Wasting Old Port

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AHB
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Wasting Old Port

Post by AHB » 08:59 Mon 09 Jul 2007

Derek mentioned my Quinta do Noval Nacional 1960 in a thread about Do you need an excuse to open good port?

Fortunately I can point out that I did say in that thread that I occasionally open bottles from the 60s and 70s when I'm on my own and just want something different and a bit special.

My 1960 Quinta do Noval was one such bottle. Acquired in a merchant's stock clearance along with several other bottles of other ports, it had started to seep so was consigned to Death Row.

I opened the bottle on Saturday morning and had a heck of a shock when I found that the cork was branded AJ Da Silva, Quinta do Noval 1960, NACIONAL. I still have a glass or two left, but this is a beautiful vintage port and is very elegant and refined.

And the good news is that I still have a bottle of 1960 Quinta do Noval bought in the same stock clearance. I now just have to get out that high power torch to see if I can make out the branding on the cork through the glass of the bottle...

Alex
Top Ports in 2018 (so far): Niepoort VV (1960's Bottling), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994 and San Leonardo Very Old White (Bottled 2018)
2017 Ports of the year: Fonseca 1927 and Quinta do Noval 1927

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RonnieRoots
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Post by RonnieRoots » 10:10 Mon 09 Jul 2007

Not wasting at all IMO, but an incredible deal of good fortune.
I must say that i don't usually open really old ports on my own (also because LadyR loves them so much, she would be very hurt if she missed out), but I do go out and buy some VP, mostly in half bottle, to enjoy on my own.

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Post by DRT » 11:24 Mon 09 Jul 2007

Perhaps your other bottle would make a good partner to the Cockburn's and Warre's 1960's I have been thinking of bringing along on the 18th? :wink:

Derek
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Post by uncle tom » 13:28 Mon 09 Jul 2007

My occasional attempts to read corks through the dark glass of a port bottle have always resulted in failure - if anyone has any neat tricks for doing this, then please share.

Incidentally, I have noticed that many bottles that appear too dark to check the level when held up to daylight or a 'pearl' lightbulb, can be checked if held up close to a clear glass 60W bulb.

Mindful that moves are afoot in the eu to outlaw filiament bulbs, I'm on the lookout for a small stock of clear glass bulbs to 'lay down' for the future - but all the ones in the supermarkets seem to the pearl type.

If anyone sees clear glass bulbs on sale - please let me know!

Tom
Last edited by uncle tom on 15:25 Mon 09 Jul 2007, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by uncle tom » 15:24 Mon 09 Jul 2007

OK, I spurred myself into action - there is a web retailer called 'The Lightbulb Company' with suitable merchandise - if anyone else is interested!

Tom
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Post by Conky » 15:39 Mon 09 Jul 2007

Tom,

I haven't got any mysteriously Old Bottles that could do with verifying. And what I'm about to suggest must be a waste of time, otherwise everyone else would know, but have you tried Flash photography.
Image
When I spoke to a Scenes of Crime bloke, his suggestion, was that a powerful flash should get through dark glass.

Dont blame me if you waste a lot of time and effort and it doesn't work.
And I reiterate, surely Auctioneers would know this for really expensive bottles. :?

Alan

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Post by uncle tom » 16:39 Mon 09 Jul 2007

Interesting idea - perhaps Alex can be the test bed with his NN60..

Tom
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Post by AHB » 09:39 Tue 10 Jul 2007

I was thinking the same. Having seen the photo posted by Alan in his note, I have decided to try the idea out. However, I need to find the other bottle first. Although my bottles are all lying down and in temperature controlled storage again, I don't have a clue what is where as they were all racked away as quickly as possible and not in any order or with any record kept.

At some point I will have to take everything out of the racks again and restack them. Its a chore ... but one I enjoy doing when I am left alone and in peace for a day!

Alex
Top Ports in 2018 (so far): Niepoort VV (1960's Bottling), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994 and San Leonardo Very Old White (Bottled 2018)
2017 Ports of the year: Fonseca 1927 and Quinta do Noval 1927

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Post by Conky » 21:44 Tue 10 Jul 2007

I still cant believe this will turn out to be so simple. You presumably do understand the consequences,if it is. You go to an Auction where they describe mystery bottles, thought to be possibly blah,blah... and you explain your the buyer for another indivdual. You then flash photograph the cork, and 'send' the picture via your laptop, out of view. It looks like your giving the pretend buyer a look at whats on offer. What you actually do is have a huge clue as to what your really buying and bid appropriately. Legal above board, and potentiallty a goldmine, if you find a Nacional,etc.
You also avoid the well intentioned disaster.

And therefore, surely someone would have thought of it before.

Alan

(This has NOT been edited. This sentence has just been added to remind me how stupid you can sometimes get!!!)
Last edited by Conky on 08:37 Wed 11 Jul 2007, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by DRT » 23:18 Tue 10 Jul 2007

Alan,

You are forgetting one very important detail. 99.9% of port bottles have some sort of wax/plastic/lead capsule which would make this method impossible :?

If you can find a vendor or auctioneer who is willing to let you chip the 50+ year old capsule off a bottle of port to let you take a photo before you buy it then please let me know :wink:

Derek
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Post by Conky » 23:31 Tue 10 Jul 2007

Cant argue. Good point. :oops:

But do the really old bottles have a cover on them? If they do, then fair enough, my Post was way off.
But then, you better explain seepage again. How does that get through the lead or wax?

Alan

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Post by DRT » 00:26 Wed 11 Jul 2007

Alan,

In an attempt to make you feel better I will tell a story about a bottle I once opened that had no cork in the neck :shock:

About 3 or 4 years ago I bought a couple of bottles of Croft 1963. This was for no other reason than someone had told me 1963 was a great year and Croft 1963 is reasonably priced at (then) around £60 per bottle.

After a few weeks my curiosity got the better of me and I stood one up on what I now know to be Death Row. After the required period of time (probably 48 hours as per various written mythology) I carefully removed then plastic capsule from the top of the bottle. I was amazed to find that the bottle was now completely open - there was no cork :shock:

As I decanted the wine I realised that the cork had fallen into the bottle, probably after drying out and shrinking. However, the fact remains that the plastic capsule had retained an air-tight seal on the bottle.

Who needs corks?

Derek
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Post by Conky » 00:59 Wed 11 Jul 2007

So when its so water tight, how can the liquid level drop to shoulder level?

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Post by DRT » 01:03 Wed 11 Jul 2007

Who mentioned shoulder level?

Derek
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Post by Conky » 01:11 Wed 11 Jul 2007

Me! In the Post one above your last one, and two above this one.

In my blonde moment, I realised I hadn't subconsciously taken in the airtight seal around the cork, aspect of Port. But now I have, how does evaporation and seepage happen, when it cant get out through the airtight seal!

Am I having an exceptionally DIM night, or are you just not getting my question? :D

Alan

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Post by DRT » 01:24 Wed 11 Jul 2007

OK, sorry, I thought you were talking about my Croft 63.

Your question is one that I have pondered frequently. The common belief seems to be that a cork will "breathe" and let air in and out of the bottle in very small doses over a long period of time. I think, but cannot be sure, that the believed consequence of this is that some of the wine will evapourate, thereby reducing the level in the bottle. I can't see this being true, especially when the cork is covered by an airtight wax or plastic seal.

My belief is that falling levels are mainly down to 3 things:

1. Cork failure - where the cork structure or grip on the neck of the bottle cannot sustain an air or water-tight seal

2. Excessive crust - where the density of the solids in the crust slightly reduce the overall volume of the liquid/solid mixture in the bottle

3. Saturation of the cork. If wine is soaked into the cork it is not in the bottle, therefore there is less wine in the bottle

Derek
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Post by Conky » 08:30 Wed 11 Jul 2007

Good Morning! I'm now over my 'tired and emotional' late evening, where I was firm in the belief that we could make vast amounts of money from flash photography, on the grounds that Port bottles do not have capsules/covers that stop you seeing corks until you remove them! :lol: :oops: :lol:

But I am still intrigued by evaporation/seepage. I get the point about any liquid that is absorbed by the cork. I accept we can be talking about half a century or more, and strange things happen over time. But for a few inches of Port to dissappear from the top of a bottle over that time? Wouldn't there have to be both a minor failure of the cork AND of the airtight seal of the Capsule/cover.

Now that I've shown myself to be a drunken halfwit (Sorry, tired and emotional halfwit), I understand I may struggle to get a serious reply! :D :roll: :D

Alan

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Post by uncle tom » 09:43 Wed 11 Jul 2007

I'm less than convinced by this 'breathing through the cork' business, as most old bottles have an airtight wax seal, and many newer ones have a plastic seal that is also effectively airtight.

Indeed, I am a little concerned that some more recent bottlings may be compromised by a lack of sealing - either through the use of perforated capsules, or the near universal practice now of putting the capsule over the guarantee strip, leaving an imperfect seal.

Bottles lose fluid through cork degradation, aided and abetted by temperature fluctuations, amongst other things. Simple physics suggests the formation of crust is unlikely to make any significant difference.

I'm not sure how much fluid a cork can take up as a consequence of it's decay, but I doubt it's very much.

Tom
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Post by DRT » 18:31 Wed 11 Jul 2007

Tom,

I think I agree with everything you say but this leaves me wondering how it can be that a 50 year old bottle of port with a cork that is still intact and a plastic or wax capsule that has maintained a perfect seal can lose any level whatsoever, other than parhaps a minute amount due to absorbtion into the cork.

Are you effectively saying that the only way the level can drop is through leakage?

Derek
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Post by uncle tom » 20:38 Wed 11 Jul 2007

50 years is a very long time - a seal that may appear perfect may not actually be so - allowing a tiny amount of evaporation to occur without any visible leakage.

Tom
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Post by Todd P » 03:04 Thu 12 Jul 2007

uncle tom wrote:Mindful that moves are afoot in the eu to outlaw filiament bulbs, I'm on the lookout for a small stock of clear glass bulbs to 'lay down' for the future - but all the ones in the supermarkets seem to the pearl type.

If anyone sees clear glass bulbs on sale - please let me know!

Tom
These should be available in the US for a LONG time to come. Kyoto Accord? WHAT Kyoto Accord??? ;)

Todd

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Post by AHB » 09:38 Thu 12 Jul 2007

uncle tom wrote:...I am a little concerned that some more recent bottlings may be compromised by a lack of sealing - either through the use of perforated capsules, or the near universal practice now of putting the capsule over the guarantee strip, leaving an imperfect seal...
Tom's quote above struck a chord with me last night as I opened a bottle of Quinta da Cavadinha 1989 (bottled 1991). At least Warre in that year must have had Tom's comments in mind as I found that there were three layers of protection between the vintage port and the world outside.

The outmost layer was an aluminium capsule that went over the sello. When this was peeled off you could see the sello and then under that a small, heat shrunk, plastic capsule carrying the logo "Quinta Cavadinha 1989" over the cork. When this was peeled off you got to the final layer of protection, the cork itself.

As far as I could see, the heat shrunk plastic capsule was airtight with no perforations and would have protected the port in the event that the cork failed.

Alex
Top Ports in 2018 (so far): Niepoort VV (1960's Bottling), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994 and San Leonardo Very Old White (Bottled 2018)
2017 Ports of the year: Fonseca 1927 and Quinta do Noval 1927

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Post by AHB » 10:10 Thu 12 Jul 2007

Conky wrote:I haven't got any mysteriously Old Bottles that could do with verifying. And what I'm about to suggest must be a waste of time, otherwise everyone else would know, but have you tried Flash photography.

When I spoke to a Scenes of Crime bloke, his suggestion, was that a powerful flash should get through dark glass.

Dont blame me if you waste a lot of time and effort and it doesn't work.
Well, last night I managed to find my other bottle of 1960 Quinta do Noval. Although the end of the bottle is covered by a big blob of black sealing wax, around one third of the cork is just about visible below the edge of the wax so I decided to try out Alan's flash photography suggestion.

The first picture was blurred, the second the flash failed to go off, the third was full of reflected glare from the glass so you couldn't read anything, the fourth was out of focus, the fifth was ... well, you get the idea. Twenty-three photos later I still was unable to tell what the wine was. Now I know that Alan said not to blame him if I wasted a lot of time and effort and it doesn't work - but I did waste a lot of time and effort and it didn't work.

Perhaps it was user error.

So, still wanting to know what my wine is I got out my MagLite torch with fresh batteries in it, the cork from the other bottle I opened a few days ago and sat in a dark room with no windows and no other light. I then shone the torch through the glass of the bottle and read what little I could of the cork - comparing it to the extracted cork from the other bottle.

The extracted cork read:
AJ Da Silva
Quinto do Noval
Vintage 1960
NACIONAL

What I could make out on the cork in the bottle was:
...lva
...oval
...60
...AL

Yippee!! :D :D :D
Top Ports in 2018 (so far): Niepoort VV (1960's Bottling), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994 and San Leonardo Very Old White (Bottled 2018)
2017 Ports of the year: Fonseca 1927 and Quinta do Noval 1927

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Post by Conky » 10:40 Thu 12 Jul 2007

Congratulations!

And I again apologise for your excessive research. These blokes that take photos through darken glass have very expensive cameras and KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING!!!
Its also the reason the paparazzi flash the black-out limosines. The reason I thought it couldn't be as simple as that was based on my idiotic logic earlier in the thread. Once that had been highlighted, I had a further chat with this bloke, and realised its very common, and simple physics, but of no use in identifying old bottles with capsules on them. :oops:

But all that is minor rubbish...You've got an unexpected Bottle of old Nacional! Well done.

Alan

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Post by RonnieRoots » 11:01 Thu 12 Jul 2007

Alex: 88)

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