Bordeaux bottle levelBurgundy bottle level

It is normal that the condition of bottles, stocked even under perfect conditions, change with time. A 10-year-old bottle will generally not have the same appearance as a 60-year-old bottle.

A cork does not hermitically seal a bottle, therefore the level of wine slightly diminishes over time. There are 2 reasons that this phenomenon may be accelerated: stocking in a cellar that is too warm and/or a cork that is weak and more porous than average. 

General condition of a bottle

If there is no additional information given on the wine's sheet, it means that its state is normal considering its age:

  • Wines from 10 to 15 years old :

    • Bordeaux : Level base of neck or higher
    • Bourgogne : Level 2 cm  or less than 2 centimeters under the cork
    • Label in good condition
  • Wines from 16 to 30 years old :

    • Bordeaux : Level slightly low or higher
    • Bourgogne : Level  3 cm or less than 3cm under the cork
    • Label in good condition or slightly marked by time
  • Wines from 31 to 50 years old :

    • Bordeaux : Level top shoulder or higher
    • Bourgogne : Level  4 cm or less than 4 cm under the cork
    • Label in good condition or marked by time but perfectly readable
  • Wines more than 50 years old :

    • Bordeaux : Level top/mid shoulder or higher
    • Bourgognes : Level 5/6 cm or less than  5/6 cm under the cork
    • Label in good condition or significantly marked by time but still readable

Explanation of the condition of the label

The labels of ancient bottles are generally marked by the years spent in the cellar. A good hygrometry (level of humidity in the cave) which insures good stocking conditions in the cellar, is often fatal for the label.

Should you worry about it ? On the contrary. A label in perfect condition may lead us to conclude that the bottle was stored in a cellar that was too dry and therefore detrimental to the wine. 

There are however, two exceptions: labels that were protected by the owner and those that were relabeled at the château. Labels showing slight flaws (small tears and traces of humidity) are considered good. The other flaws are defined as the following: 

  • Slightly damaged : spots and/or tears and/or traces of humidity that do not obstruct the readability.
  • Fairly damaged : spots and/or tears and/or traces of humidity. Reading is sometimes more difficult.
  • Highly damaged : significant spots and/or tears and/or significant traces of humidity. Reading difficult.

Explanation of the condition of the capsule

Capsules could have, unfortunately, been damaged during handling. In general, this does not affect the quality of the wine. However, a piercing on the top of a capsule may increase the risk of evaporation or leakage.

Bottles with wear or damage on the side of the capsule are considered good. Others are defined as the following :

  • Slightly damaged cap : The top of the capsule has traces of wear and / or a snag that does not affect the waterproofing of the bottle
  • Damaged cap : top of the capsule is pierced.