Once in a while, one can read about auctions at which rather old bottles of vine (and if I’m not mistaken, also certain liquors) are sold for considerable amounts of money. Some of these beverages were originally produced decades ago, sometimes they are even much older (for instance originating from the 19th century).
Were these bottles kept in store by the producer (or maybe a seller) for sale at a much later date on purpose or did they just forget about them and to everybody’s surprise, one can still drink it?
Is this still being done today, i. e. are there wineries or distilleries that produce vine/liquor for sale at a much later date (meaning: the people who are involved in the production process today will be long retired or dead by the time the beverage is actually consumed)?
Only certain wines and liquors are meant to be aged for long periods of time and it is much more rare than most people think. It is a common misconception that most wines and liquors benefit from long-term aging. Most do not. Some will still be good if you drink them 50 years from now but they would have been the same if you drank them now.
However, there are still plenty of wines and liquors (wines in particular) being produced today that are meant to be aged for long periods of time (a decade or much more) before they are consumed. They aren’t necessarily aged by wholesalers or retailers. Plenty of consumers have their own wine cellars and buy attractive batches to age themselves. People that do that tend to have a lot of money, lots of space with the right conditions and consume enough wine to keep a rotating stockpile that is planned years in advance.
You can buy decades old already aged wine for a hefty price at some good wine stores. I am not exactly sure where they get theirs from if they sell a lot of it. There may be some businesses who store and age wine as their business model but that is generally incredibly expensive to start up and most businesses cannot wait that long to get their money back. I would like to know more about that myself.
Fine liquors are fairly easy to age in bulk because they are often stored in large barrels or casks that can be easily warehoused by the manufacturer until they are ready for sale.
Well, in the case of the Jefferson bottles bought by various frivolous multi-millionares, they were apparently:
*The bottle came from a collection of wine that had reportedly been discovered behind a bricked-up cellar wall in an old building in Paris. The wines bore the names of top vineyards—along with Lafitte (which is now spelled “Lafite”), there were bottles from Châteaux d’Yquem, Mouton, and Margaux—and those initials, “Th.J.” According to the catalogue, evidence suggested that the wine had belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and that the bottle at auction could “rightly be considered one of the world’s greatest rarities.” The level of the wine was “exceptionally high” for such an old bottle—just half an inch below the cork—and the color “remarkably deep for its age.” The wine’s value was listed as “inestimable.” *
New Yorker 2007
The wine was later determined to be not as stated, in a case brought by the Koch brother who quarrels with the other Koch brothers, who sued Hardy Rodenstock; however, Bill Koch appears to buy stuff and then return it suing for damages — although this is not the source of his wealth which was gained the good old-fashioned way, the way of the libertarian, through meritocratic inheritance — who won a much needed**$12 million** this year over 24 bottles of Bordeaux, yet the fellow who sold that claims to have made $40 million selling rare wines, so there must be a lot of cellars filled with alcohol people forgot to drink.
Probably not in Scotland.
Those types of historical bottles are more like the art or historical artifacts market than they are to the bottles that are meant to be consumed. Archaeological wine and liquors generally isn’t ever meant to be consumed and may well be completely spoiled if anyone tried it. That part isn’t important for those purposes however. Like fine art, it is an investment that rich people hope will go up in price so that they can sell it later or just show it off forever.
One of the funniest news segments I ever saw showed some wine that was found in a shipwreck and was super old. The discoverers opened one of the bottles on the air and had a taste test all at the same time. I have no idea what it tasted like but the female news anchor almost barfed right on camera. That has little bearing on the value of the bottles however. Imagine an intact bottle was found in the Titanic wreckage for example. It would be worth tremendous amounts of money even if it was pure spoiled swill.
The market for archaeological bottles of wine or liquor is different than those that are aged on purpose to be consumed much later. For he latter, it imperative that the quality is outstanding as well as rare for it to be worth much money.
In the case of distilled spirits, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Scotch whisky distilled today, bottled after aging in 2043, and hanging around in bottles for long time after that- possibly even 2113.
Once spirits are in bottles, there’s not much that will affect them other than the closure deteriorating- the cork or cap or whatever.
By the way, Donnerwetter, the English word you’re looking for is “wine”, not “vine”. They come from the same root, but in English, “vine” means a long fibrous plant stem (such as a grapevine) and “wine” is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes or occasionally other fruits.
True, but the OP was asking where they came from, either stored purposefully or found.
And the 2007 auctioneer tasted the 1784 first and pronounced it excellent. Any salesman’s judgement can be trusted implicitly.
Present-day drinkability is, as you say, secondary. Besides which instead of swanking about boasting 'I have Thomas Jefferson’s wine, one would be left with the lesser claim, ‘I have a bottle Thomas Jefferson may possibly have touched, or seen, or at least read about in his wine inventory’.
Sadly, as a nerd, Mr. Jefferson kept wine lists. Oddly, those bottles are not the only links between the Kochs and himself: they also are political manipulators, and he was comparatively as wealthy as they in his era.
One thing I don’t understand is that Mr. Koch was awarded $12 million for the 24 bottles of Bordeaux not being as described, yet he got to keep the bottles afterwards. That’s a double bite.
As stated above, liquor is just about the only thing you could age that long and still drink, and it doesn’t change that much beyond the initial aging.
But I got to thinking about preserving food in general for long periods of time- would an MRE last 100 years? And be edible?
That’s a huge question. The vast majority of wine - about 90% - is intended to be drunk within the year, and about 90% of the remainder is intended to be drunk within a few years. This refers to the year of release, mind you - all wines require some aging, and many will not be bottled for a few years after the harvest.
There are some wines that are definitely bottled with the intent of aging. Wines that are high in tannin or other phenolic compounds, those that are very acidic, and those that are very high in sugar and/or alcohol positively require a few years in the bottle; some will remain dynamic and drinkable for ten years or more. Of particular note are port and champagne. Port is a sweet red wine fortified with alcohol, and was invented for export and storage; vintage years are declared well after harvest, and the vintage ports are expected to age in the bottle for decades.
Champagne also ages well; the bottle-fermentation method requires high acidity and the addition of sugar, so declared vintages (which are selected for their potential to age particularly well) are also destined to improve over the years, and may remain excellent for decades after that.
Wines with a less outstanding pedigree might or might not age well - there are many factors that will affect aging, and while generally red wines will benefit from a few years in the bottle, most are incapable of much improvement.
Distilled spirits are an entirely different matter. Once in the bottle, they do not age - they just get old (and if not well-sealed, they’ll go bad). An ancient bottle of spirits is valued for its antiquity, not its flavor. The celebrated spirits are aged before bottling, in casks (and exactly which casks is a subject unto itself). While neutral spirits like vodka and gin (sort of) require little or no aging, the more flavorful whiskey, brandy, and such require years of barrel-aging, and most are aged far longer than that. Scotch and cognac are typically blended from casks that have been aging from 12 to 50 years (or longer, but the value of this is questionable).
OP wanted to know where these wines come from. Few wineries can afford the holding costs and opportunity costs of keeping product unsold in barrels or bottles for decades, although there are exceptions. Occasionally, a producer will stumble across old stock forgotten in a cave somewhere and sell it as a premium product. But you can’t simply just buy pre-phylloxera Bordeaux (for example) at your local bottle shop.
There is a surprisingly large industry devoted to wine auctions, where the product typically comes from private cellars. All too commonly wealthy men put away good wine and never get around to drinking it before they croak. Sometimes they just want cash. The wine at these auctions varies from ordinary to sublime. Provenance and a history of being well-cellared are important components of price. Those interested in wine spend a lot of time going through catalogues trying to find bargains.
Sometimes a truly splendid collection will emerge to be sold. It is often these that attract the sort of interest (and prices) that you are talking about. The wine’s manufacturer will have no direct interest in the outcome of the auction, except to the extent that gaining a high price adds to the brand’s prestige.
I thought Jefferson was always on the verge of going broke.
Well that’s demonstrably false. White Zinfandel, box wines, Maneschewitz, etc
While some wines like say, Barolo, certainly are meant to be aged for at least a few years for tannins to resolve themselves, it’s certainly not required. Some people like that big, tannic, in-your-face structure as opposed to a more complete, smoother product that aging can provide.
Sauternes such as Châteaux d’Yquem are notable for being stored for a very long time and fetching incredibly high prices for current and especially for older vintages.
The wine is notable for using rotten grapes. A specific mold changes the flavour of the grapes giving it a distinctive taste, while waiting until late in the season for this to happen means the grapes have dehydrated so much the juice is incredibly concentrated with sugar.
I recall reading once that those fifty and 100 year old wines were generally not only drinkable, but had improved with age.
Certainly, but I can ensure you that very few inhabitants of the 13 colonies, or other Britons for that matter, inherited 3000 acres and between ‘20 to 40 slaves’, he ended with the 5000 acre Monticello. His wife brought a dowry of 100 slaves ( plus I think debt from her father eventually ) and he had around 650 slaves in his lifetime, but he bought and sold many. At the war of independence he was the 26th richest man in Virginia. In today’s time he is thought to have been the 3rd richest president with 212 million 2010 dollars, after Washington of course who had double, and Kennedy with access, but not control over, the family fortune.
[ Jefferson seems as ambivalent on slavery as on a lot of things, he gave instructions to treat them well, which was winked at by the overseers; believed strongly they should be manumitted, yet freed few and In 1817, Jefferson’s friend, General Tadeusz Kościuszko died and left a bequest of nearly $20,000 to free slaves, including Jefferson’s slaves, and purchase land and farming equipment that would enable the freed slaves to start new lives. Even though it could have reduced his debts Jefferson refused the bequest preferring that they be gradually emancipated and because the laws of Virginia prevented him from honoring that bequest. In 1824, Jefferson proposed a federally financed emancipation plan. ]
He wasn’t necessarily hypocritical, just muddled. Maybe one of the reasons he owed so much, which few of us can afford to do: the ultra-rich are not always good stewards of their own wealth, as can be seen by that unfortunate oligarch who recently swung himself.
“But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air !”
In that time and place, Jefferson freeing his slaves wasn’t really viable.
Most couldn’t earn their way as skilled labor (though some could), and they would have to leave Virginia in a year if freed.
So letting them just stay there and work like they always had was the only good option.
Edit- a not-completely-evil option? I dunno.
But just setting all the slaves free would not have been kind.