Well, not always.
As I've often pointed out before, only a fraction of all the world's wines will improve with aging. Many wines are never better than the day they're bottled, and have noplace to go but downhill as their fresh fruit and flavor fades.
And then there's the category we'll consider today: Some wines - and this group includes some very good values - stand to gain flavor interest with a relatively short time in the bottle, and may be worth putting aside in a safe place for six months to a year or two to see what happens as they develop.
Wines in this class may seem harsh, tannic or one-dimensional when they're first released, but their rough edges begin to smooth and mellow in months, not years, so they're worth holding for a relatively short time. And, while it's always good to keep your wines under the best cellar conditions available, an ideal 55F (13C) environment is not as critical for short-term storage as it is for wines to be held for a decade or more.
One of my favorite "alternative" red-wine grapes, Mourvedre (also known as Monastrell in Spain and, occasionally, Mataro in Australia and California), often makes wine that is a prime candidate for this kind of short-term cellaring.
To test this theory, I recently re-visited an $8 Spanish Monastrell that I had rated as one of last year's best values after tasting it in June. At the time of that first tasting, I used it as an illustration of a young wine that would benefit from "breathing" in the glass to open up its tight and tannic aromas and flavors.
Just over six months later, I find that relatively brief aging in the bottle has accomplished a similar purpose. Although my notes from yesterday's tasting are quite similar to my observations of this same wine last June 29, it's clear that evolution is occurring. The wine remains dark, almost black in color and still shows a good mix of berry fruit and earthy nuances on the nose and palate. But the wine's tannins seem softer and less harsh this winter, and the simple herbal aromas of June have evolved into more mature scents of toast and coffee. It's still a remarkable wine and one of the best values on the shelf, and well-worth seeking out either in this 1999 vintage or more recent releases.
My tasting notes are below. For my full list of best wine values of 2001 (featured in last Wednesday's Wine Advisor Express), see http://www.wineloverspage.com/qpr/index.shtml.
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Bargain from Spain
Inky dark garnet, almost black; earthy black fruit with pleasant nuances of toast and coffee. Ripe and full berry fruit flavor, tart and softly tannic. Good fruit, good structure, seems ageworthy - remarkable value. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections, Cincinnati. (Jan. 6, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Lamb shanks braised with tomatoes over short pasta.
Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon
the Rhone and Provence
Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin, sommeliers-conseil who live in France, will join me to present this tour, which will feature a week of in-depth exploration of the wines of these two beautiful regions.
The tour is limited to 16 participants, so reservations will remain open only until these places are filled. For more information, click to the details at http://www.wineloverspage.com/tour.
A year of wine and laughter
If you hurry, though, you can still get one of the last remaining monthly wall calendars, exclusively from WineLoversPage.com. Calendars include a chuckle-worthy collection of cartoonist Chuck Stoudt's zany wine 'toons ... plus dozens of favorite wine quotes for every season, and more than 100 highlighted Wine Web Links, two every week! Buy one for your wine cellar and another for your office ... and they make great gifts.
Calendars are only $11.99 (plus $2 shipping and handling for U.S. shipments, $4 for all other countries). Order yours now, while they last! See http://www.wineloverspage.com/calendar/2002toon.shtml.
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Vol. 3, No. 51, Monday, Jan. 7, 2002