Should I pop this fine French red?
August 16, 2008 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Meta Oenophiles... Should I open my '86-vintage fine French grape?

Back in 1986, when we discovered my wife was pregnant with our first, I bought a few bottles of wine with the specific intention of popping the cork with him on his 21st birthday.
Well, his birthday is this week. But, after reading a few reviews of both the bottles I bought, I'm beginning to wonder if it may still be too early.

The wines in question are the '86 Château Gruaud Larose and the '86 Château Ducru Beaucaillou

Based on the reviews, it seems these wines may have a few more years in them.

They've been stored adequately. That is to say, I don't have a proper cellar, but neither have they been subjected to any extremes. They've been kept quietly slumbering all these years in a cool corner of the house.

So, connoisseurs, waddaya think? Pop a bottle, decant and breathe it and toast my boy's 21st? Or show him the dusty bottle and tell him to open it in another 20 years? Personally, I'm thinking "drink it".
posted by Thorzdad to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You bought the wine for the experience. The memory and purpose of the gesture mean a lot more than maximizing the potential taste of the wine (IMO).

You're going to enjoy the memory of sharing it with your son way more than you'll remember the exact taste of the wine.

I vote drink it.
posted by highfidelity at 3:22 PM on August 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

Drink 'em. Life is both shorter and longer than you think. You want that memory to cellar well.
posted by mindsound at 3:39 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

You had the intention to do so, and the opportunity is now presenting itself. The bottles may have a few years left in them, but the intersection of your intent and the wine being damn good is right now.

Pop 'em and drink up.

(Maybe save a bottle for when he gets married/graduates college/has his first kid/whatever.)
posted by cog_nate at 3:55 PM on August 16, 2008

You're seriously considering throwing away a twenty-one year plan at bonding with your son in favor of hoping that something might taste better twenty years from now?

Of course you should drink it.
posted by Flunkie at 3:56 PM on August 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

That answer was based on the assumption that you have a couple/few bottles of each. If you only have one of each, then just pop them and enjoy it in the here and now.
posted by cog_nate at 4:03 PM on August 16, 2008

I had a $500 bottle of champagne on mine and wifey's 8 year anniversary. It tasted like every other damn bottle of champagne I've ever had. DRINK IT!
posted by Mach5 at 4:12 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Drink them.
If you were a wine collector you would have bought a dozen of each and opened one every few years to taste them at every stage of their life.
Great wines are supposed to be interesting every step of the way... until they are not any more.
20 years is a very long life for a wine, even a Gruaud Larose. With every passing month, you are entering gambling territory: maybe they'll become better but maybe they won't.
Congratulations for having kept them so long.
Now is the time to enjoy them and to mark his 21th with panache. Lucky guy.
posted by bru at 4:21 PM on August 16, 2008

'86 of those two should drink well now even though they might last longer.

One thing to remember is that they might evolve in the glass after you have poured them, as they need air in order to show their body fully.

I. e. when you open the bottles, they either may need decanting or not, or they might just need to be open for some hours before they really shine. I would probably taste them and decide if I decant or not (but my bet is that you should). If they don't taste of much when you open them, decant.

But my bet is also just to drink. These are not the very very best wines of the very very best vintage, just expensive bottles from a decent vintage. (and that is very okay too!)
posted by KimG at 4:26 PM on August 16, 2008

20 years is a very long life for a wine, even a Gruaud Larose. With every passing month, you are entering gambling territory: maybe they'll become better but maybe they won't.

Yup. Twenty years is plenty long enough; they've reached full maturity, and I envy you the experience. Please report back!
posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on August 16, 2008

Please share it with your son. My dad bought a bottle of port when I was born; he died when I was 8, and mom didn't find it until I was in my mid-20s. I kept waiting for "the right occasion" and then it fell from a shelf and was broken. After taking up the carpet in that room a couple years later, even the stain is gone. Share that special moment while you can.
posted by epersonae at 5:20 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

As an expectant first-time father, I have to say thanks for mentioning this. I think it's a great idea and something I'd love to do as well for my child as well.

As for the question... drink it. It's not about the wine - it's about the experience.
posted by csimpkins at 5:46 PM on August 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all for confirming my thoughts.
It'll be a great Monday night.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:05 PM on August 16, 2008

I get married in November, and roughly two years from now, my soon-to-be wife and I will work on conceiving our first child.

Thanks for giving me a brilliant idea.

Oh, and yeah -- what everyone else said. Drink it now, you idiot. :-)
posted by CommonSense at 8:57 PM on August 16, 2008

My parents did this for me when I was 18. I couldn't tell you what we drank - I was 18 and mostly drank guinness. So, I don't think he'll notice the quality of the wine (and it is about him, right?) But it was a lot of fun and I remember the evening well.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:04 AM on August 17, 2008

Response by poster: Update:

Last night was the dinner. We decided to open the Gruaud Larose. As expected, it was really tight upon decanting, but not vinegary or anything that might betray a bad wine. In the decanter, the stuff was absolutely opaque. It took a good 2.5-3 hours before the wine was in full bloom. But, wow, what a great wine. Even in full bloom, it was pretty obvious the wine could have easily sat for a few more years. But, boy, was it ever delicious last night.

I was impressed that my son liked it right away, considering the only tastes of wine he's had have been of the (affordable) supermarket Zins and Merlots that we normally drink. It was a good opportunity to give him a little truncated wine-101, especially as we experienced the wine as it came to full bloom.

We had a great time. Lots of talk. Lots of laughs. A welcome and needed respite from the over-stressed life we find ourselves trying to cope with right now.

posted by Thorzdad at 1:58 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

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