Advise with decanting/opening old Barolo

I’m planning to open a 1958 Barolo for tomorrow night. The bottle has been standing upright for a good month now, but I’m unsure if it needs air. I will definitely decant to get rid of the sediment, though, before serving.

I’d like to drink the wine at around 8pm, but unfortunately I won’t be home between 9am and 6pm, which I think leaves me with two options:

  1. Remove cork in the morning, let “slow ox”, decant just before serving
  2. Open and decant about an hour before serving

Any input or other suggestions are greatly appreciated. This is my first experience with such old Barolo…

Hi Andy
I’m not convinced that one approach fits all. Some will be flat out dead (or damn near it), I’ve had others fade relatively quickly on opening, whilst others have prospered with air.

It seems that here there is a strong leaning towards longer aeration (including a decant in the morning), so I expect that to be the general leaning of the advice. Let’s see.


Personally I would open in the morning and decant about an hour before serving it. I know some people like long decants but it depends on the wine whether it can take it or not - occasionally I would, but not for more than max 4 hours or so.


I would definitely pull the cork in the morning, sniff and pour a small amount to taste the condition of the wine. As Ian said, there are lots of Barolos of that era that are very well along – DOA or nearly – showing a lot of coffee and caramel notes. I’d be nervous about a long decant if that’s the case.

It is unfortunate that you can’t be around during the day, because sometimes wines like that can freshen up in the bottle after they’re opened – those very evolved secondary aromas can give way to aromas more typical of the grape (as opposed to being generic old red wine). In those cases, I’d be more inclined to decant an hour or two ahead of serving.

With that much age, it’s impossible to give any hard and fast rules, I think.

Open at 9am and evaluate. Better to know it’s already dead than right before dinner. If the wine seems robust enough, it is safe to double decant it then. Otherwise recork and just let it sit.

I actually don’t agree with this advice to pour the wine in the morning before decanting if it’s been standing for a month. You are almost guaranteed to stir up the sediment, especially the fine sediment, you’ve worked hard to settle, which is critical to decant off of for old Barolo. If you have a small pipette to draw some liquid to taste without pouring, that’s different. (I should get me one of those.)

I think you would be fine under your circumstances to decant at 6, taste, do small pours at 8, and try to save half the bottle to see how it develops at 9, 10, … You could open it in the morning. I wouldn’t be worried about opening it if you don’t shake it up By pouring.

Not sure if it matters much if you open in am or not but would double decant at 6. Dont give up if it seems dead. Which wine? (Not sure why no one seems to mention this). Ihad a 58 Borgogno last year that seemed quite young.

Uhm, thanks for all the advise, but I just tried to pop the cork and even with the lightest pressure of my ah-so, the cork just dropped into the bottle…

What do I do now? The wine actually smells good - dusty but there seems to be fruit left. Should I risk and decant now or let the bottle stand for the rest of the day with the cork floating on top?

Edit: it’s a Borgogno Riserva 1958 with red capsule

Edit 2: forgot to mention, the cork is in tact, in fact it was very hard and compact, but easily slid down the side of the bottle. No crumbles or anything and I cleaned off the top (which is also not in contact with the wine)

Some friends and I had the cork drop in on a bottle of '58 Fontanafredda a few months ago and it was fine – one of the better bottles in a line-up of '58s, actually! It was really weird, because we found the cork floating in the bottle when we went to open and decant it. It couldn’t have been floating for long, but it plainly wasn’t the best cork or seal. I posted notes at the time.

Cork in bottle no problem Remember, the wine was touching the cork for 60 years!

It’s not the contact with the cork that’s the concern. It’s whether the fact that it slipped right into the bottle means that it was a very poor seal.

The top of the cork would also be floating in the wine. The outside of a 60 year cork is not likely to be pristine.

Thanks for the help. I left the cork in the bottle for most of the day and then decanted a good two hours before dinner. The wine was outstanding and improved with time in the glass.

Here’s my note if people are interested:

  • 1958 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (6/9/2018)
    Removed cork in the morning and let slow-of for about 8 hours followed by a 2 hour decant. Lovely mature flavors of leather, earth, mushrooms, but still with fruit flavors, rose petal, and some cherries on the nose. Tannins have completely integrated and are almost not noticeable, but there is still a dusty grip that adds structure. Mushrooms, underwood, and dark berries on the palate. Nice finish. What a gorgeous bottle of wine! This actually improved in the glass with air. (96 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Curious how much sediment there was.

There was quite a bit at the bottom of the bottle, but it was relatively dense and easy to decant. I poured the first half of the bottle straight into a decanter and the rest through a very fine filter. Letting the bottle stand upright for quite a while seemed to help a lot.

I was out in California visiting a friend that’s a trauma surgeon and makes far more coin than I did back in college for my BS in Social Work. He graciously opened a ‘67 Barolo for me in 2007 and he said he opened it that morning about 14 hours prior to the dinner. Earlier this year I followed his plan and opened a ‘64 Barolo in the am…and was pleased with the results. I’ve only had a few instances…but both times, against my own fears…it worked out to my liking.

I try and give aged Barolo and Barbaresco at least an 8 hour decant. I stand the bottles up for a few days prior and decant through a tea strainer, stopping when I get to the sediment. Opened 10 bottles between 1934 and 1979 last week. Every bottle improved with a long decant.

There was a great write up on how to handle old barolo from that cranky dude who lives in Piedmont. Anyone have access to it ? The best thing he had ever written.

I’m very interested in this if someone knows what Nick is referring to…

That would be a post from Bill Klapp. I believe he requested to have his account deactivated after a disagreement with Todd.