I recently bought a mixed case of 21 bottles of mature Bordeaux mostly from the 1970’s with a couple from ’66 and ’64, both birthday years of wine loving family members, which is what initially drew my attention to the lot.
For some time I’ve been trying to pick up some mature wines at auction. But taking the view that one should expect a discount of around 30%, given that the provenance of Duty Paid auction wines cannot be a hundred percent guaranteed, I have been consistently disappointed. Admittedly I had been targeting full cases but was still quite surprised to receive an invoice for both mixed lots that I had placed absentee bids on. I had thought they were cheeky bids.
Clearly by pursuing mixed lots one eliminates the investment market and probably most merchants, BUT one is taking a gamble. So far, I have opened five bottles – three bottles of Grand Puy Lacoste 1975 (classed growth), and two Chateau Houissant 1975 (St Estephe cru – never heard of it either). Three of these have been excellent (2x Houissant & 1 GPL) and two undrinkable.
The lot description of the GPL did highlight that two had ‘cut capsules’ one with ‘mid shoulder’ and the other with ‘high shoulder’ level (the level of the wine in the bottle is a critical indication of how well it has been stored and its likely quality). However when opened, the bottles only had about 1.5 cm of cork left. The corks must have pushed out (perhaps over heated?) as sometimes happens and burst the capsule. Someone then just trimmed them off but the remaining cork was not enough to stop the wine from completely oxidising.
The good bottle of GPL clearly from the same case had a level of ‘very top shoulder’ (apparently anything down to high shoulder should be fine for such an old wine) and still had a core of fruit with a bit of steel to start with and lovely savoury notes developing as the wine opened up over the evening, incredible. The two bottles of Houissant have also been delicious, less fruit but more of the classic, leather, tobacco, earthiness, which is impressive for a humble wine.
So far then I think I’m ahead, though sadly the levels of the ’64s are not so good, we shall see. Happy gambling!