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Was this old champagne bad?


mdibiaso
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Last night for the first time I drank a really old champagne, a 1976 Belle Epoque from Perrier Jouet. The champagne had no bubbles left and tasted oxidized like sherry. Since I did not know if this was normal for old Champagne and the server made no comment when they poured and there was obviously no bubbles I did nothing to return the wine. Now I am wondering, was this a defect and should I have sent it back. Or even if it was a defect is this my risk when ordering such an old Champagne? Any comments on what I should have done (or what the staff should have doen when they could obviously see the bubble situation) would be appreciated. Especially from some of our resident sommerliers.

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Yes, it was bad. Yes, you should have returned/refused it and been given either a different bottle or an opportunity to select something else.

You may not have noticed, but the color was probably off, too, which the staff should have noticed, even if they weren't looking at the bubbles. Either they were completely ignorant (in which case this is a place you shouldn't buy valuable wines) or more likely, they figured that if you couldn't tell the difference, and they could get away with it.

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I'm so sorry you experienced that. Was this champagne noted on the wine list? I find it odd that such an old champagne would be offered. You should never be afraid to ask to speak to the sommelier if you're not sure about what they've served.

Champagne normally doesn't keep like other wines. My husband (the keeper of the cave at our house) has been bringing up bottles of champagne that we "have to drink" before their time has passed. Nice excuse to serve them before dinner with potato chips!

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There were many old champagnes on the list. At least 15 that were early than 1980 and one from 1907 that had sunk with a ship that was salvaged a few years ago. This was the only Belle Epoque on the list which is my wife's favorite Champagne which is why we ordered this. I felt uncomfortable saying anything because first I was pretty sure they must have seen the lack of bubbles (the color was darker but I am used to that with normal white wines that are older) and because in general I have always been unsure when ordering an older wine at a restaurant who the risk is with if it has not aged well (if it had been corked that would be a different story in my opinion).

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Unless the winelist clearly states "Order this at your own risk", the risk lies with the restaurant. Dark, maderized wine with no bubbles is not good Champagne. 1976 is not all that old, either. Moet is currently marketing 1973 Dom Perignon from their library and it is plenty lively. I have tasted Krug from the early 60's and it was full of life, also. Poor storage is most likely the culprit here.

Mark

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The no bubbles is the key, and indicates that at some point the cork dried out and leaked, probably because the bottle had been stored upright. If the CO2 could get out, the oxygen could get in. You were fortunate no other bugs gt in as well.

Otherwise champagne ages like any other white wine; it will get toastier and dryer, and eventually end up as vinegar.

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(the color was darker but I am used to that with normal white wines that are older)

Those wines were probably also bad. Now that you know, you need to keep an eye out for this problem.

I was in an Italian market yesterday, and while waiting for my cheese to be cut, I noticed an open display of some sort of white wine. One bottle already had that tan color to it. Some unsuspecting person has already purchased it by now, and when they drink it, they will probably say to themselves, This is different...

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Thanks all. Lesson learned. Next time I know what I should be getting. All in all though this wasn't terrible. The acidity was still there and it tasted a little like sherry which was not a disaster as an apperative. My first wine tasting class I learned that the only was to pull a lot of corks, or have someone pulling them for you.

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(the color was darker but I am used to that with normal white wines that are older)

Those wines were probably also bad. Now that you know, you need to keep an eye out for this problem.

I was in an Italian market yesterday, and while waiting for my cheese to be cut, I noticed an open display of some sort of white wine. One bottle already had that tan color to it. Some unsuspecting person has already purchased it by now, and when they drink it, they will probably say to themselves, This is different...

Not sure I agree that a darkening of color with white wine is a sign that is is bad. I have had many older white wines that had darkened to a yellowish caramell (like this champagne) which I am sure had no problems. I expect whites and red to "approach" each other in color gaining tannish hues over long periods of time. For me with this champagne the question mark was the bubbles being gone and the oxidation that something was not as it should be. Interesting to note that the restaurant tasks the "risk" with older bottles. But I sense this could partly be biased by Mark's undying commitment to his customers and their pleasure. I am not sure all establishments in the world, even at the higher end, would have such a generous stance on this matter.

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I tasted that 1907 one, the one that had been salvaged from the ship. It had bubbles very briefly then it went flat. It was more interesting for its history than for the taste, although the flavour was actually surprisingly fresh.

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Not sure I agree that a darkening of color with white wine is a sign that is is bad. I have had many older white wines that had darkened to a yellowish caramell (like this champagne) which I am sure had no problems.

Correct. White wines that are meant to be aged - especially sweet ones - will indeed get darker over time.

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1976 is not all that old, either. Moet is currently marketing 1973 Dom Perignon from their library and it is plenty lively. I have tasted Krug from the early 60's and it was full of life, also. Poor storage is most likely the culprit here.

Belle Epoque is not the fizziest of champagnes (it has small bubbles, if you get my drift) and these are going to subside with age. To have none might be a bit suspect though. Having said that my father has quite a lot of Roederer 1975/77 which is fantastic and still has a very lovely gentle fizz.

With reference to the colour, it is natural that it would be darker, and the oxidised taste is synonymous with older champagnes. Personally it is not something that I generally like and given the choice I would not really choose a champagne older than the late 80s.

With the DP 1973, I presume this is part of the Oenotheque range and has been recently disgorged (in the same way as Bolly RD) and that is why there are plenty of bubbles.

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Why would you feel ashamed for loving anything? And why would you be swayed by anyone's opinion in that case?

Well, only slightly ashamed - not ashamed enough to stop drinking it, for example. :wink:

Does this mean there are restaurants out there throwing away old, gently sparkling, slightly maderised champagnes? If so, I'll selflessly volunteer to take them off their hands...

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There were many old champagnes on the list. At least 15 that were early than 1980 and one from 1907 that had sunk with a ship that was salvaged a few years ago. This was the only Belle Epoque on the list which is my wife's favorite Champagne which is why we ordered this. I felt uncomfortable saying anything because first I was pretty sure they must have seen the lack of bubbles (the color was darker but I am used to that with normal white wines that are older) and because in general I have always been unsure when ordering an older wine at a restaurant who the risk is with if it has not aged well (if it had been corked that would be a different story in my opinion).

The only restaurant that I know of with the famed 1907 Heidsieck Monopole on the list is Charlie Trotters - is this where you ate?

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