Friday, 4 April 2014

Age before beauty

I've been sampling a few bottles that have been under the stairs for a year or two to see how worthwhile it is to stash a bottle of your favourite Saturday night treat and here's the results.

So the regular advice on ageing wine is getting more and more to not really bother. Most wines produced commercially are not meant to be laid down and as the fashion is for higher alcohol, softer tannin and lower acidity the need to lay down wine while it matures/becomes drinkable is in all but a few wines a thing of the past. However wine does still change and mature and even on a budget there are wines that you can find that will age fairly gracefully it's then a question of whether you want instant gratification or if you've got a bit of patience.

Choosing which wines to lay down is always a tough choice if you're not spending lots on top producers in classic regions (and who can do that) then you can look for wines that ape those styles and you should not go to far wrong. So instead of premier Cru Bordeaux how about Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon or Chilean Carmenere but remember these wont need as long. Beware of wines that come pre-aged in your local wine store or supermarket, these are more than likely wines which have been sat around in a warehouse or the back of a store for ages it's much safer to buy and store at home. Ideally of course you'd store your wines with a reputable merchant like the Wine Society, but they will charge you so somewhere with a stable temperature, no vibration and out of direct sunlight is the least you must do.

Paso Doble 2008
Malbec Corvina
Tupungato Argentina £12ish

First off I should declare a bias this is a wine I've had before and one I really enjoy from a maker who on the whole I think makes excellent wines. Masi are an Italian company who are based in the veneto region but have this Argentinian out post. They partially dry the 30% of Corvina grapes which go into this wine add even more depth to the high grown Malbec grapes which make up the majority of the blend.
This wine when young is a suprisingly modest wine with a good degree of class and plenty of cherry and plum fruit. After some time in bottle there is a less vibrant aroma and the start of some earthyness which stops short of leather but the fruit has all but gone, on the palate this is mellow and soft I admit to expecting bigger flavours from this but the cherry has become more pruney still with some sweetness but not cloying. This has developed some of the secondary savoury character of aged wine but has also some touches of an aged port. 17.5/20

Terra Andina
Carmenere Carrignan
Central Valley Chile

This is a project from young and exciting winemakers that seeks to use blocks of high quality grapes from sites across Chile and use these to craft top quality wines. The signs then are good that this should be something a bit interesting. They have blended dry grown old vine Carrignan with Chile's great Carmenere and the alcohol at 13.7% is restrained by Chilean standards, a big and fruitdriven wine to savour.
The first thing to note is how fantastic the aromas of dark fruit and some violet even coffee that come leaping from the glass, if this is after years in bottle the young juice must very nearly blow your head off. On the palate this is wonderfully concentrated and supple yet balanced and not overpowering. There is a good blackcurrant and blueberry fruit which is offset by a creamy mouthfilling sweetness which makes this a very enjoyable and drinkable wine.
Ageing has mellowed and softened the tannin, a good coating of sediment is left in the bottle suggesting some of the bite has fallen away, and a mellow sweet spice has come to the fore. The ageing has revealed a different character and an emphasis on the complexity and secondary character of the wine while retaining the fruit character of the young wine. 18.5/20

Chateau Cissac 1992

Cissac is hardly going to bankrupt you but is an example of the kind of Bordeaux that anyone can manage to factor into even a modest collection. This is not an immensely rewarding wine when drank with a year or two of vintage often tough and unyeilding even in the best years it is outshone by easy drinking ripe new world reds.

Given 10 or more years in bottle though and that tannic grip has softened and while still there it can allow the autumnal fruit to come to the fore along with a wash of mouthwatering acidity. This is really lovely stuff elegant and soft in a way few young wines ever are. It remains bright but has a delightful mellowness like it's very slightly in soft focus.

This wine was made in a time when a Walkman was cool and Bill Clinton got elected and it still has something to offer. There's not a lot you can hide away for twenty odd years and not find technology or fashion have left it behind, a decent bottle of wine is pretty comforting in that way.18/20 (but only thanks to its advanced years)

It is certainly not essential to lay down wine more and more wine is made to be enjoyed immediately. It is also not necessary to spend hundreds of pounds on wines that you want to lay down nothing I have is over £30 to £40 and most in the £10 to £20 range. However if you do, you will have access to wines with a different character to anything you will find in the shops.

Should you fancy trying I would recommend you think about the kinds of wines you enjoy and the amount you want to spend.. The usual advice is to buy a case and open a bottle every few years until it peaks but there's nothing wrong in keeping just a few prized bottles for a special occasion.  Do some research and find which regions have a reputation for making good examples of the wines you enjoy and which producers have a good reputation and buy these. If you like Riesling you will be going for German and Alsace wines but don't rule out Tasmania, Clare Valley, Oregon/Washington State and even Constantia in South Africa. Not only will you end up with a reserve of interesting wines but you will broaden your own experience of wine which is half the battle.

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