Q: Decant time/advice on '66 Haut Brion & '66 Cheval Blanc?

Having a little dinner w/ some friends on Friday night and popping some older bordeaux and the like.

Not much experience with this age of wine. Any recommendations for decanting/air time with these wines for those of us a bit ‘less experienced’?

Thanks in advance!

I’m pretty sure the '66 Cheval Blanc was decanted for sediment and then poured immediately on each occasion I’ve had it. Based on those showings though I would be inclined to Audouze for a few hours in advance. This is not a fragile wine. I’ve enjoyed it immensely each time although on the last occasion I think others rated it considerably lower than I did. Best not to get your hopes too high and just enjoy it for what it is…


  • 1966 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (2/13/2008)
    Cheval at Heidi’s: Popped and poured. The color is a light ruby red with some orange hues. The nose gives an intense but stern expression of dark fruit, mineral and smoke. Brad W called this “mushy” which I never understood, but this was clearly not as layered and complex aromatically as other wines served. The taste is an equally limited in its range of flavor expression, but what was there (dark fruit, tobacco, chocolate) was pretty darned good. Expansive and well balanced. Silky texture. Great finish. Beautiful stuff. (93 pts.)
  • 1966 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (9/21/2007)
    Kitchen Tasting Group Does Beaver Creek – Day One: I had abandoned my notebook by this time, so no formal notes. I’ll just say that this was an awesome example of this wine. White chocolate on the nose. Elegant and subtle in the mouth. Perfect balance – still showing a bit of structure and good fruit presence. A perfect end to a perfect night – cigars, fire, good friends, and Cheval Blanc!! Can I stay another night??
  • 1966 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (2/27/2006)
    Cheval Blanc with Brad England and Scott Manlin: The color is a light red blending to orange at the rim. The nose is very pleasant, although there is a slight off smell that I would call VA. This doesn’t really detract, and is not present in the mouth. The wine is medium bodied and pretty well balanced (maybe slightly acidic). The finish lingers nicely. Overall a very nice wine. (90 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Last had the 66 HB last winter with The Merced crowd. Wine showed wonderfully with about an hour of bottle air time and then served up.

Other '66s I’ve had (including Lafite, Montrose, and LLC) have a similar profile so I would be inclined to Audouze your HB on the same schedule as your CB. I’ll be interested to hear other thoughts on this.

I would not decant these wines for air. They are not strong, powerful wines that warrant it. I would only decant for sediment. Yuo can always allow the wine to develop in the glass. You cannot undo over decanting.

An additional conclusion, if you’ll allow my friend, is that wine is a living thing and what applies to one old bottle may not apply to a similar, or even nearly identical, bottle.

Glenn

I agree with your statement and I also agree with Jeff’s comment. I would NOT decant this wine. I would pop and pour and let it sit in the glass for awhile. I enjoyed the 66 Mouton last night and it did get better over time, but I also think it is dangerous to decant a 66. I would rather err on the side of caution myself. You can always leave it in the glass and allow it to aerate in that fashion.

Alan

Yes, I would use the “Audouze method” (so named after board member Francois Audouze who has championed this method and extolled its benefits on the 50+ year old wines he usually drinks!). It means to pull the cork 5 - 6 hours early (and even more if the wine is younger) and let the wine breathe slowly without any decanting. Then gently pour when serving, without decanting.

This very small exposure to air somehow allows older wines (especially) to develop very positively (and in a better way, in my experience, compared to decanting) while not encouraging any of the possible negative effects that can easily come from too much oxygen with an older wine.

What I usually do with an older bottle…

  1. 7 - 10 days beforehand I “riddle” the bottle - i.e. grip it by the neck and twist sharply a few times to loosen any sediment on the sides.

  2. Stand it up in a box that is propped up at a slight angle, like 15 degrees, so the sediment will re-settle into the back bottom corner of the bottle. This way, if the bottle is poured gently when serving, with the front label always facing “up”, you can avoid all the sediment until the very last half glass. And by that time, somehow, that last half glass always is the best! [thumbs-up.gif]

  3. Pull the cork at least 5 hours ahead of time. If less time is available, I will decant off a half glass into a tiny decanter I have, thereby lowering the fill level in the bottle to “below shoulder”. The additional surface area accellerates the breathing process. In fact, if the wine still has a fill in the neck, I will always pour out a small initial taste to lower the fill a bit and enlarge the surface area to silver dollar size. My wines are only 20 - 40 years old, and they seem to like this extra exposure! [cheers.gif]

Serge could you expand on how you’d recommend aerating the 66 Mouton? Sorry for the thread drift, hard to find notes on that wine.

Tx

Oh man I look fwd to that!

Not to verge too far off topic here, but those who practice the 4-6 hr “Audouze method”, do any of you decant off sediment before serving?

Fair enough, the reason I ask however is that I wanted to bring the bottle to a tasting and was planning on “Audouze-ing” it earlier on in the day. I wouldn’t want all the sediment to stir up with the travel

Usually i would just “Audouze” it then pour it carefully, which of course works well if you don’t plan on traveling with it

Dave - thanks for the tasting notes! Definitely gonna pop that Cheval Blanc now!

Paul - much appreciated with the description of your method.

Everyone else, thanks much for the responses. As you might imagine, I don’t want to blow these wines as I’ve been looking forward to cracking them for a while!

I’ll definitely report back with some notes and details of how they progressed through the evening.

Matt - audouze then double decant for sediment prior to leaving. That’d be my advice, but if it’s that fragile, you’d have to follow Mssr Audouze’s suit and take the bottles to the ultimate imbibing point prior to arriving. That’s dedication [cheers.gif]

Matt,
If you have the time beforehand, my “method” described above (i.e. riddle the bottle then stand it up at a 15 degree angle for 10, or better, 14 days) creates a bottle that will “travel”. Just stand it up, in a standard upright box, on the car seat. The box will lean back about 15 degrees too - perfect! I open the bottle(s) before puting them in the car, but replace the corks. This lets in some oxygen to start the slow-O process, and is actually enough oxygen for wines that are quite old and lighter bodied. I pull the corks for good when I arrive at my destination.

Thanks Paul and Faryan, both good suggestions. I may try your system Paul, and check it before I leave the house. If it smells like air is needed, i’ll probably double decant just before leaving. If not, i’ll baby it to the location as you suggest

Matt,

In my experience “smells” will blow off just fine with the Audouze/slow-O method. The problem with decanting is that the simple act of pouring introduces a lot of oxygen, much more than is optimal for most older wines (unless they are very big and tannic!). And double decanting is twice as bad. But it all depends on the style of the wine, i.e. it’s body, mostly, I think. So some '82s and '86s, even some '70s and '78s, might at least stand up to a double decant, but a lengthy (and much gentler) slow-O will be much better in terms of how they ultimately show, and how long they last on the table!

Btw, don’t forget aiming for a gently cool serving temperature, as that will nicely concentrate the fruit. Too cold, and tannins and acidity can be accentuated, but those tend to lessen with a wine’s age, at least sometimes! [cheers.gif]

My advice would be to uncork the wines and leave standing in bottle for 2-3 hours. And then decant at the start of dinner on the expectation they would be sampled right away and then enjoyed for another 2 hours or so thereafter.

It is an austere vintage. The best wines are quite lovely, moreso than some critical reviews might lead you to believe. But they need cautious airing and the right fare. You have to find their delights- they will not find you as 1961 and some 1970s or 1971s will.

I would suggest game meats- or beef if you must. Minimal saucing- in quantity and severity. And have a good strong cheese course to serve after with the last round poured.

This, I think, will give you the best that can be offered from well stored bottles at this time.

(Edited to remove some unnecessary snarkiness on my part)

Tom - great stuff there!

We are about 3 hours away, I’ve removed the bottles from my cellar to let them come up a few degrees. I plan on popping the corks in 1.5-2 hours (an hour or so before we start with some food). This of course should get us to about the first pitch of the Giants game…

The wines will be served with Prime Filet, blue cheese butter, green beans w/ bacon & scallions, and a few other goodies. Apparently the lineup is now going to consist of a 2001 Chateau Latour and a few dark horses…

Will…report…back…

GO GIANTS

I wouldn’t be too excited about the 66 HB-I put this wine in a LMHB tasting

in the mid-70’s and was put down for putting a lesser wine.