Thursday, January 17, 2008

Does it Suck Getting Old?

The Wine Spectator's James Laube posted a conversation (subscription needed) with Bill Harlan of Harlan Estate on his blog recently that had to do with the ageability of his wine.

Many of the commentors on the blog seemed offended that a wine as expensive as Harlan, with the kinds of ratings it has received, was not necessarily made to age.

Notwithstanding my personal feelings about the quality of the Harlan wines, the comments made me revisit the question of a wine's ageability. Below is the comment I made:

The question of ageability fascinates me. When did a wine's ability to age become so closely related to its inherent quality?

It would first seem that enough wine drinkers had to accept that the qualities of older Cabernet-based wines were "better" than those of the "younger" wines for that criterion to attain its level of importance.

Then it would seem that this group of wine drinkers would have to agree that the same criterion for quality that is appropriate for Bordeaux should be used for California Cab, which, to me, is more unlike Bordeaux than it is like it.

Bordeaux, I understand. The wines were lower in alcohol/higher in acid, more tannic, less defined by fruit than California when young so their charms needed time to be revealed...I get that.

But using a Bordeaux paradigm to qualitatively describe California doesn't seem particularly useful to me. Nor does being beholden to this arbitrary criterion for quality. There is nothing objectively fine about aged wine; this is a "truth," which like most things wine-related, is a function of fashion.

Then again, maybe I am just hopelessly obtuse and am trying to re-capture my own fleeing youth in each glass of fruit-bombish Cali Cab.

Am I hopelessly obtuse? Or on the right track? Let me know what you think.

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