Worth the Wait
But with the proliferation of “trunk-aging” (aging a wine as long as it takes to drive it from the wine store to your home), the question almost seems moot. The majority of all wines are consumed within 24 hours of purchase. This seems appropriate, as the majority of wines produced are meant to be consumed while they are young (within two years of their release).
There are wines, though, albeit a small percentage, that benefit from aging for a decade or more. The ideal result of aging certain red wines is the softening of hard tannins and the development of greater complexity and nuances. The factors that allow for aging are quite complex, but the general requirements are tannin, acidity, and fruit. The fuller a wine in all of these components, the better and longer it will age. Certain white wines and dessert wines can also benefit from several years in the cellar. Consistent storage temperature (ideally 55˚F) is always an essential factor.
Aging wines is a bit of a paradox. While most people drink their Bordeaux, big California Cabs, Barolos, and Burgundies too soon (particularly in restaurants), many people age their wines so long that the juice is way past its prime. No occasion ever seems “special” enough to open that “special bottle.”
I am not an advocate of aging wines for the purpose of collecting. I believe in aging wines with the purpose of drinking them at the ideal stage in their lives. The best and most important way to tell if a wine is ready to drink is to taste it. This seeming paradox is one of the best reasons to buy multiple bottles of a wine (minimum four to six bottles) if you plan on cellaring.
But when a wine does age well … the very thought of it arouses the spirit and whets the appetite. For wine lovers, older wines hold a special place in our minds. They bear memories of the time when it was produced and the time when it was acquired. Best of all is the experience of sharing these nurtured gems with those that possess the same passion.
On several occasions this past year, I have had the good fortune to enjoy several bottles that have seemingly aged perfectly for a decade or more. The winemakers could not have written a better script for the evolution of these wines. They weren’t just good or even great; they were euphorically amazing.
Did it help that all were served with stunning meals prepared in the homes of great friends with fellow lovers of great wine and food, amidst laughter and great conversation? Yes, but isn’t that what it’s all about?
Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 1998, Piedmont, Italy ($300)
This wine almost brought me to tears. The aromas alone will bring you to your knees. Dense, multilayered, elegant, rich, and earth-moving with dark berries, meat, coffee, tobacco, and vanilla flavours. Full and velvety with decadent flavours and firm, sexy tannins. Stunning now, but still has a couple of years to get better. Although the thought of this being any better is mind-boggling. This is one of those wines that all you really have to say is “Wow!!”
Château Cheval Blanc 1983, St Emilion, Bordeaux, France ($525)
A wonderful, delicious wine that is far from being over the top. In fact, this is probably right at its peak. Medium ruby-garnet, with delicate sweet tobacco and plum aromas, medium-bodied, with lovely tobacco and fruit flavours, silky tannins and plenty of milk chocolate on the long, long finish. Tastes much younger than its age. Great with tenderloin.
Château d’Yquem 1971, Bordeaux, France ($800)
A beautiful wine that’s silky and creamy, but not heavy. Very harmonious with pineapple, banana, dried fig, and crème brûlée flavours. The texture is creamy and the balance is marvellous. Silky with a lovely freshness and great balance between acid and sweetness. Classic and elegant.
Château Mouton Rothschild 1989, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France ($450)
Still a baby that will benefit by several more years in the cellar. Very refined with an excellent deep ruby colour, fine tannins and still youthful cigar-box, plum and berry aromas and flavours with a hint of mint. Full-bodied but still a little reserved. A seductively long finish gives the sense that this wine is still getting better.
Jarvis Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1992, Napa, California ($350)
Not the best-known California Cabernet, but definitely one of the best and most underrated. The debut vintage of Napa’s best “unknown” known winery is amazingly dark, rich, and plush with black currants, spice, black cherry, and blackberry flavours. Deliciously elegant, with supple tannins, layered flavour nuances and multi-dimensions. Just starting to show signs of age. A real treat and a little unexpected.
Jarvis Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Napa, California ($300)
Beautifully balanced, elegant, silky, concentrated and amazingly youthful. Rich and complex with ripe, concentrated plum, black currant, black cherry, mocha, and toasty with a smooth and silky elegant finish. Focused and concentrated with subtle signs of maturity, but still vibrant and intense with lots of fresh fruit and tannin. Bodes well for at least another 5 to 8 years.
Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon 1985, Epernay, Champagne, France ($400)
A classic, elegant Champagne that is beautifully balanced, complex in aromas and flavours, but still lively and youthful. Hints of fig, butter, citrus, biscuits, spice, and vanilla combine for a vivid and multilayered taste experience. Amazing!