#MondayBlogs : Age? It’s Only A Number

25 Aug

radiciWhat? No music? Sorry but I wanted desperately to plug in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Riviera Paradise but couldn’t find it. And, I didn’t want to compromise.

I haven’t rambled in awhile. That’s not exactly true as I tend to ramble with every post. But, I haven’t dedicated a ramble-only post in a long time. So, to correct that oversight and to execute a bit of a brain dump, this is it. The ramble, that is.

Basically I’m an immediate gratification leaning man – waiting on stuff doesn’t suit me. Waiting on wine, in particular, makes me anxious. I want the best wine (that I can afford) at its best, right now. On the aging wine front, I’m a little uncomfortable with the term ‘predicted drinkability’. As in, “the drinking window for this sturdy Chateauneuf-du-Pape is 2014 to infinity.” Regardless of the pedigree of the suggester, I struggle to trust it. What happens if I wait too long? Open it too early? Second, I don’t really get aging. Let me explain.

I read all kinds of stuff about all kinds of stuff. It makes me a good conversationalist at a dinner party. Topic: the effects of pesticides on bee populations? I’ve got it canned, locked and loaded the moment it comes up. It never comes up, actually, if you need to know. Topic: A-Rod – bum or victim? Charming dissertation on the history of PED’s in sport. Topic: Mount Veeder viticulture as a metaphor for life? Don’t get me started. OK, that last one was bullshit – I have nothing on that one. But, my knowing, really knowing most stuff is a hoax. I don’t truly learn things through reading. I learn through doing, experiencing. So, someone telling me in a book that aging wine improves the depth, texture, balance, etc. doesn’t inform me in my core. It just gives my mind more stuff. I still won’t truly get it. Even if someone were to patiently tell me how it chemically changes – the #*****ases and the #****phenols, the unexplained changes brought on by French being spoken quietly in a dark cellar, I won’t truly understand it. And I really don’t want to understand it that way other than to use it as a party trick. Sorry.

There is a point to this story. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I had dinner at my place. It’s a bit of a tradition that we have a bottle of his and a bottle of mine. And, you need to know that we have many of the same wines, having similar tastes. That night, he brought a 2003 Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral. I contributed a 2006 Chateau Duhart-Milon. Yeah, yeah, I get it oenophiles, we both thought Pauillac, how intuitively in tune we are. I decanted the latter for……..ever. The ’03 – pretty well popped and poured. What did I learn? Well, I learned what happens to a wine that ages. Correction: I learned again what happens to red Bordeaux like ’03 Haut-Bages-Libéral when it’s aged a bit compared to a similarly structured newer wine. If I was at a dinner with unsuspecting people and this particular evening came up, I’d tell them the textbook stuff. I’d bullshit them or carefully toe the correct wine guy line. But, I don’t want to do that to you. I speak almost truths to you guys. My truthiness is unassailable! So, how were the two Bordeaux? The ’03 was sooooo much better. That’s it? Well, not exactly. My friend and I talked feminine versus masculine. Seriously, we did or maybe it was just me? But, what it boiled down to for me was that the older wine seemed more settled – more ready for prime time – more interesting. I could say that the tannins were a little softer, acidity a bit further in the background, fruit more focused, all more balanced because I think that’s true. But, what’s the point? You don’t need to know that exactly and you may have felt, tasted and experienced it a bit differently. What’s important is that I reinforced my belief that there are wines that just don’t do as well early as they do after some time in bottle. If I had a theory that allowed me to understand when exactly to open these wines, I’d be all set. But, I will continue to open many too early a la ’06 Chateau Duhart-Milon and others too late. ’94 Lazaretti BdM comes to mind. And, the way I learn that it’s too early or too late is by opening them. So, take my advice about aging wines with a pinch of salt, a jaundiced eye and any other old weird saying that comes to mind. When I taste a young wine, I do know if it needs time for me to truly enjoy it at its best. That’s for me to truly enjoy it. And, I’ll recommend when that’s my belief. But, I think that I’ll stay away from suggesting the exact month, week, and time of day.

So, why the ramble? Maybe just a nudge to readers to try the open-one-now-leave-one-for-later approach to wine. Or, it could be a veiled attempt to ensure that my friends reading this don’t try to lay some young Oregon pinot or 2010 Barolo on me when they drop over. I’m not having it. And, thinking this all through has contributed to a bit of angst about the ’98 and ’99 Taurasi Radici’s downstairs. What to do? Any advice?

Photo Credit: italianwineshop.it

4 Responses to “#MondayBlogs : Age? It’s Only A Number”

  1. andrew August 25, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    I’m with you Bill, raiding the cellar is one of my favourite pastimes these days. We opened my last 2005 Chateau Pipeau Saturday night and paired it with mushroom ravioli in a duck broth, and magret with duck confit and braised fennel. The Pipeau is soft on the palate, structured with lots of currants and a nice finish. One of your recommendations if I recall!

    Our guests brought Lanson Black Label Champagne, which went down real nice with my homegrown Pimientos de Padron.


    • Duff's Wines August 25, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

      Love the Pipeau but only if you let it sit for awhile. Duck? Pimentos de Padron – I’d like to say I know what those are but I’d gave to resort to reading up. Guess? Pickled peppers? Wait just noticed braised fennel. Sounds awfully good.
      Thanks for the comment.


  2. talkavino August 26, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Very interesting post, Bill. I don’t believe there is much science to the wine aging, it is mostly an experience which you acquire. Before opening the bottle, I never know what to expect – but to me, it is a part of the pleasure, this mystery is what makes drinking of wine so interesting for me. You can build certain frameworks you can rely on – but only from your personal experience. Like you, I’m also learning empirically, not by reading. I had many wines way past their suggested drinking windows, and those wines were delicious. And then there were some which never delivered. But again, with aged wines there is always a possibility of a great surprise, like the one I had when I opened the bottle of 1966 Louis Martini Pinot Noir – I’m sure majority of the wine experts would tell you to just never open that bottle and just keep is as a souvenir – nevertheless, it was delicious. And then I had a 10 years old bottle of Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon, which was not drinkable for the first 5 days after it was open, and then on the day 5, it became flat out delicious… I’m not trying to rant on your rant… Let’s drink to the pleasures of wine! Wait, it is only 7 AM here…


    • Duff's Wines August 26, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      Anatoli, 7am falls right at the beginning of my drinking window! You are right. The mystery is the fun part.


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