There are a lot of cute sayings that lead one to believe time is kind to many a material item. While wine with some age on it can be an eye-opening experience, it can also be an extreme letdown. In order to broaden my palate and hopefully discover some bottles that fit in to the former category, this past summer I resolved to try some aged Bordeaux.
The first stone I overturned was the aged Bordeaux list on the website of my favorite Washington, DC retailer, Schneider’s. Among the three figure and up offerings of various first and second growths, I stumbled across a name I recognized and a price I couldn’t believe. It was a half-bottle of 1952 Chateau Gruaud Larose for $40!
I quickly got in touch with David White as he knows far more about Bordeaux than me. David confirmed that this was a very intriguing offering, and at the very least a gamble worth taking. Gruaud Larose is an estate situated in the southern-most part of the left-bank St. Julien appellation, which is sandwiched between Pauillac to the north and Margaux to the south. While St. Julien estates were shut out of the first-growth classification of 1855, the region boasts an impressive five second growths, including Gruaud Larose.
After a quick call to Schneider’s to check on the condition of the bottles (they had four, I believe), we arranged to purchase the bottle that was in the best shape. We picked up the bottle and let it “relax” for a couple days before pulling the cork on a Saturday afternoon at David’s.
The cork came out relatively easy. The color was a gorgeous light brown, and the wine offered initial hints of fruit that faded to a wonderful aroma of prunes and sweet toffee. We both remarked that, once the fruit faded, the nose could be mistaken for that of a tawny port. In the mouth, the wine was filled with smokiness and toast. Incredibly, there were tannins still present, as well as wonderfully complementary acidity. The finish was at least a minute long, giving up hints of the caramel and toffee present in the nose.
This was one of the most enjoyable glasses of wine I’ve ever had. It wasn’t the best wine, it wasn’t the best setting, and it certainly wasn’t the best company (kidding, David), but it was probably my most memorable experience drinking wine. I was entranced by the idea that this wine was in a bottle longer than my parents have been alive. This wine was a relic, as evidenced by what we read as we perused the label. We noticed that the wine was actually bottled in London as opposed to at the estate, which David informed me was a common practice at that time. While we didn’t purchase the remaining bottles at Schneider’s as we both had our limited budgets allocated to other finds, I will certainly seek out similar bargains in the future in the hopes that I have an experience that comes close to the ’52 Gruaud Larose.
I’d love to hear about your most memorable wine-drinking experience in the comments section!