The very last bottle …

I was cooking on Saturday evening and needed some wine to moisturise some belly of pork I was going to cook for a couple of hours – why stand over a stove if you can leave the dish to cook itself?  And I was trying to find a space in the ‘everyday bottles’ bin in the kitchen so I could empty a box cluttering up the cupboard. So I took a chance on a bottle without a label, which I knew was about 25 years old and which was – I can say definitively – the very last bottle on the planet of this particular wine.  Having had the bottle since around the mid 1980s I had no idea if it would be drinkable or not, I rather suspected not.

So, what was it like? The cork was distinctly small and virtually jumped out of the bottle, not a good sign.  The wine was a fairly attractive amber colour, with a clear orange rim, a sure sign of age, and wasn’t entirely clear. The bottle had thrown a bit of sediment but in general there was some very slight cloudiness. One approach to the glass reveals that the wine is in drinkable condition … a moderately oxidised nose, but with pleasant honey and raisin aromas, some marmalade and mushroom notes developing after a while, a bit like an old sherry.  The palate is consistent with this – a slight woodiness, some residual sweetness, some smoke, definitely high in alcohol.  It reminded Janet of the sherry she used to drink many years ago.  But all in all, the wine was still more than drinkable, in fact quite pleasant with the pork, five spice and wine dish.

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And what was the wine?  I was an impoverished post-graduate student for many years and in those years made country wines – elderberry and elderflower especially – and kit wines.  The resulting bottles were drinkable but not great, but they do teach you about wine making and I tried all sorts of styles: still, sparkling, dessert, even a sherry type.  In my first job the economic equation and time constraints began to change the balance and so wine production stopped and wine buying began.  Most of the home production was drunk fairly rapidly but a couple of bottles hung about and didn’t get drunk.  As the years passed they got moved from house to house like heirlooms you don’t know what to do with.  Finally one bottle was left, one without a label of course, so it is difficult to know exactly what it was!

I think, and this is my best guess, it was a sherry type wine made from raisons (so it does just qualify as wine) and I believe also had some sort of grain in it – which might account for the woodiness.  Anyway, it was jolly decent of it to bring down the final curtain on this now far distant chapter of my wine education by being recognisable and even drinkable all these years later.  After all, when this wine was made, computers were still the size of a small fridge (I bought my first Amstrad with 512K of memory at much the same time), the internet was the preserve of IT professionals and blogging had not been invented.  There has been lots of development since then, but none as pleasing as the fact that even a home made bottle without a label can be drinkable and give pleasure after all these years.

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2 Responses to “The very last bottle …”

  • winefriend:

    John – I feared mine might have suffered the same fate – but I was pleasantly surprised!

  • John Hawke:

    When I moved into our South London flat in 1971, the previous occupants had left a bottle in the larder labelled ‘Pear Plonk, July’.
    We were very suspicious and invited friends round to sample this treasure – none of us were ‘into’ wine at that time but one of the invitees – who, allegedly, ‘knew a bit’ – was given the first glass for a verdict (before anyone else was prepared to risk it!)
    After nosing it for a protracted period of time – and being heckled quite mercilessly to bite the bullet and have a swig – he finally stated that, after laying it down for a few years, it would make an excellent varnish remover.

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