Q: I have a bottle of 1993 Bourgogne Blanc by Chartron et Trebuchet. Is it drinkable? It's a bottle I inherited, so I don't know how it's been stored.
—Patty Cooper, Chicago
A: Call me the cockeyed optimist, but I always hope a wine like this will still have some life in it no matter what. My advice is to open it up and, as long as the color and smell isn't too far off, give it a sip. Have a second bottle of something newer on-hand just to be safe because it's likely this 21-year-old bottle of ordinary white Burgundy will be DOA in the glass.
Bill St. John, the Tribune's wine columnist, certainly thinks so.
"There is no way that that wine is any good today, not even if it was stored properly," St. John wrote in an e-mail. "It was an awful vintage for starters."
"Bourgogne" is the most basic appellation used for wines from Burgundy ("Bourgogne" in French), writes "The New Wine Lover's Companion," and those are wines that aren't good enough to qualify for a stricter, more geographically limited appellation.
The more basic the quality, the shorter the wine's life span.
Clive Coates, the wine expert and author, offers holding times for "very good (but not great and super-concentrated)" wines in his new book, "My Favorite Burgundies" (University of California, $60). Those time frames begin with a "Village" white – hold for three years and drink over the following five years, to holding "Grands crus" for eight years and then drinking them over 10.
The website for the wine's importer, Serge Dore Selections (sergedoreselections.com), suggests serving the wine within five years.
This Chartron et Trebuchet wine is made from chardonnay grapes, the site notes, grown in the Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais areas of Burgundy. It should be "light golden in color, with green highlights" – what does yours look like?
And, finally, what should the wine taste like? Here's the take from Serge Dore Selections on what the wine out on the market today should be: "The wine is richly aromatic, exuding aromas of dried fruits and white flowers. The stainless steel tanks bring fruit flavors and freshness whereas the oak barrels used for aging bring structure and roundness. Bourgogne Chardonnay is perfect with appetizers, white meats, seafood, grilled fish and goat cheese. It is best served chilled."
Since you inherited this bottle, there wasn't much you could do about drinking the wine at its peak. But consider this a lesson learned with any vintages you may have at home. Don't let them sit there – drink up!
Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.