Why Age?

Drink Now? Drink later? Best between 10 and 15 years from when?

Often I am asked about the benefits of aging in the bottle. I’m asked what the difference is between a 2001 and a 2007 Napa Cab. I have a strange way of thinking about what happens to wine that’s been sitting in a bottle for years and years.

Do you remember when you were a child, and your mom would run into the store and leave you in the car. At this age, you’re in the front seat, and ever-so curious about all of the gadgets in front of you. As soon as she gets out of the car, you push in the “TREB” button; you start playing with it, and notice that things sound a lot different depending on its position. Soon after you realize the impact of the “BASS” button.

Mom gets back in the car and notices a change. She can’t identify it exactly, but she knows that something is off. She starts playing with the treble and the bass until she gets it back to that prefect balance.

When a new quality wine is released, they’re made to age. They’re designed to get better over the years. A just released Napa Cab may be over the top acidic, with intensly unbearable tannins and so much fruit you may confuse it for a Lodi Zin. Aging in the bottles works like the treble and bass settings in your car.

At first, you taste the wine, you recognize it. You’ve had it before. You’ve had an Oakville Cab before, but something is off about this one. You just can’t put your finger on it. It’s much stronger than you’re used to, you know it’s the same wine, but what is going on?

You get in your car, and your favorite song is on. You’ve heard it 1000 times, and it’s never sounded like this! It’s so much louder. It’s more abrasive. It’s the same song, but just not as you remember liking it.

Aging in the bottle slowly adjusts the knobs until you hit that perfect equilibrium of bass and treble. When Wine Spectator says best between 2018 and 2025, that’s when you have your favorite song back, just the way you remember it. Over the years the tannins slowly calm down as does the fruit and acidity, and when they say it’s best, it should in theory be… perfect.

View my restaurants’ wine lists:

Nosh: http://nosh121.com/grapesgrains/default.asp
The Blue Star: http://www.thebluestar.net/WineSpirits.asp

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  1. #1 by Barry on March 6, 2011 - 3:14 PM

    Some think of age as a destination. I see it as a spectrum. It may be just as thrilling to drink a too young wine because of all the potential and expectation of what the wine will become. It would be like watching Brett Favre play a junior varsity game. Drinking an old wine that you had tried when it was released can be rewarding. Drinking an old wine that is past its prime can be very disappointing.
    If you can afford to, buy several bottles of a wine you like. Drink them at different ages. Buy them every vintage if you want. Build a relationship with them. Patience can be rewarding.

    It is not a destination. You may like a particular cab at 10 years when I think it is prime at 15. They have yet to find a way to taste the same vintage at 10 years old next to itself at 15. Another argument against developing the time machine…..my cellar would be empty.

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