Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's the Big Deal with Aged Wine?

Perhaps I am a troglodyte, in a camp of one, on the outside, not part of the mainstream, etc. But I don't get all the fuss about aged wines.

Tasting with really knowledgeable and experienced wine drinkers often, there hasn't been a time when someone questioned whether the wine was too young, too old; lamented "infanticide" of a recent vintage, harkened longingly back to that dusty old Bordeaux .

One of the most amazing aspects of wine is its constantly mutable character. The first sip is different than the last; the last bottle of the case showing immense differences from the first. But often, these changes aren't for the better. I am an unabashed lover of young wine. There, I said it!

My father's model was Bordeaux. Growing conditions and winemaking culture necessitated long-term aging before those wines revealed any of their charms. "Charms" is used loosely here. For those wines, to me, have great intellectual interest and curiosity, but little gustatory gusto.

I appreciate the effects that time have on wine, the polished curves, the brandied aromas, soft tannins, melding of fruit and wood. But give me the corners and the over-reaching; the impertinence of youth.

I think critics are on the wrong track in factoring ageability into the matrix for quality. What is a 20-year California Cabernet, but a circus freak? Gone is the exuberance of fruit, the astringency of tannin, the mouth-coating wonderfulness of that glorious richness. Ageability is a vestige of a paradigm that has nothing to do with California...a vinous appendix. Let the Bordelais celebrate their aged and dimmed wines. Raise your glass to impetuosity.

What do you think? How important is a wine's ageability in assessing its quality? Am I just a heathen, or am I on to something here?


Anonymous said...

Steven - As I enjoy Fleeting Fragrance (Collector's Circle - aka 2002 Home Ranch!) in September 2008, I think about your comments regarding aging wine. I think there is aging - getting the wine to taste better by letting the magic that happens in the bottle "happen", and the snob-ish concept that wine needs to be "able to age" for X years in order to be a "fine" wine. Well, the FF is outstanding, and at 6 years old shows great fruit, complex oak/tannins and a finish that just goes on close to forever. Would it be better in 10 more years? Perhaps, but I'm not sure how. On the other hand, FF was not this good (as I recall) at release. Good, but not THIS good. Some of the magic has happened.

What we need to strive for wine drinkers is the appreciation of what bottle age can add, without forgetting that bottle aging will, sooner or late, subtract. In addition, making a wine that "requires" 10 to 15 years to hit the top would limit the producer to making wine for a very small part of the population that enjoys wine.

Stay the course. If it takes 6 years for Fleeting Fragrance to peek, well, I was able to wait that long. 20 years, not so sure.

Thanks for the wine.

Steven Mirassou said...


Thanks for the comment and the kind words. I think you nailed it on the head...I guess I object to the notion that a wine can only be good if it outlasts several generations of the family that bought it.

Thank you very much for your support, and I am glad you are enjoying the wines.

--Steven Mirassou