Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What do you do when your wine gets old?

The answer, if the wine is from one of the best years of the past century, if it is from a reputed château, if it costs between $1500 and $2000 a bottle, and if you have 500 bottles of it, seems to be that you have to change the cork every 40 years or so to prevent the cork from going mouldy. This is what Stanley Ho, a casino magnate in Macau, has just done.
According to this AFP story (in French, sorry), wine experts from Château Palmer travelled to Macau to open, taste and change the corks in 490 bottles of the 1961 Médoc, a grand cru classé. 1961 is one of the best years (as the drought reduced the output of wine to about a third of the normal years). This operation increases the remaining lifespan of the bottles. With a $1,000,000 collection, it is probably worth it...
In the specially weather controlled room of the Lisboa hotel and casino, the French wine experts delicately opened the bottles, fished out with a small net the small cork pieces that tend to fell out as the cork ages, tasted the wine to determine if the wine matured correctly, and recork it with the special machine Château Palmer has used for the past 50 years. The new corks will be labelled "Rebouché en 2005".
It was estimated that as much as 25 bottles would have to be discarded, but after the event only 5 bottles were deemed to have gone bad.