While organizing my cellar, organizing being an understatement as I brought together 3 collections and numerous pending deliveries, I had the opportunity to visually inspect every bottle I own, or at least is we're being truthful every bottle I have moved so far. Sadly I now have a collection of approximately five cases of old nebbiolo, in the form of Barolo and Barbaresco, that seem to be shot, dropping their pigment as only these wines seem to be capable of doing.
I don't know what I paid for all of these, or when exactly each was purchased, but a rough estimate is that I now have $6,000 worth of crap wine. Interestingly there are several producers who are too well represented here, though the collection does feature more than a dozen producers. I'm not sure producer pays a role here, though there really is a lot of Einaudi here.
So why am I writing about this today? For starters, it seems like everyone and their mother is enjoying perfectly preserved bottles of these old wines on a daily basis. Which of course stimulates demand, in turn stimulating the supply side of the equation, and that is where things so sideways here. We're now trading in bottles that have sat on backbars, in garages, under kitchen sinks, and who knows where else in a voracious effort to replicate all these social media savvy consumption events.
I am here to tell you otherwise.
Lots of old wine is crap.
Lots of people couldn't tell a bad old wine from sewer water. And even if they could there's much less fun in telling you how much my wine sucked than telling you what a revelatory experience I had with it. After all I am special.
Lots of old bottles are not what they seem.
These bottles of crap are what they seem. To whit:
I recently pulled a bottle of 1989 Einaudi barolo for a dinner and thought why not see if any of these dubious bottles had any life left in them. So I grabbed three bottles that looked as promising as possible considering their light color. A 1961 Barolo, a 1974 Barolo, and a 1985 Barolo.
Things did not look too bad during the opening. Good corks, good fills, then I decanted them. Welcome to crap town. But I know that Barolo often has the magical ability to right itself, gaining color and freshness with air. Not this time, this time we have an overnight affair in crap town.
1961 Einaudi Barolo - Smoky, licorice rich Marsala. Not bad if consumed with that mindset but certainly not good Barolo. I can't score this but I did try and make a marsala style sauce with it. We can call that the restoration of crap town and try to avoid doing that. Ever again.
1974 Einaudi Barolo - Celery seed, some red fruit, mint and asphalt. The final gasps of life, not at all unpleasant with all the mint, tar, and caramelized orange peel, but lean and harsh through the finish. I thought this had a better chance of recovery. 70pts
1985 Einaudi Barolo - Smoky, earthy, leathery, and tarry with a hint of sweetness. A point or two better than the 74, still not really pleasurable but with the savory characteristics that define Barolo. 71pts
So that's it. No wine worth drinking. Three bottles down, 57 to go. Don't believe what you see people. There are tons of crap bottles out there, and while when you find a good bottle it can offer a transcendent experience, figure a 33% success rate, so triple the price of each of those experiences. For me it's just not worth it, so i'm out of this market. Well, at least until I plow through my remaining 57 bottles.