Posts Tagged ‘Aging Wine’
One of my favorite television shows is ABC’s What Would You Do?
With the use of hidden cameras, the show captures how ordinary people react when put on the spot and faced with a painful dilemma of “What to do.” In most cases, the situations usually involve doing what you feel is the “right thing” versus doing nothing at all.
The program made me think of a particular wine dilemma that I was faced with recently.
Imagine this scenario – You’re in a rush one Sunday afternoon to get home to watch your favorite NFL team play. You’ve prepared for the big game: a few friends, good food, beer, remote control, and the kids are occupied so they won’t be flipping the channel to Suite Life On Deck…but wait!! You realize that you forgot to pick up wine to go with the dinner you’ve planned for after the game. Before you can become a total couch potato for the next three hours, you are forced to make one quick pit stop to pick up that “perfect” bottle of wine.
In a desperate attempt to not miss the opening kick-off, you stop at the closest (not necessarily the best) wine & spirits shop that you can find, and make a b-line for the cold box to select the best possible chilled Chardonnay for under 20 bucks. No time for looking through the racks! You’re feeling pretty confident about the Chardonnay that you’ve just selected because it has a familiar name that has been “reliable” in the past, not to mention you’ve had it plenty of times and been pleased with it. You walk out of the store feeling like a champ, with enough time to spare to get home to plop yourself down in front of the tube.
Now fast forward to dinner:
You’re all standing around the dinner table high-fiving, chest bumping, and talking about who your team is going to spank next Sunday when you decide it’s time to pop open that “reliable” bottle of Chardonnay. However, as soon as you begin pouring said Chardonnay – you say to yourself, “Boy, my reliable Chardonnay sure has a funny looking color to it?!”
You check the date and it reads, “2004”. You then ask yourself, “Is a 2004, under $20 Chardonnay considered old?” You’re not really sure because, as we all know, wine doesn’t come with an expiration date – at least not stamped on it! After pouring the wine into the glass and really taking notice of its deep golden (nearly amber!) color you still decide, against your better judgment, to take the plunge. It only takes one sip for you to start slapping yourself a few times for being such a fool and purchasing what seems to be an “Over-the-Hill” Chardonnay. I know there’s a myriad of other reasons why oxidation had ruined an otherwise solid bottle of white wine, but we’re going to stick with “over-the-hill” assumption for the next exercise.
Ok – so this isn’t exactly a moral dilemma, but what would you do in this particular situation?
A. Continue to drink the wine even though it could have you doubled over, crying for your Mommy, and possibly have you miss work on Monday?
B. Pour it down the kitchen drain, then run back out (if a store is still open) to get a replacement bottle?
C. Re-cork the wine, pour yourself a glass of water , and return it for a refund the next day?
What a quandary!
Does wine get better with age? When it comes to this question, I’m sure there are many schools of thought. It may even elicit the response, “Well, that depends…” Personally, I’m of the opinion that most wines made today are time sensitive and should be drunk within five years of their vintage date. However, like so many other wine lovers, every so often I do lay a few bottles down in my “cellar” (a.k.a., a cedar closet in my basement) to see whether they will improve, or just to see if they will withstand the test of time.
Here are three bottles that I recently blew the dust off of to see whether or not they’d kicked the bucket or if they were still showing strong vital signs.
2001 Chateau Thebot Bordeaux (France) - I don’t have a large stash, but France makes up the majority of my collection. This particular wine was awarded the silver medal at Vinalies International 2003 by the Association of French Enologists. Unfortunately, this once good Bordeaux was cooked and finished, not to mention – brown!
2000 Chateau Reignac Bordeaux Superieur (France) – Like many, I took notice of all the accolades that were being thrown around about the 2000 Bordeaux vintage – “the first exceptional year for a new generation in Bordeaux“ (Wine Spectator) and “the greatest vintage Bordeaux has ever produced” (Robert Parker). And like many, I bought some Bordeaux futures that I could afford. One of my purchases was the 2000 Chateau Reignac Bordeaux. This particular Bordeaux received 92 points from Mr. Parker. This wine was once pretty spectacular when I had it a few years ago and only set me back about $20 when I purchased it. Unfortunately, this one also set sail into the sunset. It was showcasing a whole lot of funky unearthly qualities and not a whole lot of lush, ripe fruit that this vintage was known for. It just wasn’t the same wine that I remembered enjoying when it was first released and even when I had it just a few years ago.
2001 Petersons Block One Mudgee Shiraz (Australia) – Petersons is a family owned and operated winery, which has been growing grapes for 37 years and making wines for 27 years in the Hunter Valley. Petersons was named Champion Small Winery of Australia in 2001. This particular Shiraz came from the winery’s Mudgee vineyard which consists of 100 acres of various red varieties that include: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Durif, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Chambourcin.
Winemaker’s tasting notes on the 2001 Petersons Block One Mudgee Shiraz:
“The palate is a complex combination of pepper, spicy fruit and cedar. Having spent 14 months in American oak, the fruit, acids and tannins are well balanced and integrated. This wine would also benefit from careful cellaring of 5 -8 years.”
Mission Accomplished! Let me tell you – the tasting notes are spot on! This wine is a total powerhouse and it tastes just as good now. It certainly appears that there’s still plenty of mojo left in this wine’s tank before it hits any downward spiral. I just wish that I had another bottle of this Aussie treat to monitor its evolution!
So maybe my theory doesn’t always hold true, or maybe I just need to store my wine better; but it does give me good reason to drink my wine sooner than later!
One uncertainty that will always plague a bottle of wine and the wine lover holding it is, “How long will it last”? Or, how long can I store this before it turns into vinegar? It’s a question that I still struggle with. Once, I suggested to a good friend of mine to contact the winery/winemaker that produced the wine to truly find out the shelf life a particular wine. Doing this just takes the anxiety and guesswork out of the equation.
Over the years, I’ve found that most red and white wines made these days are not “ageworthy keepers”. Most value-oriented wines are built to drink young and ASAP. As you get into the super premium high-grade juice, that’s a different story. But I would still recommend that you contact the winery/winemaker to get their take on how well and/or long they think that their wine will age.
I’ve experimented a bit with different types of wines over the years to see which ones can withstand the test of time. Here are my thoughts on the ones that only get better with age.
1.) Italian reds: Amarone, Brunello, Barolo and Super Tuscans.
2.) Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhone Region in France.
3.) High-end Red Bordeaux – “First and Second Growth” stuff.
4.) High-end Cabernet Sauvignon.
5.) High –end White Burgundy – words on the label say “Montrachet” or “Meursault”.
6.) Rieslings from Alsace, France.
7.) French Champagne with a “Born on Date” (i.e., it lists the vintage). Most Champagne and other Sparkling Wines are “NV” or non-vintage.
8.) A special Australian Shiraz made only in primo years from Penfolds called “Grange”.
9.) Port wines – vintage port wines only get better with age.
10.) French Sauternes – this sweet dessert wine can age forever.
11.) Hungarian Tokay – an alternative to ports and sauternes.