Susan Conway writes:
“I found two bottles of wine in my wine rack that my brother gave us several years ago. Could you let me know if they are still good, and/or when we should drink them? 1) Baron Philippe de Rothschild – Mouton Cadet -Bordeaux – 1994, and 2) Baron Philippe de Rothschild – Mouton Cadet -Bordeaux Blanc – 1994.”
Dear Susan: Well, we have some probably bad news and some hopefully good news.
First, a little bit about the brand.
Mouton Cadet is the mass-produced “little brother” of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, established in 1931 and sold for a much lower price than the Rothschild-branded wines of Bordeaux.
Quality was spotty through the years. In some vintages, the wines were perfectly fine; a few even attained “excellent” ratings. In other vintages, they were nothing to write home about. However, since the early 1990s, the quality has leveled out. We’d describe Mouton Cadet bottlings as decent everyday drinking wines.
Good wines? Yes. Ageworthy wines? That’s a different matter.
It’s rare for any white wine — regardless of its “breeding” — to be in real good drinking shape after it has been in the bottle for 10 years. With the Mouton Cadet Blanc, you’re looking at a 14-year-old white wine. So, about all we can say is: Good luck! On the other hand, many red wines are just coming into their own at age 14. So, it’s possible that your Mouton Cadet red wine from 1994 will taste just fine. We wouldn’t cellar it any longer; it’s time to open up that bottle with fingers crossed.
As a very general rule, white wines should be consumed within five years of their vintage date, and red wines within seven. Longevity varies by varietal, but generally speaking, few whites will get better after five years, and few reds will get better after seven. You’re almost always better off drinking a wine a little too soon than a little too late.