The Event
Saving Wine for a Better Time
© by Sheral Schowe
I just enjoyed a bottle of 1979 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon that I have been hoarding away for as long as my patience will allow. I purchased two bottles of the same vintage, enjoyed one with dinner, and put the other one away. I remember my first experience with this wine. It was big, bold, and powerful. It's tannins packed an aggressive punch that required some tempering with an appropriate food match. Chateau Briande with sauce bernaise was the selection that made this wine really sing, or, was it my friends at the table doing the singing? Either way, each of us thought that there was no possible room for improvement with this wine.

Not so. The long wait was well rewarded. The wine now has a softened personality with flavors that have emerged from cherry, plum, currant and berry to a dried fruit compote derived from all of the above. There are flavors of roasted coffee with a little smoke. Other woodsy flavors emerge, reminiscent of a walk through the forest in the fall. The wine had become silky soft on the nose and on the palate. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait for a Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, with their fine reputation of aging beautifully in the bottle. It made me wonder if I had opened it too soon. Maybe 10 more years would have allowed for additional depth and complexity.

Aging wine can be a frustrating experience, like watching a pot of water come to a boil, unless your cellar has a few alternatives with which to occupy your time. It is best to store it on your bottom rack and simply forget about it until ten or fifteen years have passed. It is best to stock the cellar (or your cool basement closet) with some everyday wines to occupy your palate until the long awaited unveiling occurs.

Here are my suggestions for wines worthy of aging, and well worth the wait:

  • From France, Grand Cru and Premier Cru Burgundies, Crus level Bordeaux, Rhone wines with a Syrah base such as Cote Rotie and Hermitage, and fine vintage Champagnes and Prestige Cuvees.

  • From Spain, choose Reserva and Gran Reserva Riojas.

  • From Italy, the best aging wines are Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Brunello di Montalcino. Italy also has some superior super Tuscans, which are Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon blends, worthy of a long aging process.

  • California has some excellent Cabernet Sauvignons, which will age beautifully. Choose the upper end wineries such as Chateau Montelena, Beaulieu Vineyards LaTour Private Reserve, Carmenet Moon Mountain Meritage, Z D, Berringer Reserve, and Far Niente, among many others.

March 21, 2000

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