Shalom has his first experience of re-corking old wines from the deepest part of the Salomon cellars, and 1969 Grüner Veltliner. This brings back memories of when Bert Salomon showed up at my place in Melbourne for my 40th birthday with a case of 1962 Grüner Veltliner!
Yes, a whole dozen, as he was not sure how many people were coming!! I will never forget Bert’s generosity and true friendship in this wonderful gesture. Oh, the wines was brilliant, very sound, complex, provocative, showing a lot of development although not falling over – like the birthday boy.
Day 9 – 04/10/2011 – Re-corks Anyone?
Alcohol levels are being checked again today and more DAP is added to any smelly must. There was a ferment which had a smell reminiscent of smelly tofu, which my Japanese colleague agreed with me. Tofu is not something you would like to find in your wine.
There are not many grapes coming in today so we spent some time re-bottling the 1969 Grüner Veltliner. The bottles were brought up from the dank cellars underneath the current facilities. I was told that the wines used to be made down there. Now, it is just used for storing the old vintages.
When the 1969 bottles were brought up to see the light of day, they were in a terrible shape. The bottles were 0.7 l instead of the normal 0.75 l. The bottles were in different shapes and there were some bottles with significant ullage in there. The corks used in that time were not as long as the ones today. Black mold was growing all over the bottle and dust has collected around it. Think of the mold as grease that smells like funky mushrooms. A big washing down of the bottle was needed to not only rid it of the black soot, but there were little insects on the surface of the cork too. Some bottles had tartaric crystals at the bottom of the bottle. This does not mean the wines are undrinkable but they just look like shards of glass in there.
Each bottle of wine is tasted to see if the wine is oxidized. The lip of each bottle is cleaned of the mold before the wine is poured in the glass. Usually what we are looking for are wines that smell funky, vinegary or uncharacteristic of its aged character. The bad wines are thrown away and the good ones are kept aside. Sometimes, a second opinion is sort by the head winemaker if we are not too sure if the wine is spoiled. I noticed that the bottles that had high ullage were usually in good condition.
Once all the good bottles have been selected, four samples are taken from the bottles to test for sulphur levels. The average sulphur levels we got was around 15ppm per bottle. Carbon dioxide gas was added into each bottle. Each bottle was topped up with 2006 Wieden & Berg Grüner Veltliner to below 5-10 mm below the cork. The amount is so small compared to the contents of the bottle that the integrity of 1961 won’t be compromised. Then, we made a sulphur solution and topped each bottle up to around an amount of 30ppm. Finally comes the re-corking of each bottle. The whole process from washing to re-corking took us around 5 hours. Out of 83 bottles of wine, 27 were undrinkable. That is 32.5% of all the 1969 vintages left.
We left the wines alone and tomorrow we will uncork some bottles to measure if the sulphur level is what we want it to be before putting them back into the cellar, hopefully for another 20 years.
I have neither tasted a Grüner this old in my life nor done any bottle re-corking of old vintages in my life. This has been a wonderful experience. As for how a 1969 Gruner tasted like, see my notes below:
A pale gold colour. Delicate, developed and pronounced on the nose, light honey and toast with aromas of kerosene and a slight floral smell, hints of dried pineapples and lychees. On the palate, acid is still strikingly present, a light alcohol content, very subtle and delicate, toast and light almonds, with a very long length and burst of dried citrus fruit and confectionary flavours in the back. Some minerality in it with a light lychee aftertaste that is quite distinct.