Opening Old Burgundy - Your Thoughts

I’m opening a '72 Lafarge Clos des Chenes tonight… I usually don’t drink my burgs that old.

I’ve had it standing since this morning, assuming there isn’t a lot of sediment I was thinking of pouring a glass out about 1-2hrs before dinner and serving the rest out of the bottle.

What’s your method for opening old burgs?

Personally I like to pop-n-pour old burgs (or decant immediately before serving) and follow its evolution through the evening. Things can change drastically in 1-2 hours with burgs. Why miss it? Just my opinion.

I would uncork and leave it be for a little while before pouring anything. Too much air at first could shock it for reasons I can’t even pretend to explain from a scientific perspective, but the trend seems real.
I have a bottle of this with another dilemma - very loose cork even though the color is great. Trying to figure out how to open it cleanly.

Open it early (some hours early, not 20 minutes) , just leave the cork out. Smell, see how it smells - the wine not the cork. If the fill is into the neck perhaps pour a little out (not a full glass) Basically, look at Francois Audouze’s posts and one of his earlier posts describes what he does in detail.

I don’t like the pop and pour method unless you know the wine. Almost invariably I find that older wines need a bit of time to through off the musty aromas and wake up. Ideally, you want them to do this before you start drinking them… but not to shoot through their evolution. Hence the slow oxygenation method. See here: Nice PROOF of slow oxygenation method - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers" onclick=";return false; for one example.

Decanting can work, but usually shocks older wines and stirs sediment.

Last night I popped and poured a 64 Grivot NSG Boudot to celebrate a great tasting at Grivot that day that included 09’s from barrel, 08,07,05, 99 Beauxmont and 97 Richebourg. It drank brilliantly and gained more with air. I did this with the same 64 at a picnic in Clos St Jacque a month back and it drank great too. Etienne noted 59,64 and 78 were his dads best vintages
best of luck

I opened a birthyear (1969) Leroy Echezeaux for my wife and two guests, very good friends of ours. Popped and poured. Problem was, one of the guests liked the wine so much she grabbed the bottle to read the label and needless to say, not being the geek I am, shook up the considerable sediment in the bottle. The last third of the bottle was gritty and cloudy. [oops.gif]

Check for sediment. If considerable, decant at the table.

Aloha, Mark

Thanks for the responses… I’m planning on trying the SOM (aka Audouze method)… not sure if I’ll be able to muster the courage to open the bottle 4 hrs in advance though as Francois Audouze suggests. Perhaps 3 hrs as a compromise.

I hear you on the sediment, if it doesn’t settle down by tonight I think I’ll give it a quick decant right before serving. Don’t know what’s worse… sediment in the wine or too much oxygen… probably sediment in the wine.

I worry about this too…

What kind of corkscrew do you use? I’m partial to waiters corkscrew… I feel like I get more control of what’s going on with the cork.

Have you tried an “Ah-So” corkscrew?

The Ah-So works for those old corks that are so tight they are practically welded to the bottle - but it doesn’t work for the ones with the opposite problem, that are so loose that a little pressure will plunge it downwards. Sometimes a waiter’s corkscrew will work but usually I end up having to fish cork chunks out of the bottle. So, the way I see it the best options are either (1) port tongs, (2) the shoe trick (basically forcing the cork out by banging on the bottom of the bottle, problem here being the sediment stir-up), (3) make sure the cork is clean, plunge it right down into the bottle, and pour as though it weren’t there.

Another vote for the Audouze method, no apparent sense to it except that I open old burgundies, usually modest, more than most people, and it works-or at least the chances of failure are vastly increased by popping and pouring and no harm whatever is done by opening in advance. I do like to avoid sediment particularly in difficult vintages, so will sometimes decant carefully at the last minute.

Sediment’s usually not a problem if you don’t stir it up. Mark’s guest did that, hence…

Pour gently. Tip the bottle slowly, both to the glass and back. Don’t overdo it, but a couple of extra seconds per glass won’t hurt anyone and will minimize how stirred up the sediment becomes. And accept that you’ll lose some wine to sediment. Once the bottle get to that point you can pour through a fine mesh strainer and get some more wine… but you won’t get every drop.

Pop and pour a little.
If great, you are good to go.
If not, leave it sitting for an hour or two and reassess.
Sometimes you will be surprised.


Do not fear! By all means pull the cork at least 4 hours ahead of time, 5 to 6 will be even better. If a high fill, pour out a small taste to enlarge the surface area to silver dollar size. Even with this it will likely need a bit more time, say 30 - 60 minutes, after you start pouring, to completely show all its got. This wines is still a baby in Francois Audouze terms! [cheers.gif] 1972 was a good and very sturdy vintage - perhaps too sturdy early on, and the producer and vineyard are good too.

Keep the wine gently cool too - that’s extremely important for the wine to show at its best - it enhances the fruit, body, and structure nicely - though not so cold that it gets hard and unfriendly.

The lengthier time seems to soften the tannins in the sediment too, and you may find it unobjectionable, at least if the bottle gets another few hours to breathe after you start pouring. With a group of people, and less time to observe the wine, the longer the slow-O aeration time the better, even 8 - 10 hours with a wine like this. Popand pour may demonstrate evolution, but to me it only proves that the first 3/4 of the bottle was wasted! [swoon.gif]

Once you’re past 20 years or so, I think decanting can be dangerous. Old Burgundies sometimes die fast enough in the glass. I’d hate to have mine stillborn in the glass because it had been decanted.

I think the original Screwpull (not the Leverpull) is the best for corks that look like they might push in. You can put the screw in very gently.

And then have the seive at hand in case it crumbles or pops into the bottle.

John, I’m not sure what you’re saying…what you are describing might be the very reason I clean and decant and aerate almost all older red wines, particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux. I aerate them a significant amount (open to definition, of course) because I think that most older Burgs will, without decanting, taste good for a short period and then “die fast” in the glass soon thereafter. That effect is what I’m trying most to avoid. I realize that with popping and pouring (or audouzing, which, if I understand it is little more than that…exposing the wine’s surface, in the size of the bottle neck, to air by opening it and letting it “breath”)…most wines will taste fine/good, but won’t last that way. So, I either aerate long to get it to “die” and reincarnate itself…or…if I don’t have the time/opportunity…I just pop and pour to capture as much of that exuberant good taste as I can before I know it will become “stillborn in the glass”. But, since I believe that that is not the wine’s best showing…I only do that as opposed to a short aeration, which I think, guarantees the stillborn effect. (Though it is impossible to quantify this, my “rule” ( [wow.gif] is that, if I don’t have a minimum of 2-3 hours to aerate a wine, I just leave it in the bottle and pour it…though I will “pop” it to make sure the wine isn’t corked or otherwise spoiled. (Isn’t this audouzing?)

As long as you decant right before you pour I don’t see how it can do any damage - after all, pouring the wine in the glass is a “decant” too.

‘Audouze’ and don’t be afraid to open 5-7 hours before, the wine should improve markedly and continue to blossom in the glass.

I think you misunderstand the slow oxygen method. The idea is to let the wine wake up and slowly be exposed to oxygen over hours. So, no, pop and pour has nothing in common with that. Pop… wait for hours… then pour, that’s different.

You’re also operating from the stance that most older wine will be fine for a short time, then die. So you decant… which exposes the wine to a lot of oxygen all at once? That seems to me like it would increase the risk of the decline… or am I misunderstanding something here.

WIll some wines decline quickly after pouring regardless? Sure. But of the three methods (pop and pour into glass, ‘audouze’ or decant) I’ve had far an away the best luck with the slow oxygen method. The wine slowly seems to wake up, it seems to last a long time after we start pouring, and it seems to show well. In contrast, the pop and pour wines seem to take some time to come out of their shell so the first glass is usually subpar (and if there are 6-8 people so there’s only one glass per person, that’s it). I almost never decant really old wines, so I can’t speak to that too much, but the few times I’ve done it, it was in the ‘ok, this wine is for this course’ scenario so as long as the wine woke up and was fine for a glass, eh.

Slight thread drift, but I’ve been wondering what, if anything, the ‘slow oxidation method’ does for young wines. Any experience out there?

Nothing, so far as I can tell Ian. it doesn’t hurt, but young wines can take a regular decanting and open up fine without much risk of precipitous decline. Sometimes you’ll hear people say things like “I decanted this and it shut down hard fter 30 minutes” but I’m not sure that wouldn’t happen anyway.