The 30-Year-Old Chianti

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On our visit to Fattoria Montagliari in Chianti, Italy, Cari and I were astonished to see wines for sale dating back to the late 1940s. Much beyond, “Hey, that’s pretty cool,” we didn’t think much of it and enjoyed our best lunch of the trip, purchasing a recent vintage to enjoy at home later.

After leaving the vineyard, the thought popped into our minds – “I wonder how much a 1981 chianti would have cost us?”  After all, we had never consumed a wine more than a few years old and it seemed like a good occasion, what with both of us turning 30 in 2011, to pick up a wine as old as us.

Thankfully, my sister and brother-in-law who missed visiting the winery the first time planned a later excursion.  I told them that if they could buy the 1981 chianti for less than €50, to buy it for us.  Sure enough, €49.50 later, we had a very old looking bottle of chianti to take home.

Then came the discussions of when to consume this bottle of wine.  Surely we were going to wait until after Violet was born and Cari’s birthday seemed too soon as she was only five weeks old then.  We had discussed doing it on the weekend of my birthday, but I was a bit under the weather and my palette probably wouldn’t have done this 30-year-old wine justice.

This weekend, we went for it.

After reading up online, we learned a few things about drinking wine  aged more than 10 years:

1. The bottle should be left to stand upright for at least a few hours before opening to ensure that sediment settles at the bottom.

2. When opening, you have to be super-careful not to break the cork.  Those things get a bit delicate over time.

3. Always pour the wine into a carafe so you can see what it is you’re about to drink.  If sediment starts to appear in the neck of the bottle, set it down for a few minutes before trying again.

Opening the cork wasn’t a problem, and incredibly we didn’t run into a single speck of sediment in pouring the wine into the carafe.  One thing we noticed, though, was just how quickly the flavour of the wine changed.  It went from fruity and very juice-like in its earliest sips to a very fine glass of wine before ultimately starting to take on a bitterness a few hours later.  Thankfully by then we were down to our last few drops.

Of course, we couldn’t just drink the bottle without pairing it with some excellent food.  We purchased a small beef tenderloin steak from Rowe Farms and prepared pasta with truffle sauce, one of our favourite dishes from the trip on which we had acquired this bottle of wine.

Would we do it again?  It’s hard to say.  While it didn’t blow our other favourite wines out of the water, it was certainly one of the most interesting (and very, very good), offering up a deliciously unique flavour while thoughts of some grapes being harvested the year we were born stirred through our minds.  We can’t help but think of the other old vintages we saw on the shelves and what kind of tastes those wines would have offered.

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One Response to “The 30-Year-Old Chianti”

  1. Matt Says:

    Very nice. I have a bottle of port I’ve been sitting on for about 15 years. Thinking of cracking it open at some point. But port is a slightly different animal from wine and aging is a bit less tricky. My dad had a pretty incredible selection of California cabs and Bordeaux that he allowed to go to waste by over-aging it under poor storage conditions. Tsk tsk…

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