Wine Talk

Snooth User: Gina Hartje

Hello Snooth! Need a little help...

Posted by Gina Hartje, Apr 18, 2015.

My friend had some wines in a cement cellar up in Lake Tahoe.  She is not a wine drinker so brought them home for me but they are really old years and I don't know how to find the shelf life to know if they are still drinkable...Can someone advise please?

1)  Bolla  Merlot  2002

2)  Sangiovese Di Romagna  2002

3)  Cotes du Rhone  J.Vidal.Fleury 2006

4) Wente   Grey Riesling  1994


Reply by dvogler, Apr 18, 2015.

Hi Gina,

I wouldn't expect much from these wines.  They're pretty basic, but that doesn't mean poor.  I thought maybe the Cote du Rhone might be okay, but it too might be past it's prime as I don't think it had a lot to offer on release.  Basically, I'd have a nice dinner and open all of them.  Have some back ups just in case these aren't standing up to the meal! 

Good luck

Reply by JonDerry, Apr 18, 2015.

Seems like they would be good to drink now if stored in a cool cement cellar all these years. Give them a try!

Reply by dmcker, Apr 18, 2015.

So you have one white and three reds, each of different grape content and style.

None of them were expensive wines at release, nor the type of wine to gain in value over the years.

However, as JD states, if the cellar temp was low and steady and the corks didn't dry out, they could well be fine, interesting, and enjoyable.

As DV suggests, make a nice dinner without too many strong flavors and seasonings in the dishes, invite a couple more people, and make a party with your friend and them out of it. I'd start with the white, but don't worry about the order of the reds too much. I'd open them all at once, maybe a half hour to an hour before drinking, then let people drink whichever one they end up liking along the way.

Let us know how they turn out!

Reply by EMark, Apr 19, 2015.

Gina, I am going to second the recommendation that you open these up and try them.  It should be fun.  If you find that you don't like them, then there is no great loss.

I am now going to hijack your conversation.

I have not seen any mention of Grey Riesling in many years.  Also, years ago, I recall seeing California bottlings labeled Johannisberg Riesling and White Riesling.  My recollection is that Johannisberg Riesling and White Riesling were the same grape variety, and Grey Riesling was a different variety.

Well a quick trip to Wikipedia seems to support my recollection.  Grey Riesling is more commonly known as Sylvaner.  Johannisberg Riesling and White Riesling are both names that were used for the Riesling grape of German, Alsace and other European regions.  It is unclear how or why these alternate names came into usage.  I'm guessing, though, that they fell from usage as American wine drinkers became more knowledgeable about the wines that they were trying.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 20, 2015.

Mark, they fell from use as the CA wine industry (and then elsewhere in the States) fell into lust with the form of branding wines by their varietal. Riesling was used initially more as a style, like Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, etc. What earlier Englishpersons would've called 'Hock' (in the era of 'Claret' for Bordeaux).

Plenty of Sylvaner grown and bottled in Alsace, too.

Reply by Gina Hartje, Apr 20, 2015.

Great thank you for your help.  To update, the Coles du Rhone has residue at the bottom of the bottle so I didn't think that was a good sign to start with, then when I opened it, it smelled good but tasted terrible.  So that one's out - I don't drink Riesling anyway, its too sweet for my taste and its 20 years old so that doesn't seem like something I should give to a friend.  And the Bolla's you're right are less expensive wines and both had residue on the bottom of the glass, 13 year old inexpensive wine is not worth another terrible taste test for my stomach, throwing them out.


Reply by dvogler, Apr 20, 2015.

Thanks for getting back to us Gina.  It's normal, if those bottles had been lying down for a long time, that there'd be sediment.  Typically, decanting will help settle that, but it's not a negative indication.

This is precisely why I recommended having some back-up choices if you had people over to try these :)


Reply by dmcker, Apr 20, 2015.

Sediment can be a sign, actually, of an aging wine's health, and oldskool winemaking without over-filtering/fining/otherwise-treating to ensure you never see any. This never-sediment treatment can have negative effects on a wine's flavor profile.

Also why I recommended you open the wine an hour ahead. If you let it sit in your glass that long and try again you are likely to find the wine to be entirely different. Has to blow off some of the molecules that give an off odor or flavor to you at first...

Wine does not have an 'open by' 'good until' date unlike many consumer consumables, regardless of what bloggers and various raters who try to justify their existence and your readership try to tell you with their drinking windows. 95%+ of  those people telling you to 'drink by' don't know what they're talking about.

As I mentioned above, those wines you found were not particularly fine ones, but rather workaday versions. Still, they can provide value even this (not so) long after their bottling, as long as they were stored properly. Good quality made-to-mature-over-time wines can be excellent at more than three times that age--sylvaners and particularly rieslings included.

Reply by EMark, Apr 21, 2015.

DM, what do you think about that Grey Riesling/Sylvaner?  Gina is reluctant because she doesn't care for sweet wines.  I am of the, possibly naive, opinion that Wente would have left some residual sugar in that wine.  Do you think they could have fermented it dry?

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 21, 2015.

I don't think the presence of RS in the "Grey Riesling" has much impact on whether it survived or not.  BTW, my research indicated that Gray or Grey Riesling was Trousseau Gris.  Alas, the problem with Wikipedia is no one checks for internal consistency.

Wind Gap makes it, and I drank it recently at Pizzaiolo in Oakland.  It didn't strike me as something I would age, but there are those fans of the Jura, where it is still grown, who would probably differ. 

Reply by dmcker, Apr 21, 2015.

I had a few Wente wines back in the '70s and early '80s but don't remember having any since then as I found them less and less interesting over that time span. Can't answer on the RS issue for their Grey Riesling, though some Googling might produce results (gonna beg off on that personally today with plenty of other things to do). The Sylvaner vs. Trousseau Gris issue also bears researching, if someone wants to continue with this discussion. Back during that same period I drank a lot of Sylvaner and Muller Thurgau from what seemed to me then like all over Central Europe, but since then the most sylvaner I've had has been Alsatian.

If offered that Wente bottle, I certainly would pop it and taste-test it though. I like those treasure-hunt finds, good or bad or indifferent, as I've commented on regarding your B-in-L's estate sale finds, Mark. They help fill in gaps in our neural mappings of the winescape, in often surprising ways....

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 21, 2015.

If offered that Wente bottle, I certainly would pop it and taste-test it though. I like those treasure-hunt finds, good or bad or indifferent, as I've commented on regarding your B-in-L's estate sale finds, Mark. They help fill in gaps in our neural mappings of the winescape, in often surprising ways....

I second that.  Sadly, when my wife came back from her mother's place for probably the last time, she could not transport some 30 year old Sancerre.  Probably would have been vinegar, but I would have taken one for science.  How are you going to know what does and doesn't age well without a few failures along the way?

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