01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

Do we drink wine too old?

As the autumn approaches (in some parts of France that I recently travelled through it looks like it’s well underway) thoughts turn to cold weather drinking.

It has made me think, spurred on by some of the comments here on TWS Community that many of us wait ‘patiently’ for our wines to come around. Personally, I like to broach a ‘six-pack’ (sorry) of EP Bordeaux after 6-7 years in the full knowledge, I hope, that it will not be ready but will be of interest to measure its development.

After all it is a dangerous game to wait too long and miss out on the sweet spot of maturity. Anyone guilty/unfortunate of having left their wines too long? What are the general views about this unscripted process?

15 Likes

I guess it comes down to drinking (and cellaring) habits, but its almost unknown for me to open a wine & find it over the hill. But then, I like older wines.

For those who are interested this is a well priced fully mature Bordeaux. Depending on one’s perspective it’s either ‘at it’s peak’ or ‘teetering on the edge’ Les Eclats de Branas Grand-Poujeaux, Moulis 2007

Is it fair to say that we are SOLD wines which are the opposite & are actually too young / not designed for aging? especially in Supermarkets it’s pretty inevitable given the commercial imperitive to keep stock turning over.

5 Likes

Depends on how many I’ve been able to buy at the time. I’ve already broached my 2014 and 2017 Bordeaux (plus some others like 2015 Barolo, 2016 Barberasco) to see what they’re like (I’ve yet to hit the 2016s and have no 2015). Trying them “too young” is part of the fun. As an aside the cheapest wine (2017 Cissac) was by far and away the furthest away from drinking. The 2014 Calon Segur and the 2017 d’Armailhac were both delicious.

I am far more cautious with wines I don’t have in a six pack (for reasons of either finance or availability), but do still tend to go in a bit earlier than most. The ones I am most cautious with is probably Burgundy, where I’ll go in very young or leave it ages for fear of the “dumb phase”.

16 Likes

Great topic @AnaGramWords

I think many French people in particular think we’re crazy to sit on wine for so long. Personally I definitely prefer the greater complexity and more savoury flavours you get from older wine. I probably drink wine more on its own (relaxing in front of the telly rather than with food) than many people, so I like the complentative aspect of an older wine.

Yes, you get some worn out duds but the rewards outweigh the risks IMO.

10 Likes

I think this is a way too complex subject matter, with way too many variables - not least personal taste - for us to ever reach a definitive, settled conclusion that we could all agree on.

But for me, if anything, most wines will live far longer, and indeed improve for far longer, than many expect or give them credit for.

From a personal perspective, I see well-aged, high quality Rioja as Spain’s one contribution to the pantheon of truly world class wines. But does everyone? I’m sure others have a view on that, but for my mind all the other contenders (pretenders?) to that particular accolade are predictable in their brilliance - perhaps I could use a pejorative word like Parkerized? - heavily extracted, big fruit, huge monolith wines (from Priorat and Ribeira mostly). Aged Rioja feels like it might fall to pieces if you so much as look it the wrong way. The two styles are almost irreconcilably worlds apart. Which do you like?

And take something like Madiran. It’s ageing profile is nothing like Rioja. It doesn’t ever demonstrably become a different wine to that which it was in it’s youth, it just relaxes a bit (it vary rarely loses much colour either). But I’d happily, and comfortably, sit on bottles of Montus/Bouscasse for 25 years or more, without fear of any sudden change for the worse. And something like Fronton, a wine always seemingly carrying the caveat ‘Drink Youngest Available’ will happily sit in a cellar for up to (and beyond) a decade and more and improve to something full of truffles and violets and garrigue. But do you like that in a wine?

And finally, to the point raised just above about ‘The French’. I’ve heard it said many times - indeed, I’ve been known to repeat the stereotype myself on more than one occasion - that they drink their wine young, but then that also seemingly doesn’t take into account producers who recommend long drinking windows on wines, who fetch out their old stock with pride for you to taste, or the plethora of fine restaurants with wine lists stretching back decades. Indeed, in St Emillion a few years ago (2015/16?) I attempted to order a 2005 off the list, and was kindly steered away from it with a knowing, slightly patronising glance, as being ‘far too young to drink yet’. So I think it’s like any stereotype, best taken with a pinch of salt.

So no, I don’t think we age wines too long. Let them sleep, you’ll thank yourself for it later :smiley:

10 Likes

Certainly longer than TWS (literally and metaphorically) give credit for.

But compared with the views of other people I drink wine with, I tend to prefer younger wines - when they still maintain some primary aromas, but are just starting to develop mature aspects, or even when they are bursting with fruit (if they ever are like that). I think the only wines I prefer really old are Rieslings

5 Likes

And then we come to Beaujolais. 10 y/o Morgon can be fantastic.

Us Brits seem view Cru BJL as ‘drink within 3 years’ - yet in France, aged Cru BJL is more common (and indeed is my preference). BUT it does depend how the wine was vinified, and in my experience UK buyers with the exception of some indy’s tend not to stock the more expensive age-worthy BJL.

Exemplar: Morgon 2020 Julien Sunier @£28. I have some 2017’s and they are WAY to young to drink right now !

2 Likes

Thx @AnaGramWords - interesting topic.

Yes i agree that it is purely personal choice at the end of the day it’s just a drink :laughing:

Seriously, i think most if us will concur with a selection of most of the points made here.

I first bought Bdx & Bgdy to keep and consequently have a historic imbalance to them in the cellar. I tend to try to get most in the accepted drinking windows but will often start a 6 a tad early " just to see" and usually keep a single bottle in good years again “just to see” eg currently have dozen or so Bdx 2000 from various Cru Bourgeois. I know they are officially over the hill but… I suspect 2010 will follow a similar pattern, 2009 not so much. The approach has generally worked well.

The other factor of course is age/health, buying wines for the long haul should be a bit pointless for me now.

Tho it hasn’t stopped me buying Madiran/Musar/Rioja GR etc :laughing: over last 12 months in an optimistic spirit.

Interestingly, having started mainly in Bdx and Bgdy and developed that strategy i find my purchases in last 5/7 years are much wider. Consequently B n B are reducing in importance to me so different strategies may be needed. I look forward to reading the rest of this thread and the experience that is available

9 Likes

@lapin_rouge and @Tannatastic fair cop, you’ve busted my stereotypes about French drinkers preferring young wines. It was based on what I’ve often heard but also what I’ve seen in French supermarkets. Maybe it’s no different here and we’re spoilt by TWS in being able to access carefully-stored wines with some bottle age. I’ve always seen that as one of the biggest perks of membership.

5 Likes

Well @SteveSlatcher , you would have enjoyed this which we did last evening with crab linguine.

13 Likes

I’ve drunk - and tasted and not drunk- more wines that are too old rather than too young.

@Tannatastic made a good point how personal tastes differ -though I don’t agree with his conclusion.

I have noticed that as I have got older my tastes are for more wine that are full of fruit and have powerful flavours and that I now miss the subtleties that others here report in wines and that I used to ‘get’.

So, I think it better to drink a wine now that may (or may not - the future is unknown) develop even more rather than find it has past its best.

8 Likes

We are both correct. The Lady Lapin is from Brittany, and we were often invited to folks houses for those long extended meals which the French do so well … the wines would start off young & fresh. Then as the courses progressed, much older wines would be produced from the depths of cupboards etc.

2 Likes

I have yet to open a Madiran which was ready to drink ! :slight_smile:

7 Likes

Interesting topic!

I agree that preference is all here. I also wholeheartedly agree that some rieslings are the wines that most reward long aging. This is especially true for those that rely on acidity for structure and are too acidic to be enjoyed in their youth, eg low alcohol wines from some German producers.

I think I’m more offended by overly acidic wines than overly tannic ones, so for me most nebbiolo and xinomavro can be enjoyable earlier than most rieslings.

One thing I find interesting is that ‘higher quality’ wines tend to be recommended for keeping longer. Is this about extract? Acidity? I can’t think of a general reason that makes sense, but happy to be enlightened if there is.

3 Likes

At Domaine Capmatin (Madiran) a few years ago, Mme Capmartin was adamant that acidity was the most important component for longevity in a wine. I’ll take her word for it! :smiley:

2 Likes

I’d say acidity and tannin protect the wine, enabling it to age without spoiling. But intensity of flavour is what makes aging worthwhile - less intense ones may keep but become meh.

I think it is almost a definitional thing that high quality wines age well. I read that a long time ago imported claret had to be drunk very soon after arrival in England before it spoiled, which meant that for most of the year there was a shortage of claret, and those that survived into the shortage period were much sought after and fetched a good price. I suspect that is what began the association of quality and price with aging ability, but that is just my interpretation.

Personally, I think wines that are great for early drinking are underappreciated

11 Likes

That is a very appealing explanation and one I will take on and repeat, apocryphal or not! I could imagine that the appreciable benefits that aging conferred on some of those wines also added to the prevailing wisdom that old wine is good wine.

2 Likes

But that consequence and perception would have arisen during the era of poor quality storage vessels and containers allowing rapid oxidation en route - hence the need to fortify the wines from Portugal and Canary Islands, and the early Australian winemakers in Swan and Rutherglen needing to do the same. Maybe the “better” clarets in those days were as much to do with better containers rather than the quality of the wine per se.

I understand the still white wines from the Champagne region, before formally fizzing them became a la mode, travelled well due to their acidity levels (although of course much was incompletely fermented as the weather turned cold, only to restart in English cellars the following spring… and that’s another story !)

1 Like

That must have been part of it, but maybe the tannins and higher ABVs of the “better” clarets helped too?

Regardless of the cause, it could still have resulted in the association of ageing with quality, and even today wine container “quality” (heavy, fancy bottles) and wine quality become conflated in the eyes of many consumers. There is a lot of muddled thinking when it comes to wine - at all levels of sophistication IMO.

3 Likes

Fairly certain Oz Clarke said something similar about Chenin Blanc acidity & it’s ageing potential.

1 Like