Wine Talk

Snooth User: BigDBingo

Need some advice on two old bottles of Spanish wine

Posted by BigDBingo, Dec 14, 2009.

Hi Folks -

My parents recieved a gift of two bottles of wine from a Spanish Exchange Student about 15 years ago. They still have both bottles - and I am afraid they have gone round the bend. (The wine, not my folks, ha ha)

Here's what they have

1982 Tinto Vina San Marcos - Bodega Lalanne

1986 Rioja Bodegas Beronia Reserva - Ollavri-Rioja - Alta-Espana

I have included everything off the labels that I thought appropriate

They wines have been kept in a kitchen rack since they were received, in a climate controlled room - not cellar temp, but around 66-68 degrees.

Any chance they are still tasty?



Reply by Kenner, Dec 14, 2009.

The '86 Riserva should be good, the Tinto (red) less likely.
But you will never know until you open them. DO IT! Storage it the big variable. Spanish wines ,especially of that era were very well oaked and tannic, both factors making them ageworthy. If you have not had the opportunity to drink a very old wine, and see what time does to soften/ oxidize the tannins, let this be an opportunity, even if they haven't held up.
Be very careful with the corks: almost guaranteed to break up on pulling. There are techniques.... even if you have to push the pieces into the bottle and pour through a strainer to filter out the pieces, don't despair. You may be rewarded with a unique experience, or at least a fond memory. Let us know how it turns out.

Reply by kylewolf, Dec 14, 2009.

beside repeating what Beke said, I only have one little nugget of info.

a friend of mine owns a small winery and have their own extensive wine collection. They have found when opening an old bottle the CO2 injection method has been the most successful in getting an old cork out without breaking it. Most likely due to the straight pushing force and not the (most likely not straight up) pulling force generated by most keys.

Otherwise all I can say is good luck and let them get plenty of air. Also, reviews would be welcome :)

Reply by dmcker, Dec 14, 2009.

These wines should be educational to drink now. Don't toss them, but open and try them.

When you say 'kitchen rack', do you mean in the kitchen? The temperature doesn't sound ideal for long term storage, but is not a total disaster in and of itself. Of more concern is the foot traffic and other sources of vibration nearby, and how brightly lit the storage area might be.

I haven't had either of the wines. The Bodega Lalanne has more history, and the family was making wine back in the 1800s. Bodegas Beronia only started operations in the 1970s. Both have websites, thought the Beronia example is only in Spanish and seems to prefer slick presentation over useful information.

A friend of mine who revels in Riojas and other Spanish wines remembers having an '82 Beronia Reserva approx. 10 years ago and thinking it was still young. It had been stored perfectly, though. Cellar Tracker notes from this decade for other vintages in the '80s and early '90s aren't complimentary regarding its aging. Certainly there are other Riojas from that era that are still vibrantly alive and kicking. The fact that Veronia was still a young operation back then and that this was only a Reserva, not a Gran Reserva (nowadays they have different labelings), means that this bottle may be over the hill.

Others on this forum may have better insights (calling GregT!), but my guess is that these are mid-range riojas that are a bit past their prime. Probably would've been better to drink them 10 years ago, but they still should be interesting to drink now. If you don't like them after opening, use them in sauces with meat.


Reply by BigDBingo, Dec 14, 2009.

When I say kitchen rack i mean precisely that - a rack that has been built into the cabinetry - shielded from most of the light by the other bottles stored above it. Vibration may be an issue, and I think the wines may be past their prime, but we will open them this holiday season and try them.

I will certainly post reviews when i am able. Thank you for the replies!

Reply by GregT, Dec 14, 2009.

The 1982 vintage was superb in Rioja, the 1986 not so much. Unfortunately, the Lalanne is from Somontano, not Rioja. Can't tell you about that vintage of the wine but I had a 1982 Beronia a few weeks ago and it was just excellent.

If the Lalanne just says Tinto San Marcos, and not Crianza or Reserva or Gran Reserva, which I think is the case, then it was a young wine meant for early consumption. And my guess is that it's way over the hill. I've had some Rioja crianzas from the 1982 vintage and they're still fine, although past prime, but I'm not sure I'd expect much from the joven, especially as I'm pretty sure it has no oak. Too bad too because they use a lot of cab and merlot in Somontano and at that bodega, while the joven is mostly tempranillo.

Not to be a party pooper here, but the final problem is that your wines weren't really stored in conditions conducive to aging. I wouldn't worry so much about whatever vibration may have occured so much as the warm temps that accelerate aging. So while a perfectly stored 1982 Reserva might be a great wine today, a less-than-perfectly stored 1986 might not be so great.

However, all that said, you never know until you try them. You're not trying to sell them after all, so nothing's really lost if you open them and taste them. If you pour them into your glass and they're brown and cloudy, well, have something as back up. But you might end up with a glorious experience.

And the cork thing can be an issue. Many of those older corks crumble if you use a regular screw pull. So if you don't have a gas cork remover, try an ah-so.

Good luck!

Reply by GhostLemur, Dec 14, 2009.

Sounds fun. One of the reasons why I've got into cellaring wine is the pleasure, excitement and discovery of opening a bottle and not knowing what you'll find. While some may be poor or past it, to me at least that doesn't remove the positives from doing it, but just heightens the excitement and increases the pleasure of those pleasant discoveries.

Reply by dmcker, Dec 14, 2009.

BeKe and Greg, don't know what you guys are opening but I find not much more than one cork in 100 (maybe three in 200) that is disintegrating from my bottles from the '80s. Earlier (especially the '50s and earlier '60s) is a different story. Though I'm not opening a lot from the '80s of Spanish origin. Was their use of corks particularly bad? Of course, if the corks have dried....

And Greg, don't underestimate the effects of vibration on wine. Electric mixers and blenders and food processors and coffee grinders and canopeners, etc., can definitely affect wine stored nearby. Ongoing bottle shock from whatever source is no joke. And, of course, temperature spikes (not just averages) are deadly. Moral of the story, of course, is not to store wine in the kitchen for more than a few weeks, if that.

FYI, a small 'experiment' I reported several months ago:

And Greg, just the useful info on the wines I was hoping to see. ;-)

Sean, please do post your tasting notes on the bottles. Color me curious....

Reply by GregT, Dec 14, 2009.

What I meant was that in the situation at hand, the warmth probably did them in long ago regardless of the vibration.

Actually I really don't know one way or another about vibration. We assume stillness is best only because that's all we know, and I suppose that's the best approach since we do know it, but not many people have done experiments to see what the differences would be between long-term slight vibration and short. Although I must say, I admire your willingness to jump right in and do the testing yourself! Bravo.

I don't think Spain had any worse problems with corks than anywhere else, but it just pays to be cautious IMO. Of course the ah-so isn't always the best choice either - not long ago someone gave me a bottle to open and the cork had apparently been loose. I barely tapped it trying to put one prong in and the cork just fell into the bottle.

And every once in a while we get a surprise and a wine that we have no expectations for turns out to be stunningly good. Who knows? These may end up being much hardier than we imagine!

Reply by madmanny, Dec 15, 2009.

I've opened some old wines that were not stored under great conditions, at least earler in their lives, and had some wonderful surprises. Just a few months ago, we opened a 69 St. Emilion at noon for a dinner that evening. It was a bottle that I actually bought in St. Emilion in the 70's after grad school so there was a sentimental attachment. It sat in the trunk of a rental car most of the summer, and survived several flights as well as a few coast to coast drives. It really smelled off at first. My immediate reaction was to dump it. Then I remembered what my mom always said (about leftovers - not wine) "You can always throw it out later if you don't use it." Good thing I always listened to mom. By 8 PM, we had a beautiful velvety wine that we really enjoyed. Hope you have the same luck.

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