How does a 99-year-old bottle of wine drink?
Very delicately! We recently had an opportunity to enjoy a bottle of 1916 Gruaud-Larose-Sargent at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa. For those of you not familiar with Bern’s, they have unquestionably the largest selection of high quality aged red Bordeaux wines in the US if not the entire world. This particular bottle of 2nd growth, left bank Bordeaux was priced at a very reasonable price of $634. That’s only $6.40 Per year of age! A quick of Wine Searcher shows this bottle is only available from 3 retail outlets, 2 in the UK and 1 in Switzerland, ranging in price from $524.96 a bottle to $1,102.50. The only score listed in Wine Searcher is a 75 / 100 as tasted by Jeff Leve at the Wine Cellar Insider in May 2013. So is it worth $634 to drink a 99-year-old bottle of wine that only scored 75 points in a fairly recent tasting. Some would say yes, some would say no.
Luckily, any fear of opening a “bad” 99-year-old bottle of wine are completely non-existent since the professional staff at Bern’s has repeatedly demonstrated their wiliness to quickly discard a bottle of even marginal quality. They understand that not every bottle of wine they will open from their huge inventory will be up to their standards and are happy to offer a replacement bottle if the wine is not up to their quality standards. Even with a 99-year-old bottle.
So, do we expect it to be as delicious as a 100 point bottle of 2000 Chateau Latour? Of course not. But the 1916 Gruaud Larose did not disappoint? Certainly not. While the wine was indeed little on the light side, it was by no means dead. Would it have been better to drink it 40 years ago? Probably, but since I would have only been 13 years of age at that time, that simply would not have been possible! Would I buy another bottle during a future dinner at Bern’s? Hard to guess since there are so many more vintages to taste. Am I happy we did it? Certainly, it may be the only 99-year-old bottle of wine I ever get to taste and in the end, that’s probably what matters the most, the experience of being able to sample a bottle of wine of that age who’s owners have supplied such expert care for during all of these years.
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