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A Century-Old Wine Worth Staying Up Too Late

A nightclub in Las Vegas at 1 a.m. is not the perfect moment for a serious tasting of a rare old Madeira, but it was certainly a delicious experience. I was in town for The Big Smoke event hosted by Wine Spectator's sister publication, Cigar Aficionado. My Vegas-based friend Gil Lempert-Schwarz met me during dinner at the Grand Award-winning Delmonico Steakhouse and said he had something special to go with some cigars.

We decided to drink the 1900 D'Oliveira Verdelho and smoke at the V Bar at the Venetian Hotel. It seemed like the right thing to do after a taxing wine dinner. (You make some bad decisions in Vegas late at night!)

The V Bar was happening. The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" was blasting over the speakers, just the right vibe for opening our ancient Madeira. I hadn't had an old Verdelho in years. I remember drinking the stuff on occasion with legendary wine critic Michael Broadbent in London in the 1980s, in his offices at Christie's. THIS was a whole different affair, sir!

We fired up our Cubans. We decanted the fortified wine. (Yes. The V Bar had a decanter.) We poured the glasses as the music continued: "I gotta feeling (woohoo) that tonight's gonna be a good night."

And yes, it was. What a fabulous example of such a rare and wonderful wine. "Fill up my cup, mazel tov!" the song went on.

I can still taste it now, more than a week later. It cut through the rich cigars and decadent ambiance like a knife through soft butter. Awesome stuff: 95 points, non-blind. The acidity was jolting and rocked me out of my jet lag, almost on to the dance floor. (Can't tell you more because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.) The dried lemon rind and other citrus fruits were supercharged and touched every taste bud. The wine was full-bodied and dry, with a caramelized quince and kiwi flavor. We drank a number of glasses. To be honest, it was rough getting up a few hours later to give a presentation on Cuban cigars at a seminar, but it was worth it!