When Is The Wine Really (Really!) Ready To Drink?
About a week ago, I opened the bottle of 2004 Heritat Mont Rubi Durona Penedes D.O. This is my second experience with the wine. The first one was about a year ago when I opened a bottle to celebrate Wine Century Club’s 7th anniversary (one of the grapes this wine is made of, Sumoll, was a new grape for me). Here is how I described the wine at that time:
“very interesting herbal nose of sage and may be some oregano ( lightly hinted), and some nice red fruit on the palate, medium body, well balanced with pronounced tannins – I think it can still age for a while. Drinkability – 7+“.
Why am I telling you this and even citing my own tasting notes? Let me explain. This time, I opened the wine for a casual evening glass of wine, not for a dinner. I had one glass, and put it aside (using my faithful VacuVin to remove the air). The wine was tight and firm, with some cherries and good acidity on the palate. It was pleasant, but there were no problems with putting the glass down.
The next day, I opened the bottle again. There was not much of a difference with the previous night. May be the fruit became a touch softer, may be some raspberries showed up in addition to cherries, but tannins and acidity were still firm – not biting, no, but firm and present together. I had a glass or two, and closed the bottle again.
On the third day, something happened. The wine transformed from “ok, nice” to “WOW” (by the way, I think we need a new rating system for the wines – “yuck, ok, nice, wow, OMG” should do it – what do you think?). The wine became luscious, velvety, layered, showing the wide range of dark fruit – plums, cherries, touch of blackberries, touch of spices, all very balanced – it was impossible to put the glass down (no need too – there was nothing left in the bottle). In the three days, this wine transformed. It transformed from just an okay to wow, from the wine you can drink if you need to, to the wine you crave.
The subject of wine and time is one of the most fascinating. It is literally impossible to know what time will do to the wine. But I can honestly tell you, for the most of the “drink by” recommendations from the wine critics, I’m almost at the point of laughing. Okay, may be not laughing, but definitely ignoring. No, not all the wines will improve with time. Yes, there are general rules, like “drink Beaujolais Nouveau by the next May”. Yes, there are wines which are not intended to age, especially among the white wines, and especially if the white wine is Pinot Grigio or may be Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, I probably wouldn’t age most of the Rose – but have you ever tried Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja Rosado? The wine was 11 years old when I tried it, and it was stunning.
The way I look at the wine aging is this – most of the wines can age, until it is proven otherwise. I had 1947 Rioja recently, which was youthful, exuberant and outstanding. During recent Rioja seminar, I listened to our presenter to describe his experience with 1917 Rioja. He tried the wine in the group of 8 wine professionals at the dinner – after the first sip, the table got quiet for the next 5 minutes – people simple had to reflect on the wine. If you look through this blog you will find my accounts with well aged California wines, such as 16 years old Flora Springs Chardonnay, 20 years old Justin Cabernet Franc, 15 years old Estansia Meritage and Toasted Head Cab/Syrah blend (probably $12 at the time of purchase!) – the list can go on and on – all the wines I’m mentioning were outstanding, however I’m sure none of them would be declared aging-worthy by conventional wine critics or even winemakers.
The tricky part of wine and time relationship extends even further. We want to drink the wines at their peak. How can we know when the peak will be? I don’t have much experience with red Burgundy wines in general. But I understand that their aging process looks rather interesting – very drinkable form the beginning, they shutdown after a while, and then they come back. How can you know you are drinking the wine when it is ready, and not only that – when it is at its best? I’m not sure… I had my own experience last year with 2002 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. From the moment the bottle was open, it was literally undrinkable – dense, rough, no fruit, just tannins – and it was like that for the 4 days. I didn’t try any aggressive decanting, but I tasted the wine every day. And then on the day number 5, the same magic happened as the one I described at the beginning of this post – the wine opened up into a beautiful WOW nectar – but I could’ve dump it just the day before!
Where am I going with all of this? I don’t have the destination. I want to make you to think about wine and time. I wonder where we, oenophiles, collectively are on this subject. I will hold my position no matter what – “the wine can age until proven otherwise” – but what do you think? What is your experience with “wine and time”? Can we do something to educate all the wine drinkers about it, do we even need to do it, or should we just drop the subject as you don’t believe it’s worth the bits, bytes and emotions? I will keep bringing up this subject from time to time, but hey, don’t be shy – see that comment box below? Cheers!