Aging wine...

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Aging wine...

Postby DaveWest » Sat Jul 01, 2006 11:05 pm

A few years ago I began to wonder if some of my wines would improve with age, so...

I've been running an experiment where I've had 40 bottles of $10 - $30 red wine from all over the world aging for 5 - 10 years past the vintage date.

I've taken every precaution I can...The bottles have been stored in a reasonably dark wine refrigerator at 57 degrees F. The corks have stayed moist. The refrigerator doesn't vibrate.

After patiently waiting (and waiting), I've started drinking through the wines. Here's what I think I've discovered.

I think most wines in this price range were not meant to go the distance. I'm not sure if wines priced less than $30 were never meant to age so long or if something has changed in the way wines are made (are they made more accessible at a young age now and so they CAN'T age?). Examples:

- A 10 year old Burgundy was rank
- A 9 year old Chianti Riserva (from 97!) was vinegar
- An 8 year old Cab Sauv from Napa was sour
- An 8 year old Chateauneuf-du-Pape (from 98!) was OK
- A 7 year old Bordeaux (Haut Medoc) was excellent

What do you think?
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Re: Aging wine...

Postby Ian Sutton » Sun Jul 02, 2006 11:36 am

Dave
I must admit that choosing wines that are specifically intended for cellaring has been my preference. I've been lucky in that none that I've cellared have gone over the hill (I've only been cellaring for ~ 5-6 years though). Some older bottles I've bought have been over the hill, but even then, often some enjoyment can be had, even if there's a tendency for the nose to flatter and the palate to fail to match up. Wines don't suddenly hit a cliff face and die instantly, but the general rule of 1/3 of it's life is improving, a 1/3 is at peak and 1/3 in decline is a good one. Thus if a wine peaks at 4 years, then drinking it at 10 would be a big risk. Some wines I've tasted that were over the hill:
Ornellaia Le Volte 1993 - Way too old for this label, but surprisingly it was still ageing gracefully, for what is little more than a VDT wine.
Cahors x 2 Can't recall the makers, but one was a 1989 and the other a 1996. The latter was the most unbalanced, with little fruit, but plentiful acid/tannins. Possibly the least enjoyable of the oldies I've bought
Moscato D'asti x 2 One a 2002, the other a 2003 (Bava Bass Tuba I recall). Moscato is meant to be drunk within 2 years of vintage, but both drunk recently were still fresh and perhaps the age had added a smidgen extra complexity even. Both a surprise.
Latour and Lafite 1960 At least I think these were the 1st growths we tried at a friends a couple of years ago. Tried might be a strong word, as both were brown and completely dead. Just a (very pleasant) scent of wild mushroom remained. He bought them in full knowledge they might be shot, but as it's his birth year, he felt it an acceptable risk. Great producers from bad years kept too long end up the same way as cheaper wines!!

In general, it really does pay to find out some rough estimates of potential longevity, from critics, producers web sites (or contacting producers direct) or from other routes (e.g. wine fora or cellar tracker). They are guesses, butg often with a degree of understanding. Failing that, buy in multiples (3's, 6's or dozens) and judge for yourself as you taste them every 2-3 years. If one bottle starts tasting really good, then bring the remaining ones forward.

I recently posted a few wines I was unsure about on a UK board and got a couple of useful steers. Maybe you could do the same here?

p.s. A final point to add yet more complication. Bottle variation exists and it's perfectly feasible that any of those wines should have lasted the distance, but cork failure (or taint) unrelated to storage could have been the issue.

Best of luck with your other wines

regards

Ian
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Re: Aging wine...

Postby Jenise » Mon Jul 03, 2006 3:10 pm

Interesting experiment, and it sounds like you're having very little success so far. What guided your choices? I'm wondering if whatever makes the wines so likable to you when they're young are the combination of attributes (low acidity, soft tannins) that don't make the wine a good candidate for aging?

I love acidity and tannins both, so even the wines I don't intend to age generally age fairly well mid-term.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Aging wine...

Postby Paul Winalski » Tue Jul 04, 2006 1:46 am

DaveWest wrote:I think most wines in this price range were not meant to go the distance. I'm not sure if wines priced less than $30 were never meant to age so long or if something has changed in the way wines are made (are they made more accessible at a young age now and so they CAN'T age?).


A perceptive observation, Dave.

IMO, cellaring wine for long periods of time is one of the great public myths of the wine world. 99% of all the wine made is meant to be drunk shortly after release, and doesn't really benefit from aging more than 3-5 years.

Like all myths, the mystique of aging does have some roots in fact. There are some wines that, in top vintages, can be downright nasty in their youth, but 10, 20, or even 30 years down the road will repay your patience with magnificent complexity obtainable no other way. Great Bordeaux, Hermitage, Barolo, and Rioja Gran Reserva all fall into this category. Then there is vintage Port, which flat out requires 20 years to learn some manners; vintage Madiera, which is practically immortal and can taste fresh and young at 100; and the monumental dessert wines from Sauternes and Germany that will last and improve over decades.

And there's the great awe that comes from thinking that the magnificent wine you're drinking was made decades before you were born, and others before you had the foresight to save it so that you can savor it at this moment. One of my own most memorable wine experiences was enjoying the 1929 and 1961 vintages of Chateaux Mouton-Rothschild and Latour at a special tasting. And my continuing delight every time I taste the Ports from my birth year--1955--all of which have aged far more gracefully than I have.

But the vast majority of wines, especially those at the lower price points--and under $30 in these days of inflated prices is, alas, at the lower price points--are and always have been meant to be enjoyed young or youngish.

Are wines these days made intentionally so that they don't age as well as they used to? I don't think so. I would say that a lot of wines these days don't require aging to be drinkable, as they used to, but I don't think the well-made examples from today are any less ageworthy than their predecessors. Some of the overly alcoholic fruit bombs you see these days don't age gracefully, but being graceful is not, after all, what they're about, anyway.

With a few exceptions, I cellar red wines for from 5-10 years.

-Paul W.
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