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Ellen's Very Oooooold Wines

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Ellen Ormond had inherited several cases of very old mostly French wines and wanted to share them with a group of friends. Allen & Liz Baum offered their new apartment in Oakland, still unfurnished, to celebrate the tasting and the inauguration of their new residence. And we got an interesting combination.

Participants: Ellen, Allen, Nicolas Nordmann, Gretchen Gorton, Jim Gorton, Sally Nava and Ricardo Llovet. Nicolas' kids joined the party but we promise that they did not get any sip.

See below some pictures and some very brief commentaries about the wines:

This was the best one. Well-reputed producer. It was the youngest of the wines. This gave us an idea about how long these could survive without going bad.

Second best. I have the empty bottle at home.

As a chemist, i'd have loved taking a sample and analyzing it to find out the composition, What slow chemical reactions may have been taking place in there?

The struggle (or art) of uncorking one of these bottles.

We were SERIOUS about our tasting experience, as you can see in this picture.

I promise that the kids did not get any sip.

With respect to the wines Nicolas and I reacted very late, when we had drunk most of them and our neurons were not at their best, but we were able to reconstruct the history with some teamwork. This is what we were able to compile:

  1. Chateau de la Reine Pedauque 1979 Chateauneuf du Pape : Thin, neutral with not much aroma or taste but drinkable. Not oxidized; just faded away. Clearly different from the rest, reflecting the Grenache (Garnacha for the connaisseurs) characteristics of red berry. 

  2. Chateau Pedesclaux 1971 Pauillac: Acidic, thin and neutral. Veering towards vermouth. Drinkable.

  3. Barolo 1971, Poderi Scanavino Giovanni: According to Oz Clarke, the author if the big wine book I have read 10 times, these wines can never be too old. I thought I should be sending an email to Oz telling him that I just had one that was. Really strong vermouth; even Coca Cola. In Reus, Tarragona, they pay $1 per bottle of beverages like this. The appellation was controlled but not guaranteed. Or, it may have been an imitation wine. I have looked in the Website of the Consorzio di Tutela di Barolo Barbaresco and have found wines by Podere Scanavino (with an e instead of an i and different label). My guess is that this was not a classic Barolo but a rather generic one made by the deviant brother of a famed winemaker. That would redeem my admired Oz!

  4. Chateau de Puligny - Montrachet Beaune (Burgundy): Cooking wine. Up to this one we were rather disappointed but we did not lose hope and enthusiasm. Ellen had set precedent with finding a jewell in her prior tasting.

  5. Chateau Latour Martillac, Graves grand cru classe 1966 - The cork was moldy, broke and could not be extracted. We were expecting the worst but the wine was still there, and improved much with time. The last glasses we had, about 15-20 minutes after opening, were rather good. Typical Bordeaux aroma and bouquet were still there.

  6. Chateau La Haute Graviere, Graves 1969: Black wet cork that came out in 1 piece miraculously. Less oxidized than the prior one but lacking character. This one, as well as number 4, had in the upper edge of the label Monsieur Henri Selection. I'd say to not purchase wines with that label based on our experience.

  7. Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint Julien cru classe 1975. And, it made us wait but we finally got it! This was the jewell. The cork was covered with mold, and we had serious difficulties opening the bottle. However, the wine was Excellent. The aroma was fading out, as would be expected after almost half a century, and the appearance was turbid, but still violet color. In the mouth is was an explosion of flavour. Typical Bordeaux left bank cabernet showing berries with spice. Deep. Very pleasant long-lasting bouquet enticing you to wait and feel the evolution but also to have more. I have looked in the Web and these wines go for quite some price and get 97 and 98 points 

  8. I could not read the label and I did not drink it based on Nicolas' and my wife's advice.

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