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Some wines should come with an expiration date!


Ralph Wiggum
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Have you ever tasted a really bad wine and thought to yourself “nothing could be worse than this.” That is what I thought until I went through my mother’s wine “collection” yesterday. By “collection” I mean wines that people have given a non-drinker over the years. While I was visiting my family last weekend, she asked me to clear out the bad stuff from her collection. Boy, did I not realize what I got myself into. The highlights of the collection included a 1986 Jordan Chardonnay, whose cork was covered in mold, and a 1992 White Zinfandel (!), whose cork disintegrated in my hand. The smells emanating from these two bottles would have woken the dead. However, the one wine that I did sample was a 1994 Chardonnay that tasted like a combination of vinegar, Windex, and feet. Two cups of coffee and three breath mints later, I finally got the taste out of my mouth.

I did grab 3 bottles from her collection that could either wind up being really good, or really awful (I’m guessing the latter, but this has become my version of Russian Roulette). Anyway, I figured the group here on eGullet would appreciate this.

"My cat's breath smells like cat food."

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Hi, Ralph. That is a sad story. I think we've all had similar experiences . . . I recently visited my brother and sister-in-law, who like wine but are just getting started and aren't all that experienced with storing it yet. They pulled down a nice California cab blend from the top of the pantry, where it was sitting cork up for who-knows-how-long. It was so hot I suggested we put it in the freezer for a few minutes . . . :huh:

I gently suggested they needn't open it just for me. I'd be perfectly happy with a glass of their box wine. :smile:

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Sometimes the opposite happens. When my parents retired a few years ago, I joined my siblings in culling the vast amounts of junk that had accumulated. While cleaning out the basement (which stays coll year round), my brother and I happened upon a moldering heap of paper boxes filled with dusty wine bottles.

The stash included a case of 1974 Mondavi Reserve Cab, a case of 1974 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cab, some old Martin Ray cabs, various Stony Hill chardonnays and a single bottle of 1959 Lafite. My brother and I thought about sneaking all of the wine into my car and making a quick getaway. In the end, however, we moved the wines to the parents' new place, and we drink the wines when we get together for the holidays. Drank the 59 Lafite first, of course.

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Of course, the vintage date on the bottle carries with it an implied expiration date. Given that most of my quaffing is done with under-$15/bottle stuff -- much of it substantially under -- I rarely buy a bottle of white more than two years old or a red more than four years old. And I take extra care when dashing in for a bottle of something cold from the liquor store fridge; I'm convinced that owners put their far-past-prime whites in there in hopes of unloading them on the unsuspecting.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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