Wine Talk

Snooth User: Harrisonb

Help me out here

Posted by Harrisonb, Dec 5, 2015.

I've had this in my possession for awhile now and don't know a whole lot about wine; is there anything special about this wine? 

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Replies

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 5, 2015.

Hi,

You're in Arizona?  How have you stored this wine all these years?  It most likely will not be good.  It won't hurt to open it and try it.  To expect anything from it would be unreasonable.   Interesting bottle.  Obvious signs of ullage.  It seems there's a ureter on the bottle.  I'm curious how well it's sealed.  Well, good luck.  I hope it still has life.  :)

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 5, 2015.

Sorry, PS:

As you can read, it's Italian, from Tuscany.  It's Sangiovese.  The basket thing is no longer favourable as far as fine wine goes.  Probably wasn't in it's day either, but this is a few years older than I am!

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Reply by Harrisonb, Dec 5, 2015.

I'm from Arkansas (: Haven't stored the wine in any special way, more as just a decoration piece. Any idea if it would be worth anything? Seems like it's sealed pretty well from what I can tell.

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 5, 2015.

Oh sorry.  I thought AR was Arizona.  I'm in Canada, so I don't know all the States' abbreviations.

The wine is certainly not worth anything.  Even if it were kept in ideal conditions, it probably wouldn't be worth selling.  I'd just continue using it as a decoration, or pull that cap off and try some just to see if it's vinegar (I'm sure it is).

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Reply by Harrisonb, Dec 5, 2015.

It's alright (: Thank you for the information!!

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Reply by dmcker, Dec 6, 2015.

If it's never been opened then resealed you've lost an awful lot of juice from evaporation over the years. NOT a good sign. Plus it was never an expensive wine in the first place, nor one built to last 50 years. It will be thin and weak, perhaps tasting like thinned and and very weak vinegar. Though with the color as it is I wonder if the bottle hasn't been used before with some other juice poured in to replace the original?

The only thing interesting about the wine is the bottle. That is a unique decanter-esque container. I'd be surprised if you could get much money for it from anyone, but the only possibilities I could consider for anyone that might shell out more than a couple of bucks would be either a collector of interesting bottles, or an Italian restaurant that wanted to display it as part of their decoration. And even they wouldn't spend much, I would guess.

Open it with friends or family and try it, but be prepared to either dump it into a vinegar cask, or down the drain if you don't want to use it for salad dressing. Have another bottle or two of wine you know that will be tasty handy, too, so you can wash your mouth out and make an enjoyable event out of it. Plenty to discuss about the wine as you open and try it, but probably not because the wine itself will be good. Afterwards wash the bottle and use it for a decanter!  ;-)

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Reply by duncan 906, Dec 6, 2015.

In your picture we cannot read the vintage year? It is obviously a very old bottle though.The straw basket ,known as a 'fiasco' in Italian is rarely used today. The only thing to do is to try the wine but do not be too surpriseed if it is undrinkable

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Reply by Harrisonb, Dec 6, 2015.

The vintage year is 1963 (quite old I'd say!) I agree it it probably undrinkable, unfortunately.  

Here is how the seal looks after these years if your interested 

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Reply by dmcker, Dec 6, 2015.

Thanks for showing the capsule covering what we guess to be a cork. I'm curious about the seal on the spout, too. Is that a rubber cap on it?

1963 isn't, by itself, too old. Some wines from then will still be more than drinkable. It's just that this Chianti was not built to last that long, and the bottle is a bit sketchy. Again, do you know how it's been stored all this while?

I was able to read the vintage with no trouble from your original photos.

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Reply by Harrisonb, Dec 6, 2015.

The spout has a rubber cap, I received it from my step mother a few years back and she said it was just sitting in storage for a long time(I have no clue how long) I presumed it was no good due to how old it was and have had it just standing upright for 4 years or so maybe. I agree....the bottle is a bit sketchy. The bottle is pretty dusty, haven't bothered cleaning it since I've had possession of it. I assume the hole in the side (it has a cork that matches the basket design) is for Ice to keep the bottle chilled...if you were to drink it? 

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Reply by GregT, Dec 6, 2015.

No, not for ice. That was a very inexpensive bottle bottle of wine when it was released - fairly bad even then. Ten years later the people in Chianti decided that they had to do something about the reputation of the area and they established some rules for wine that was going to be called Chianti.Some producers even stopped putting the word "Chianti" on their bottles they were so embarrassed.

Those bottles were put in restaurants. When empty, they'd be put on a table with a red and white checked tablecloth and there's be a candle stuck in the top.. The restaurant would serve bad spaghetti and a more exotic dish called lasagna and if it was really an authentic Italian restaurant, they'd serve some kind of shellfish or mussels over pasta. The father of one of my friends, quite the foodie in the days before that term was ever hallucinated into being, told me about this great restaurant in Detroit by his office. He said "They're so authentic that when you say you want the mussels they ask you 'What sauce? Red or white?'"! That was truly the real deal - it was before Italian food, and Italians themselves, had any respect at all in the US. Mussels were uber-exotic and going to a place that gave you a choice of red or white sauce meant that the place knew what it was doing.

I think that wine was brought in by the St Julian wine company in St Julian on the west side of Michigan. The owner was directly from Italy so it would make sense. They also made wine - some of the worst wines made in the world, slightly sweet and from various grapes and fruits grown in Michigan. The west of Michigan had a few of those and every year in a place called Paw Paw they'd have a big festival. All the kids from Michigan and Chicago would go there, drink gallons of bad wine, and puke in the streets.

For many years I would not touch something called Chianti. A few years ago I was in Michigan drinking some wine that was really good and I was told it was made locally. Who knew? Both Chianti and Michigan wine has come a long way since that bottle was produced.

The wine was undrinkable when bottled, will be worse now, and may not even be wine if the bottle were made only for display. You can probably get about five bucks for the bottle on Ebay.

But it is also a little bit of history as well, so you may want to just keep it.

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Reply by Harrisonb, Dec 6, 2015.

Thanks for the info! Interesting history...I think I'll keep it around for awhile now that I know more about it. So what was the hole used for if not for ice? 

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 6, 2015.

;)

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Reply by LindeMen, Dec 19, 2015.

Interesting information and a question.

Can most all old wines be used as a salad vinegar?   Reading about it above was the first time I was aware of such a thing.  Would like to read more about it, any good links suggested?

So an old white, or an old merlot, or an old pink wine, can all be used as a vinegar?  What are the safety issues if any, and what to look for for signs of bad vinegar.  

Thanks folks, and I hope Santa is good to you all and throws many bottles of your favorite wine down the chimney to a very soft landing!!.

 

 

 

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Reply by outthere, Dec 19, 2015.

You don't say.

 

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Reply by dmcker, Dec 19, 2015.

Greg, great post from earlier this month, which I somehow missed until now. You had me spewing my Corsican red twice while reading it. Not that puking in the streets only comes from oldskool salad-dressing Chianti, of course....

Lindemen, nice imagery regarding Santa's wine-delivery finesse. Wines don't have to be that old, unfortunately, to be eligible for the vinegar cask, or direct use as salad dressing. Open a cheap bottle, perhaps red to start with, drink a bit, then let it stay open for days. Try it in a week or two, and see if it doesn't seem like it might at that point best be used in a light vinaigrette, where you don't want the strength of real vinegar. Alternatively, pouring it into a vinegar cask (kind of like a sourdough starter jar in the fridge, in a very different context--and you don't need the fridge) will mean it becomes good, strong red wine vinegar quickly. White wine also works, and I've never encountered or heard of any health or safety issues. Who knows, it might even have probiotic qualities! Wonder if some paleo diet blogger might pick it up and classify it as 'primal'?!  ;-)

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Reply by GregT, Dec 19, 2015.

There aren't any health dangers that I know of. It's what people used to do with wine anyway. You can make it from any fruit juice and you can blend your juices and your wines. 

It's a bacteria that causes the change and you can either let your wine sit around for a few weeks before it turns or you can get it going by using a starter, exactly like you would make yogurt or sourdough, just like DV says above.

Keep in mind that most of the vinegar you find at supermarkets is going to be pasteurized and may not work as a starter. So either let it sit like DV suggests or find some "natural" vinegar at a health food store or farmer's market or maybe Whole Foods, put some of that into your leftover wine and let it go. Once you make it, you can keep it going just by adding more wine every now and then. And then you can experiment by adding different fruit juices - again, make sure it's pure juice, not some supermarket "juice drink".

Harrison - if you're still around, I would imagine that the spout is for pouring. There's a kind of "handle" made of straw opposite the spout side. It doesn't seem practical to hold the bottle by that piece of straw though - it's mostly for decoration.

Centuries ago, the whole basket was actually useful. It was easier for glassblowers to blow a bottle with a round bottom than try to flatten it out. By making a straw cradle with a flat bottom, the bottle was protected and could also be set down. Originally the basket covered the entire bottle, but then people would use tiny bottles that couldn't be seen, so the regulators made them reduce the size of the basket.

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Reply by dvogler, Dec 19, 2015.

Let's get back to the purpose of "the hole".

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 20, 2015.

Maybe we need to start a thread about making vinegar.  I'm a self-taught vinegaron (like that coinage?); any time I see an interesting wine from some region or grape that's new to me on the shelves of the discounter, I buy one and tell myself, "If it's bad, I'll make vinegar."  Assuming of course that it's pretty cheap.  This practice has worked out pretty well: I learned about Ribera del Duero and Priorat on great inexpensive bottles (Scala Dei--every wine they made--for under $14 per), but there are bad streaks, too.  At one point I have about 5 750ml bottles vinegaring on the kitchen counter.  Still, when you consider that a little bottle of red wine vinegar can easily cost $6 and it's usually a tiny amount, with no upside, my way works well for me.

I always laugh really hard when I see a fancy brand of red wine vinegar that says it was made with "real Napa Valley Cabernet."  Yes, real crappy Napa Cab.  Why else would you vinegar it?  Besides, the things that make the wine good or interesting pretty much go away when the vinegar microbes get to it.

I never have used a mother, but if you have non-pasteurized and unfiltered vinegar, it's just the sludge in the bottom of the bottle.  In general, if I let mine sit around long enough, it concentrates through evaporation.  No need to do anything to protect it because it's already vinegar.  I usually start the process in the original bottle, but as I accumulate bottles in the counter, I put them together.  By the time we moved out for the renovation, I had a "solera" bottle of vinegar that had plenty of its own mother at the bottom. 

Now, as to that straw covered Chianit, the bottle is perfect for pouring... vinegar!  I do remember the old straw bottles, and I have lots of memories of old Italian restaurants.  But one thing I have learned (and I have EricGuido and GdP to thank for some of it, to be sure), is that, before being "Italian" became cool (thanks to big band singers like Sinatra, Bennett, Como, and, probably most of all for his "Italian-ness," Dean Martin), there were no Italians per se.  Not to say that there wasn't a country, but the idea of some pan-Italian red sauce restaurant wouldn't really have existed and no one would have said, "It's so authentic they ask if you want white or red sauce with your clams/mussels."  There's a great bit in the New Yorker this week in Notes and Comment about Scorcese telling this playwright how his neighborhood was  Sicilian, while three blocks over on the Lower East it was Neapolitan.  My own neighborhood in Oakland was Ligurian (Genova delicatessen, Colombo Club), while across Broadway it was Calabrian--there's even a cookbook by an author from "that" side of the street, all Calabrian. Later, the American Italian restaurant became a place to go for non-Italians and became generic, but back in the '20s when my area grew, a restaurant would have been a hole in the wall serving Genoese specialties; more important was the market (still in existence, but little more than a sandwich shop) where you could buy products from the old country or produced by your uprooted countrymen.

Sadly, these days there are precious few Italian regional restaurants that aren't crazy expensive, at least in the Bay Area.  That's the price of assimilation, I guess.  I think I'll go put on a Jerry Vale record and reminisce.

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Reply by GregT, Dec 20, 2015.

" but the idea of some pan-Italian red sauce restaurant wouldn't really have existed and no one would have said, "It's so authentic they ask if you want white or red sauce with your clams/mussels."

Richard - not true at all. The Italians themselves, at least those I knew, spoke of themselves as being from Naples, Rome, Sicily, etc. But to non-Italians, they were all the same. Even if they were from what is now Albania or Croatia. And if you want to talk about prejudice, they were pretty far down on the list of acceptable neighbors, like way at the bottom. Outside of a few large east coast cities and San Francisco and Las Vegas, there weren't a lot of them and they were almost an exotic species. This isn't the place to list all of the various slurs that I grew up hearing but I know all of them. And then there were the complaints about the "smell of garlic" that was not something you found in most American households. It all depends on where you grew up, but I promise you that in the midwest and many other places, "Italian" food simply meant crappy red sauce with noodles. Nobody called it "pasta" until the American food revolution launched in the 1970s by people like Craig Claiborne and James Beard.

People like Marcella Hazan tried to do for Italian cooking what Julia had done for French cooking. She had far less success as an individual but ironically, today Italy has pretty thoroughly replaced France as the country Americans look to for culinary excellence. Perhaps the most famous "Italian" chef these days would be Lidia Bastianich, who was born in a part of Italy that later became Yugoslavia and now is Croatia. Like I said, all the same.

As far as that quote goes, it is most assuredly true and my question on hearing it was "What is white sauce?" When I got older I made it my business to visit every one of the old Italian restaurants in southeast Michigan where I discovered things like veal with lemon and garlic, etc.

Just a few miles from my house, close enough to deliver, a couple guys opened a little place that sold an exotic concoction called pizza. They had some success and one of the guys wanted to grow the business. The other guy was happy with his little spot. So they split up and the second guy opened one place after another. He is Yugoslavian and he created an empire that today we know as Little Caesar's. But when he was starting out, there was a billboard that advertised the stuff. It said "Try something different tonight. Try pizza!" It's the perfect example of what people consider a pan-Italian food.

Back to that bottle. The red-checked tablecloth places with the bottle of Chianti are perfect examples of pan-Italian. Tomato-based dishes come from the south and if there were a "natural" pairing, it would be with wines from the south of Italy, not from Tuscany. But the producers in Chianti so dominated the export market that even today when most people think of Italian wine, they think of Chianti. It's Italian. It goes with Italian food.

Anyway, here's the place I was talking about:

http://www.detroitmemories.com/newsletters/09-2010/Famed_Detroit_restaurateur_Mario_Lelli_dies_at_97.pdf

 

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