Q: Would a bottle with a 200-year-old vintage date be expected to show a substantial loss of wine, due to evaporation, to be considered authentic? What would be considered a reasonable level of loss, if the wine was properly stored and the cork is in good condition? —Christopher Grimes and Anatoly Rosinsky
A: Judging the authenticity of a bottle based on fill level alone would be an imprecise science at best (color, taste and provenance are just a few of the other factors to take into consideration), as evaporation isn't a constant. A case of identically stored wines housed in a temperature- and humidity-controlled unit may show altogether different levels after a period of 15 to 20 years. Nevertheless, here's a basic guide to appropriate fill levels in bottles from the 15- to 40-year-old range. The rough estimate that some collectors use is one half-inch loss per decade of age, though that metric is less useful for much older bottles, as a 200-year-old bottle isn't going to show 10 inches of loss. Generally, it is quite normal for an extremely old Bordeaux to show mid-shoulder levels or below and still be drinkable. A 200-year-old wine with levels into the neck or top-shoulder would be very suspect, unless it had been recently recorked.
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