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Opening a 40 Year Old Bottle of Wine

October 12th, 2021 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

Writing on her website, James Beard Award-winning author Madeline Puckette writes:

“For most of us, opening old vintage wine is a once in a lifetime experience. Here are some things we learned while opening 40-year-old wine. The wine of the night was a 1979 Diamond Creek Cabernet, but can we open it? It’s not as easy as you think. Here are some things we learned about old vintage wine.

  1. The cork is super fragile. Opening an old bottle of wine is difficult with a standard wine opener. Why? Well, the cork becomes very fragile (and soaked with wine!) as it ages. You’re going to need something far more specialized because the cork is fragile (and usually soaked with wine!). Some wine professionals recommend an opener called an “Ah-So”.
  2. Old wine is rated by its “shoulder level.” Over time, wine evaporates through the cork of the bottle. This is especially true in dry climates. Some older bottle of wine will have a reduced amount of wine inside the bottle. The best condition is if the wine goes up to the neck of the bottle. Then, “high shoulder” is when the bottle is filled to just below the neck as the bottle expands outward. And finally, the worst condition is anything at “low shoulder” and below.

Acidity: The wine had higher acidity. It’s possible that this wine when it came out tasted pretty tart!

Tannin: Those astringent, mouth-drying tannins soften and become more leathery with age.

Fruit: Originally, this wine must have had loads of tart red and black fruit flavors because it still had them at 42 years old!

Balanced Alcohol: Today, most Napa Valley wines range between 14%–15% alcohol by volume. What was so surprising about the 1979 was that the label listed that it only had 12.4% ABV! That is pretty light-bodied by today’s standards.

It doesn’t seem possible that a dry red wine can age more than 20 years, let alone 40! I think the entire group including the winemaker, sommelier, collector, and author were all surprised and delighted at how good the old wine tasted.

Here at Skolnik Industries, using our stainless steel wine barrels will provide a long life. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are durable, reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

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