Here at vintagewineandport.co.uk we want to help you get the most out of your vintage wine, here are our tips.
There are a few simple rules to follow when buying fine wine.
Appearance: Avoid any bottles that show signs of seepage, this is a sign of poor corking or storage and it is likely the wine will have deteriorated. Avoid bottles that have corks that are raised or depressed, again this is a potential sign that all is not well with the wine - move on to another bottle. Do not be put off by wine labels that are damp stained. On the contrary, this is often a sign of good cellaring in humid conditions. Some of the best bargains I have obtained have had damp stained labels! However, it is unlikely that the recipient of the gift will know this and so we occasionally offer such bottles in our bin end bargains section.
Levels, also called ullage: Very few bottles are completely airtight and so, over time, wine may evaporate through the cork. The more evaporation, the more likely the wine is to have perished. Wine is often described by the level that remains, this is made easier for us in that most Bordeaux wines are sold in similar bottles. In general for older bottles (over 15 years), levels over mid-shoulder should be acceptable. Levels mid shoulder or below will be variable. See our ullage chart for a comprehensive guide.
Most of the wine we sell is ready for drinking now. However, if you wish to keep it longer-term then the wine should be stored properly to be in good condition when it is served. Very few of us own a Chateau with a damp, dark, cool cellar, but we can try to recreate these conditions. Firstly, try and keep the wine cool and avoid sudden swings in temperature (i.e. avoid sunlight). The ideal temperature for red Bordeaux is about 13 degrees C, which will ensure that the wine will age very slowly. Cooler (but not freezing) is fine but the upper temperature should not go too far above 18 degrees C. Secondly, do try and keep the wine in a dark, humid area. Ideal storage conditions are between 50% - 80% humidity. Below 50% and the corks will dry out causing the wine to age prematurely. Above 80% is fine but the excessive damp tends to make the labels go mouldy (which is actually a sign of good cellaring!). Unfortunately, modern central heating and glazing tends to ensure that homes are dry and warm. If you do not have your own cellar, then keep the wine in an area that is cool dark and does not suffer from temperature extremes.
All of our wines are stored under ideal conditions at 13 degrees C and at a humidity of 65-75%.
There are a lot of myths surrounding the serving of fine wines. However, a few simple tips will increase your enjoyment. Mature Bordeaux will have sediment (this is a sign that the wine has matured well). However, when it is delivered to you the sediment will be shaken up and held in suspension. Do allow the wine to stand for a few days to allow the particles to fall to the bottom. The wines should be decanted (in a clean decanter) prior to serving to remove the sediment. There is a lot of conjecture about how long the decanted wine should be left standing prior to serving. We would recommend that the wines are opened and decanted approximately 20 minutes prior to serving. For very old vintages they should be served immediately. This is because the wines have already matured and once opened, it will start to fade and lose its fruity aromas. Once lost these cannot be recovered so it is better to err on the side of caution. Your guests can always enjoy swilling it around in the glass if it needs time to develop!