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Jan 18, 2009 12:10 PM

Treasures or Vinegar?

My best bud just gave me two older bottles of wine and was wondering if y'all had any ideas about the vintages, etc. No, I don't know how these have been stored, but probably not the greatest of conditions. However, the bottles seem to be in good shape, so who knows.

1976 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac: Appellation Pauillac Controlee
"Mis en Boteilles Au Chateau" across the top of the label over the picture of an old chateau with men working and women in perhaps Victorian garb looking on.

1974 J. Pedroncelli Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

So, would you drink them and if so, with what?


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  1. Neither is likely to be vinegar. Faded, totally "off," no longer worth drinking, etc., but not likely vinegar.

    So many variables are introduced by the storage, that one could only guess how either would be drinking now.

    The Ch. Lafite-Rothschild *should* be good, but with really poor storage might well not be.

    I've not had any older Pedroncelli Cabs, but have had many from the late '50s, '60s and '70s, that, when properly stored, were outstanding. This one *could* still be good.

    Only way to know is to pop the corks. Have backups handy.

    With each, there are two choices and no clear winner. They are older reds, and will have thrown sediment. However, they are older, and might be hanging in the balance. Decanting carefully will separate the sediment from the clear wine. However, all but the most careful decanting might put the wine over the edge. I would be tempted to stand for a few days, transport with care to the spot, where they'll be consumed and then pour ever so carefully, not even introducing a decanter. Sample the wine. If either/both are still going strong, then maybe carefully decant the rest.

    Like I said, have backups handy as both might well be dead, or maderized.

    Good luck,


    1. As Bill suggests, you have no way of knowing. These wines are not "keepers" so open at your earliest convenience and have backups. It's sort of fun and when I've done this I've been rewarded more often than not. You have to have the attitude that you have nothing to lose. Of course that's the beauty of cellaring your own wines, so you know what's happened to them. Let's talk about the wines though, assuming they're sound. Don't have firsthand knowledge of the Cab, but the Lafite is exciting...

      You don't see the 76 Lafite around much. This is a wine I still particularly look for at auction... but only in large format at this point unless the provenance is known to be impeccable. I picked up 2 magnums at Sotheby's about 10 years ago... have opened one which was amazing. I suspect 750's should still provide a great deal of pleasure.

      Neal Martin's Notes are consistent with the way I remember it... "A sublime mature Lafite-Rothschild that alongside the 1978 counts as the best of the decade. A mature brick core. The nose is leafy and herbaceous with a touch of cigar box and smoke: unmistakably Pauillac. The medium-bodied palate is mellow, natural, and harmonious with cedar, tobacco and a touch of leather. Though there is just a residue of fruit, this Lafite is still imbued with remarkable precision and focus. Good length. For those seeking traditional claret from the top-drawer. Must be wine of the vintage? Last Tasted November 2006."

      1 Reply
      1. re: WineAG

        I try to do similar. I surround myself with people, who can appreciate what "might have been," and will not hate me for opening simiar in their presence. Still, backups are always handy.

        I, too, have been blown away by some wines, that I thought were long dead, and still had something else to offer. I've had a few poor orphans, that escaped my notice, only to offer so very much more than I ever anticipated. Then, I wish that I still had a full case of these!

        Drinking, with a reverent mindset, is the only way to know. Just have those backups!!!!