Ask drinkplanner found wine

Ask DrinkPlanner is a reoccurring feature here where readers submit their questions, and the crack team at DrinkPlanner does our best to answer. Got a question about booze? Ask us!


“Dear DrinkPlanner,

We recently bought a house (empty for a year) and found wine in a lower cabinet in the kitchen. I don’t know anything about wine (and I do not think these are special wines), but I would like to know something about them if possible. They are:

Corbett Canyon California Chardonnay 1997 bottled San Luis Obispo and Ripon California
Bordeaux Superieur Verdillac 1982 estate bottled Vigerons de Deux
Sutter Home 1993 California White Zinfandel bottled Napa California
Stevenot 1991 California Cabernet Sauvignon bottle Murphys California
Bardolino Classico Superiore Ruffino

Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Wine Wonderers”

I almost considered just answering this in email and not publishing it, but I thought it would be a good idea to go through how anyone can find info on random bottles of wine you may find or are given.  Now, this is assuming that they’ve been kept at ideal temperatures and conditions, and if you don’t know the history of a particular bottle then your mileage may vary.  Just because our research on a bottle says it’s ok or even at the perfect time to drink, poor storage conditions or cork mold or any number of other things could have ruined your bottle.  Thems the brakes.

SO, that being said, the tool we use to find out the general quality of mystery bottles of wine is called a vintage chart.  These charts are put out every so often and let you know the general quality of wines produced from different areas, in different years, and made with different grapes.  The one we’re going to use to take a look at your bottles is from Robert Parker’s website.  Parker, if you’re unfamiliar with him, is probably the best known name in wine ratings, and publisher of The Wine Advocate.  He’s highly respected in the industry, so I figured he’s the guy to go to.  At the time of publishing this, the chart we’re using was made in May of 2009, so we’re as up to date as can be hoped for.  Now let’s look at your found wines…

1. Corbett Canyon California Chardonay 1997 bottled San Luis Obispo and Ripon California – This one is pretty straight forward.  Look at the chart, match up California Chardonnay with the year 1997, and we get…92C.  So what does that mean?  92 is in the “Outstanding” range, which is good, but then there’s that “C”.  The C means “Caution, may be too old”.  Looks like we’re on the back-end of this wine’s prime-time.  So I’d probably drink it pretty soon, if you’re going to drink it ever.  Wine that’s too old is gross.

2. Bordeaux Superieur Verdillac 1982 estate bottled Vigerons de Deux – This is the info I was sent, but it wasn’t quite enough info to find out what the deal with this wine is.  Thankfully, a picture of the bottle helped clear a lot of the confusion up.  There’s a lot of info on wine bottles, particularly French wines, and it’s hard to tell what’s important and what’s not.  So let’s take a look at this label and break it down.


So here’s the important info on this bottle:

1. Armand Roux – It’s down at the bottom, but that’s the producer.  It’s not really important when looking at the vintage chart, but it is a good thing to know who it is that made your wine.

2. 1982 – Duh.

3. Bordeaux Superior – Means it’s from the Bordeaux region in France, which is a good start.  But looking at our vintage chart, the Bordeaux region is broken down into specific areas within Bordeaux, each very different.  Crap.

3. Saint-Vincent-De-Pertignas – Ah-HA!  Hiding down there in the small print is the final clue.  From my interweb sleuthing, it looks like that is a small town in France designated to be in the St. Emilion region of Bordeaux.  We’ve got what we need now!

So looking at our handy-dandy vintage chart, a 1982 Bordeaux from the St. Emilion region of France rates a 94R.  94 is on the high end of the “Outstanding” range, and the “R” means “Ready to drink”.  Perfect!  Looks like you’ve got a very good wine that’s ready to drink right this very minute!

3. Sutter Home 1993 California White Zinfandel bottled Napa California – Even though this isn’t on the vintage chart, I feel pretty confident in telling you this is horrible wine and you should not drink it.  It’s White Zin, and even if you happen to have a taste for that, it doesn’t get better with age.  Toss it.

4. Stevenot 1991 California Cabernet Sauvignon bottle Murphys California – Now that we know how to use the chart, this is a breeze.  1991 California Cabs rate a 94T.  We know that the 94 is good, but the “T” means something else.  In this case, T stands for “Tannic = still tannic, youthful, or slow to mature*“.  So hold on to this bad boy and keep checking the charts as they update and you’ll know when it’s ok to drink.

5. Bardolino Classico Superiore Ruffino – From what I can tell, this is a pretty basic Italian red table wine.  Probably a blend, and without a vintage given on the bottle, it probably means it’s not all that great.  Without knowing how old it is, you can try drinking it, but I wouldn’t save it for a special occasion or anything.

So I hope that all helps.  Like I said, found wine is a gamble, and it could be that every one of those bottles has gone bad in one way or another, or they could all (with the exception of the white zinfandel) be great.  There are other vintage charts out there, other factors that could effect those particular bottles, you’ll never know for sure until you crack ‘em open and give them a try.  When you do, let me know in the comments how they are.

So wraps up another edition of Ask DrinkPlanner.  Keep the questions coming, and I’ll do my darnedest to keep answering them.  Have a booze-related question?  Ask DrinkPlanner!

*Just like most of my readers

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One Response to “Ask DrinkPlanner: Found Wine”

  1. Alex says:

    That 82 is gonna be amazing assuming it hasn’t been subjected to any extreme conditions. I hear it’s a good year for wine in general.

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