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Tasting The Oldest and Most Expensive

I don't read the various wine discussion boards out there for any number of reasons, most relevant of which is my lack of time to do so. It's possible to spend all day reading them, let alone posting anything or battling your way though the flame wars and ego-one-upmanship that occasionally rears its ugly head. Thankfully for me, I have several friends who send me interesting tidbits that rise to the surface of all the chaff.

A couple of months ago I was alerted to an unusual piece of content on the Mark Squires message boards on Robert Parker's web site. This wasn't a particularly brilliant or witty post, rather it was the inaugural set of posts from a new user on the boards. These sorts of posts are usually the most yawn inducing things, involving lots of friendly welcomes from the existing members, and appreciative thank you's from the new member.

This new member, however, ended up being someone quite unusual in his drinking habits, however, and his inaugural post set out to explain his passion and proclivities in charmingly imperfect English. Francois Audouze doesn't just like old wines. He likes ancient wines. This guy claimed to regularly drink wines that were literally hundreds of years old. We're talking 19th century Bordeaux, 18th century Ports and Madeiras, and more. Wines that range in value from the tens of thousands of dollars per bottle to, for all intents and purposes, priceless.

I must admit, like many members of the board I was incredulous at this guy's claims, however, there were longstanding members of the online community that vouched for him, so he had to be telling the truth. Over the next few weeks he went on (very sweetly and humbly I might add) to detail some of his favorite experiences drinking really old wines and some of them were mind-boggling. I read them with interest and then mostly forgot them until I stumbled across a bona-fide news article this week about the very same man.

Turns out that he is a retired French executive and has a bit of a side business (not to mention a book that he's written) about evaluating and selling old wines for collectors. Included in the story is his brief anecdote about an old wine he tasted: an 1811 Chambertin. Think about that. A burgundy that was bottled while Napolean was alive. Hard to imagine what that would taste like, isn't it? The oldest wine he's ever tasted was from 1769!

Anyhow, here's the Bloomberg story, and here's a link to the initial thread on the Mark Squires board. They both make for some diverting reading.

Comments (9)

Jack wrote:
01.03.06 at 10:31 PM

I love François Audouze's posts! His enthusiasm and reverence for old wines seems unmatched, and he has sparked/rekindled/fueled(!) my own interest in old wines. He seems so humble and just non-egotistical - atypical (to me) for such a serious collector.

He's my favorite new poster to any board or blog I read on the internet for 2005, and so I'm extra pleased to see you've written a entry on him.

Iris wrote:
01.04.06 at 7:33 AM

It's funny to come across Francois Andouze here again after having read several dozens of his messages in a French discussion forum called La Passion du Vin (www.lapassionduvin.com), where he monopolized lots of threats during the last 2 weeks - discussions more about his personality than about the wines in question, alas - he seems at least un excellent and prolific user of the World Wide Web.

cd wrote:
01.05.06 at 4:59 PM

so funny you're posting about him. I came across a few of those posts a few weeks ago and they just blew me away. just incredible, and terribly interesting to read too. the rest of us can only hope to drink something half as old!

Randy wrote:
01.05.06 at 6:27 PM

I'm sorry you mentioned this because this man has been harboring a deep secret that will have a catastrophic effect on the wine market. Recent scientific journals have revealed that wine is the secret to longevity. Until now, however, no one knew to what degree. A tip off should be in knowing that To consume these wines today would be prohibitivley expensive. This man's folks actually bought the 1811 Chambertin for him on release to commemorate the year of his birth. My advise... Buy all you can now! when word of this gets out there won't be a bottle to be had anywhere.

01.07.06 at 12:52 PM

Good stuff, I can't help but read his posts with Jacques Pepin's accent in mind.

When I first started drinking older wine, I was amazed by how readily available it seemed to be here in the bay area.

A Cote in Oakland almost always offers interesting and older dessert wines (I've seen early to mid 1900's). I've purchased Bordeaux from as far back as 1958 from North Berkeley Wine for less than 100.00 a bottle. And there's always K&L.

Even a relatively young wine by Francois ' standards --I'm thinking of a 1975 Chateau Talbot we served with Christmas dinner-- can enliven a table of jaded food and wine folks.

The oldest wine I've tasted though was a port from 1869, served in the tasting room at the Hotel Benson up in Portland, Oregon. They offer it regularly at 89.00 a glass.

All of this might just be hunting for trophy corks if it weren't for how interesting, and how very unlike young wine, older wine can taste.

Or, as one of the people quoted in the Bloomberg article put it:

"There's no going back to fruity wines... I tasted the dirt."

01.11.06 at 12:55 AM

I am very pleased to see these comments.
I made a complete mistake on the site of "lapassionduvin" to discuss endlessly with people who wanted to destruct what I wanted to say.
It became like a political discussion : I have never seen anyone convinced by a political discussion.
So, I have invited eleven of them for a dinner that I will fully organise, with ten wines of 8 decades. It will be a blind tasting, and I hope to convince them about my true love for old wines. And more than that about the interest of these wines.

Concerning my age, when people ask me : "you always talk about wines of 1870. But these wines, how did you buy them ?"
Then I answer : "I bought them in primeurs (first release) of course".

I have a motivation : I have seen many old wines being thrown away as judged dead which were great wines. if some amateurs could benefit from my experience, I would be happy to have helped to something.
And of course, I make dinners in order that people drink my wines. I have many wines and I want not to sell them.
This explains why I communicate, even if it is in bad English.

Many thanks for all these kind words.

blackhawk wrote:
01.11.06 at 10:16 AM


If you believe your English is poor, you should read my French!

Roulez bon temps mon ami, et vive la vin.

Evelyne wrote:
01.16.06 at 8:18 AM

Sorry to be coming in so late but Francois is too modest to mention all his accomplisments. If you read French (some posts are also in English) go see his blog:


You'll learn a lot about ancient wines.

Cheers, E

Art wrote:
01.24.06 at 5:49 PM

I'm not a wine expert; I'm not a wine collector; I'm not a wine snob. I'm a wine lover, and although I'll probably never have the privilege of experiencing the rare beauties that François Audouze does, reading his words makes me again realize why. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

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