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70 Year Old Depression Wine?

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proto57

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Back in the 1980's, a friend lived in a 100 plus year old house. It had a stone foundation, and one night he wondered why one basement wall was wooden. When he peered through a crack with a flashlight, dozens of dusty bottles on wooden shelves could be seen. So he pried a few boards off, and discovered row on row of various home brewed wines. Mostly they were either a light (like white wine) color, or a darker, like a medium brownish color.

We assumed that this was a secret prohibition stash, but really didn't know. We did not know why else it would be hidden... but I also know that a certain amount of home brewing was allowed. The bottles were reused wine and other bottles. He gave me two bottles, and they are gallon bottles, and look like 30's era. I still have them in my crawlspace, which maintains in the 50's and 60's year round. I think they are the only bottles left of the entire batch.

We tasted other bottles of the wine (not mine, which I never opened), and it was pretty good. In the mid 80's when my friend's brother got engaged, we met him in a restaurant in NYC. It was BYOB, so we produced this dusty old bottle of one of the browner wines. The waiter was amazed, and tasted it. He said he was from Illinois, I think... somewhere in the mid-west... and said it seemed to be "molasses wine". He said he knew because his family still made it at that time.

I know now it is absolutely crazy to drink this stuff... dangerous of course. But back when we are in our twenties, we were invulnerable, and did stupid things. I would never drink the bottles in the basement, without some sort of expert testing. Not something I want to go blind over.

Any thoughts on this? Is this rare or uncommon, to find old home brewed wines in old buildings? Does this sort of thing ever have an interest or value among collectors of wine? Or is it just a sort of curiosity? Thank you for any information... Rich.
 

Aleforge

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That's really awesome, and I would assume its fairly rare to find an entire stash hidden behind a false wall.
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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Let me get this straight.

30 years ago, you had a friend find the stash in his house. You drank some bottles then (in the 80's), but you still have two bottles left.

I would most definitely drink them. It is a fermented beverage, they will be safe to drink, just like any other wine that has been aged.

I would say it is extremely rare to find something like that in a house you move into. I don't think they would have any collector value, but it would be awesome for you to drink with some friends.

It is possible that the wine has gone bad and will taste bad or like vinegar, but it will not make you sick.
 

CBBaron

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Let me get this straight.

30 years ago, you had a friend find the stash in his house. You drank some bottles then (in the 80's), but you still have two bottles left.

I would most definitely drink them. It is a fermented beverage, they will be safe to drink, just like any other wine that has been aged.

I would say it is extremely rare to find something like that in a house you move into. I don't think they would have any collector value, but it would be awesome for you to drink with some friends.

It is possible that the wine has gone bad and will taste bad or like vinegar, but it will not make you sick.
You are correct in that the wine will not host dangerous organisms how ever there is not any clear indication that the wine was not made with dangerous materials.

However given that the wine still tasted good and appeared to be stored in a thoughtful manner, it is a good chance the home wine maker was also thoughtful in making it. So it probably is safe.

I would imagine such a find is extremely rare. Most stashes would have been consumed or if it wasn't very good the space would have been reclaimed for the basement. And I'm sure most of the wine made during that time was probably more like hooch. I don't believe home making was explicitly allowed but I sure it was usually overlooked if you didn't try to sell any.

Craig
 

Snuffalupagus

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Let me get this straight.

30 years ago, you had a friend find the stash in his house. You drank some bottles then (in the 80's), but you still have two bottles left.

I would most definitely drink them. It is a fermented beverage, they will be safe to drink, just like any other wine that has been aged.

I would say it is extremely rare to find something like that in a house you move into. I don't think they would have any collector value, but it would be awesome for you to drink with some friends.

It is possible that the wine has gone bad and will taste bad or like vinegar, but it will not make you sick.
he's right, if it's gone off it'll be so unpalateable that you wouldn't want to drink it... BUT you could also have a prime gourmet vinegar on your hands too!
basically with fermented stored beverages/vinegar - if it tastes good - it is good.
now if it was distilled spirits I'd be cautious -as you won't be able to tell just by tasting if the distillation process left behind any hazardous methonol etc.

but wines and fermented beverages when they get to a certain alcohol percentage are naturally antiseptic to most illness causing bacteria (strep, staph, samonella, botulisim, Ecoli, etc.) -and if well sealed and protected from O2, - the few bacteria that can sour Alchohol into Vinegar won't get at it either.
so Enjoy!!
 

Revvy

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I had a similar situation, my best friends live in an old farmhouse that has been in his family since it was built over 80 years ago....his great granddad made wine and we discovered a few bottles on an old wine rack...they were fruit wines. We chilled a pear one last summer. It was about 60 years old. AND it was...





AMAZING.

Actually it bore little resemblance to wine...it had oxidized to the color of liquid leather....or raisin tea. And it had morphed into something like a pear brandy, with a raisin finish (they probably used raisins or grape skins for the yeast...it was awesome. I came home and pmed Big Kahunna who did some digging in old wine making books he had to try to come up with some info on home winemaking techniques and recipe, to see if I could come up with something close.

I was so excited that they gave me the rest of it...I have a half bottle in my fridge...methinks I need to taste some more soon..maybe even tonight.


Oh, btw, unless we're talking moonshine...it's not dangerous to drink old fermented beverage like beer or wine...you won't die or go blind or anything, it's not going to turn into poison....Nothing in beer or wine can kill you...
 
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proto57

proto57

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Thank you so much to everyone for the interesting advice and information. You inspired me to crawl in the crawlspace and take the bottles up for pictures. It was the first time they saw the light of day in over ten years! And in doing so, I need to modify at least one thing: It turns out that both of the bottles are of a light wine look, and neither is the medium brown I remembered. We did drink one or two of the medium brown years ago, like the one we brought to the restaurant... but my memory was faulty on the ones I put in the crawlspace. And it is dark in there, and I thought one was of the brown variety.

I hope the picture properly shows that the wine is mostly clear, with no cloudiness. You can see this with the light cast on the railing. There is some sediment at the bottom of both bottles, though. Anyway, here are the bottles:



And as you see, the pictures raise another question... one is a screw top bottle, which might be more modern, on second thought. Also, it had a molded in logo for a "DelVino", or "Del Vino" company. Could this then simply be a store bought wine? Or could it be a supplier of home wine making supplies? I do know that many of the other bottles were re-used, with willy-nilly corks, etc. But I hope I am not all wet on this, and it turns out they are post WWII, or even later... I mean, they were certainly very old by about 1985, but maybe I was wrong in my assessment of the depression era?

I am going to pour some beeswax over the cork on the corked bottle, as it seems it has eroded quite a bit. I'm afraid it might deteriorate completely and drop in the bottle. Thanks again for the feedback... Rich.
 

Dr_Deathweed

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Why can't I find any any sweet secret wine stores...
I agree, the only thing even close to that which has happened to me was when I opened a case of bottles I thought were empty and found some beer that I had stashed. I could not believe that it had hidden from me for a whole 6 months!!!! :D
 

APendejo

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I grew up in a small town in central Ca. Back in the 60's they were tearing down a lot of the old victorian houses in the town. When we saw a chance, a friend and I would go in with our little red wagon and scrounge all the old lead gas lamp pipe we could find and haul it down to the scrapyard for a few cents.
Under the front porch of one old house we found a whole wooden case of quart sized flip top bottles, there was a wooden lid on the box and there was excelsior packing around the bottles. The bottles were embossed with a paper lable on the opposite side of the embossing.
The name on the case and on the bottles and lables was
McCaffrey Brewing Co.
San Luis Obispo, California.
The red rubber seals were in rough shape on the outside but we opened one bottle and the seal was still good on the inside, only thing was, the beer smelled like mega-azz.
We sold the whole case to an antique dealer.
I later learned that the McCaffrey's owned the biggest bar in town and brewed their own from the 1870's until prohibition started.
 
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