly enjoyable to drink. After about 5 minutes, the wine opened up and tasted even better. But about 10 minutes after that, the wine began to fade and took on the aroma and taste of vinegar. It was like a flower that bloomed just for a few minutes before dying.

The next bottle we tried was a 1970 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. I’ve tried several of Sterling’s wines (more recent vintages, of course), and it was neat to see the old label. Sterling is available almost everywhere (it’s sold at Publix), and always sticks out on the shelf because of its silver label. We poured a glass of the 1970 Cabernet and were disappointed to find it was no good. There were several more bottles of the Cabernet and some Merlots in the wine cellar, so I’m hoping there’s a good bottle in there.

The final bottle we tried was a 1981 Chateau Simard from St. Emilion. I had high hopes for this one after trying the 1966 wine from St. Emilion. The wine had some nice red fruit flavors but was starting to turn. It was drinkable for a few sips, but you wouldn’t want much more than that.

We may not have found a real winner this time around but my husband and I had a lot of fun experimenting with these older wines. Hopefully we’ll find something really special the next time we’re in Atlanta.