A few weeks ago I wrote about some wines from 2009 and how good they were. Ageing wines is a tricky business for a number of reasons:
- Storing wines is fraught with risk; temperature, light, vibration and humidity (or lack of it) can all spoil bottles so care must be taken.
- Some wines benefit from keeping, others are designed to be drunk fairly early.
- How long to keep them so that they are at their best? Some people prefer younger wines when fruit is more upfront, others prefer more flavours from age; leathery, earthy, more complex perhaps.
If possible it can be interesting to have a few bottles of the same wine and drink some early, some over time. I have done this with 1990 Bordeaux wines and still have a couple of bottles of cases I bought all those years ago. It has been interesting to watch their development from tough and tannic, through balanced and fruitful with classic cigar box notes to the dry, mushroom and port like flavours when tasted this year. The colour too changed from purple/red to claret and ruby to orange brown. The last bottles need drinking now, they are less pleasurable perhaps than even 2-3 years ago though they are still enjoyable and pleasing in a more academic manner.
However, buying a case is not always possible or desirable. Some wines are intended to be aged for a few years, certainly the more expensive bottles from classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone. Sweet wines too age well and develop richer flavours (I generalise of course). Wines from grapes such as Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan can age very well because of the levels of tannin in the wine, Italian grapes such as Nebbiolo likewise. Back labels might offer advice about how long to keep the wines, otherwise search vintage charts or the producer’s website. Some like Domaine Treloar offer clear advice on each vintage of each wine.
I bring this all up because this week I opened two bottles of Languedoc wines from 2007. Both were excellent and were perfect examples of the advantages of ageing wines.
Domaine D’Aupilhac in Montpeyroux is one of the most famous of Languedoc wine producers. Sylvain Fadat has long produced a range of very good wines. Les Cocalières 2007, a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache it was still fruity but had aromas of herbs and the age had developed leathery, earthy notes. Very good, the flavours lingered long.
Even better, one of the best wines I have tasted this year was Domaine La Marfée’s Les Vignes Qu’On Abat 2007. Pure Carignan made by this domaine on the outskirts of Montpellier by Thierry Hasard. If you need proof of how good Carignan can be (other than Flambadou) then make a beeline for this wine. Brambly, liquorice flavours with almost citrus freshness, the wine improved over the course of several hours, developing yet more flavours and aromas. This would have kept for many more years, the colour was still bright ruby and there was no sign of tiredness. Truly excellent.
I am sure these wines would have been excellent a few years ago, though would have needed to be opened for a while to allow their flavours to open up, perhaps by decanting which can be an alternative to keeping bottles for a long time and is something I do with many, even most, wines.
August 15, 2017 at 3:17 pm
Ageing wine is always enlightening. People worry about wine falling apart, and it can. They worry it will be shot. But you know what? Most of the time I open a bottle too soon, and it’s still young.
Why does this happen? Because I like to drink so widely I rarely buy more than four bottles these days. And often one of those gets swapped or given as a gift.
We used to buy cases, like you, but there’s so much damned good wine out there, as with those two bottles. People like Grange des Pères and others proved long ago that Languedoc-Roussillon ages no less well than others.
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August 15, 2017 at 3:29 pm
Fascinating as always, Alan. Merci beaucoup.
August 15, 2017 at 3:31 pm
Agreed on all points. I would prefer to buy in 6s these days (Mas Coutelou aside). The benefits of ageing are there to see, pleasure for the mind and palate. It is an art though, how many times have I opened bottles too soon or too late, though I agree they usually age much better than expected. White wines too!
August 15, 2017 at 7:07 pm
Interesting article. I have just finished a conversion for a cave a vin and now looking to stock it with reasonably priced wines. Although it is a pleasant problem, it is a daunting task and it would be helpful it there were wine tasting sessions with this in mind.
August 15, 2017 at 11:11 pm
Daunting but rewarding and certainly pleasurable, I wish you good hunting. My only advice would be to mix things up; countries, regions, styles and then experiment.