One of the real pleasures of wines, I must say, is enjoying an aged wine at a perfect time of its life. Not all wines, however, get better with age. And, not all wines are in fact meant to age. Furthermore, I have found ageworthy wines often periodically go through peaks & valley as it sleeps/ ages. The question then would be, when do I open it?
I remember, for example, watching one of the true “trophy” wines early on in my career, the 1976 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, evolve over the years, both in bottle age development & price. I marveled at how the 2 attributes were so linked.
The 1976 vintage, eventhough a lighter year which therefore produced more approachable wines, Lafite was the clear star, at least for my palate . I really liked the wine, because it had Lafite’s standout pedigree/truly noble nuances while still being surprisingly approachable. I didn’t have much money then, but I liked the wine so much, I splurged & also purchased several 1/2 bottles too.
Over the years afterwards, I followed the 1976’s development (AND the prices, just out of interest). I was fortunate to taste the wine at my work place, where I would serve the wine now & then, & I could therefore periodically keep abreast of how it was developing in the bottle as time went on.
As another perspective, I noticed every time the price really spiked, I would then try one of my 1/2 bottles. In every such case I was amazed at how the wine had come out of “hibernation” & had opened up again. I then surmised that when the wine had in fact opened up again & showed well, collectors would want to go out & buy some, so the demand therefore increased, thus driving the price up.
Watching a wine evolve over the years was a truly invaluable experience. Because of the insight experienced over the years, I now better understand what the real sweet spot is I want to look for in an aged wine. First of all, I relish bottle age development–bouquet & perfume, as well as a wonderfully harmonious, balanced & well textured flow on the palate. At the same time, I also still want there to be a virile, solid core to the wine as well. I therefore generally look for 15 to 25 year bottle age for most “trophy” styled reds.
1985 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma Mountain”-this wine certainly caught my attention. Although I have been an avid fan & follower of the Laurel Glen Cabernets over the years, I still marvel at what they did to produce such an amazingly ageworthy wine like this. This 1985, which was young, virile & quite hard in its youth, was not the prune mui, dried autumn leaves, dried, leathery, sometimes pruney nuanced wines one finds in the majority of 1985 Californian Cabernets we typically run across. AND, there were no raisined, deeply oak laden qualities one finds in aged, contemporary styled wines. This wine had a strong, deeply flavored, surprisingly youthful core still, with wonderful structure, balance & texture. The nose had all kinds of different nuances & earthy qualities which were mesmerizing. Wow! This was truly memorable & reminded me of the Californian Cabernets of old……..PRE-fruit bombs. Thank you Kevin for sharing!
1987 Domaine Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”–I have been very fortunate to taste lots of Tempier Bandol over the years. I must admit, it took me a while to completely “get it”….BUT I certainly finally got it. I told tasters at this particular VINO get together, this was the most floored I had ever been with a Tempier wine! This 1987 was so wonderfully developed AND open, in all its glory on this night. I loved the nose–wildly rustic–hung, aged game, wild herbs & shrub, licorice, lavender, gunflint, sun baked rocks with all kinds of dried red fruit; the superb, harmonious mouthfeel & texture & the long finish. This wine was truly glorious & was singing confidently & purely! Thank you to Gail & Vern for sharing. Wow!
Interestingly, roughly 2 weels later, we were able to taste a 1987 (La Tourtine) & a 1985 (La Migoua) Tempier Bandol again, but this time side by side! Initially, on this day, the 1987 seemed much more youthful with lots of vigor & virility in the core. In comparison the 1985 seemed to be freying at the edges with a prominent charcoal nuance to the nose. With some breathing, however, the 1985 came alive & showed more youth than the 1987. This bottle of 1987 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine” just seemed much more lackluster & tired than the one we had weeks earlier. What a very different experience!!! Thank you to Vern, Gail & Brent for sharing!
1994 Chave Hermitage–here was yet another epic red wine in all of its glory!!! Again, I have been very fortunate to visit Chave a few times over the years & also privileged to taste this iconic wine in many different vintages. I can’t think of an occasion, however, where I was as astounded as on this night. This truly was having a standout wine at an ideal time of its life in the bottle. The nose was majestic, confident, masculine, savory, stony with graphite, herbs, dried fruit, meaty/andouille sausage/feral rusticity, lavender, smoke, pepper & a thousand other nuances. I absolutely loved the breed & vinosity this wine deftly & proudly exuded. Yes, it was a most memorable wine! (We had the 1998 a couple of nights later & it was unfortunately quite shut down in comparison). This taste totally reinforced to me why the Chave Hermitage is truly & undeniably one of the great red wines of the world. Thank you Mike for sharing!