Tom's blog

Don't let wine outlast you

In the past decade or so I've been asked to evaluate a number of cellars that were passed down to heirs after their collectors died. In most cases, the collections were no more than 50 bottles or so. Each time I took time to reflect on the thoughts of the collectors who, for whatever reason, had squirreled away a few bottles they were convinced would benefit from age. Alas, in most cases, they were wrong. Perhaps they were simply over-confident, misguided or perhaps the wine just reminded them of fond times in wine country. 

Yes, I have found Chateau Yquem, vintage port and even first-growth  Bordeaux. But in most cases I found Virginia cabernet or some second-rate California cabernet that caught the collector's fancy in a visit to the property. In some cases, I could imagine that a slick salesman told them the $20 Bordeaux was as good as a top growth.

Most likely they were assured the $75 bottle of highly allocated wine would last decades. It's sad really because the expectations of the heirs is high; so is the disappointment once the truth is out.  Once, sadly, I even found an incredible 50-year-old port that had been opened for several weeks. They thought, wrongly, that port would do well long after it was exposed to air.

I muse all of this as I popped a few corks tonight over a steak dinner. I remember the salesman who assured me i was making an excellent buy when I bought a box of 2003 Chateau du Marquis from St. Julien. Sadly, it never improved after I first tasted it in 2005. Then, there was the expensive 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage, a nice Bordeaux blend that was still tight and alive. I never thought it would last this long, but, voila, it did. So, who really knows?

The point of all of this rant? Don't get caught up in the moment. Visits to wineries are sucker punches when it comes to buying wine. You're having a good time and, as you do, the wine tastes remarkably better than it is. You feel confident and you lose your common sense as the alcohol courses through your body. Pretty soon you have a case of wine in your cellar that outlives you, and your heirs wonder what you were thinking. 

Best of luck, sucker.