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01.03.2006

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.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud