Most people, who drink wine, drink young wine that has just been released or at best, are less than five years old. But thanks to wine auction houses such as Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions and Oddbins in Adelaide, Sterling Wine Auctions in Perth and MW Wines in Melbourne, there are plenty of opportunities for people who don’t have a cellar to try older, more mature wine. Yes, some of the great wines at auction are very expensive, but that is usually due to their age and good condition. At the same time there is usually a raft of 10 to 20 year old wines in the auctions at very realistic prices. For example, at an auction right now as I write, there is a bottle of the 1989 Jimmy Watson Trophy winning wine going for under $50 a bottle. A 27-year-old trophy winning wine for less than $50 a bottle!!
I have been watching/tracking the Aussie wine auctions since 1992 and have picked up some truly amazing wines and fabulous bargains, such as the bottle of 1921 Orlando Liqueur Frontignac that I picked up in 2001, to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday – it brought tears to his eyes and was bloody magnificent.
By judiciously using the auction system over the years, I have managed to celebrate my 40th, 50th and 60th birthdays with red wines and fortifieds from my vintage and believe it or not, not one of them has been undrinkable or ridiculously expensive. Obviously, some have been in better condition than others, but there hasn’t (as yet) been one single dud. And then some have been absolutely mind blowing, like the 40-year-old Orlando Barossa Cabernet, the 50-year-old Chateau Latour and the 60-year-old Wynns Coonawarra Hermitage.
Along the way, I have been able to enhance family and close friend’s celebrations, of some of their milestone years with wines from that special vintage. The look on their face when they unwrap a bottle that is the same vintage as the milestone is priceless. I also have a number of bottles tucked away in the cellar from the birth year of my children for them to enjoy over the years. I have suggested that they keep the magnum of Morris Durif to celebrate their retirement – long after I am gone.
We here in Australia think of wines like the 1951 Grange as extremely rare and valuable, but at auctions in Europe the offerings regularly go back a lot further than that. For example, in March, an auction in France had some stratospherically rare wines in it. The lead item was one of the last remaining bottles of 1907 Heidsieck Monopole Diamant Bleu Champagne, which was recovered in 1998 from the coastal trader Jönköping, lying on the sea bed in the Gulf of Finland after being torpedoed by a U-Boat in 1916. Reports are that most of the bottles that have been opened were drinkable.
Other rare wines in this auction included a bottle of 1895 Chateau Lafite, a double magnum of 1959 Chateau Haut-Brion, a bottle of 1937 Chateau D’Yquem and a 1921 Chateau Climens. Wow! What a dinner party that little lot would make. Some of these wines came from the cellar of Pierre Berge, one of the co-founders of Yves St. Laurent.
Sometimes sheer luck is involved in coming across old/ancient wines. Recently, Spanish online magazine, Recetum, reported that workmen demolishing an old house in the village of Taganrog, near the Russia/Ukraine border, uncovered a stash of World War II German wine along with some spirits, from the same era. Most of the bottles had Nazi swastikas on them. These bottles were put in that cellar around 73 to 74 years ago.
The owner of the house opened some of the bottles and drank them with the workmen before he realised the significance of the find. Therefore, one would presume that the wines were drinkable. He has vowed to hang on to rest of the stash (without revealing how many bottles there are) and drink them with friends and neighbours on the 9th of May next, for Russia’s “Day of Victory” celebration.
There has been the very occasional amazing find here, such as the bottles of McArthur’s early 1820s wines which were found in Camden, but the likelihood is minute. Therefore, the best option is to regularly browse the various auction catalogues and act decisively when you see a wine of interest, be it a 10-year-old bottle of your favourite tipple or a bottle from a milestone year, for a family member or great mate.
Right now is a great time to be browsing and bidding if you have children or grandchildren born since 2000. There are some great bargains to be had. Cheers!
THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:
This is one of the best wine marketing ideas I have seen in a very, very long time. Absolutely brilliant!
As we all know, sales of fortifieds have been declining since the 1960s and especially more recently as the long-time regulars cease to drink for one reason or another and there are very few new drinkers coming up the ranks. So the sixty-four-million-dollar question has been for the last decade or two – How can we sell fortified wines to the younger wine drinkers?
Well, ST. LEONARDS VINEYARD (Wahgunyah – Victoria) has come up with a fantastic way to sell fortifieds to the Millennials, by producing a softer style of tawny (what we used to call port), in a snazzy bottle and with a hip label.
The product as shown is called HIP SIP which looks really funky in a rectangular, glass-stoppered bottle and with a really groovy label that barely mentions the word Tawny – ST. LEONARDS VINEYARD HIP SIP TAWNY.
UBBER COOL! But the real test is the taste. Well they have scored brilliantly here as well. Yes, it is a good tawny, with the lovely sweet characters one comes to expect, BUT it is soft, smooth and sweet (without cloying) on the finish. With none of the crisp astringency on the finish that we are accustomed to on the finish of a tawny wine, this is silky smooth and user friendly. Every under 30’s person I have given a taste to has liked it.
This is an outstanding example of Aussie creativity and innovation, that deserves to succeed in spadeful’s, ‘cause it is soo hip. www.stleonardswine.com.au
P.S. They will soon be launching two more fortified wines to make it a range. Can’t wait!!!