Wines hidden in Czech castle offer rare taste of 19th century

Mon May 23, 2016 5:04pm EDT
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By Jason Hovet

BECOV NAD TEPLOU, Czech Republic (Reuters) - Proving the adage 'well worth the wait', experts enjoyed a rare taste of fine wines from the 19th century, discovered under the floorboards of a Czech castle in a treasure hunt that pitted Communist-era police against aristocrats.

The stash of 133 bottles was found in Becov castle in 1985, 40 years after being hidden by its then owners the Beaufort-Spontin family.

The wines include Chateau d'Yquem vintages from 1892 - valued at up to 750,000 crowns ($31,000) per bottle - and 1896, and the whole collection is worth at least 30 million crowns, according to early estimates.

Sommeliers tasted several bottles on Sunday using technology that extracts a sample through a needle, piercing the cork without damaging it.

Andreas Wickhoff, a Master of Wine holder who joined master sommelier Jakub Pribyl in the tasting, said the age and size of the Becov stock was unique, especially given wines half as old often turned up spoiled.

"If you smell these wines they still have this purity of fruits. There is acidity there, there are refreshing elements in these wines (that) will absolutely be an enjoyment," he said.

The wines, most from 1892 to 1899, are the oldest to be worked on by the Coravin device launched in 2013. Its developer Greg Lambrecht said he used an extra-thin needle and lower pressure for the Becov tasting.

"It takes longer to pour the wines as a result, but they took a hundred years to get here so we can wait," he said.   Continued...

A castle manager takes a bottle of 19th-century wine out of the shelf in a cellar of Becov castle in Becov nad Teplou, Czech Republic, May 22 2016.   REUTERS/David W Cerny