Obsessed with age

We are obsessed with age.

We are crazy people, I’m sorry, but it’s true, we’re nuts.  Just a quick review of the evening news should be enough to convince you of the truth of that statement.  Doesn’t mean we are bad people, just unhinged!

Let’s make a list of some of the crazy things we do; Lie, tell false stories Why?  In most cases we don’t have to, but we do, a lot!  If you need examples think news organizations, political parties, salespeople, spouses, and kids.

Alter our bodies.  We spend $10.4 billion for cosmetic surgery, $1.2 Billion on Liposuction, and $800 million on hair transplants. We spend $3 billion a year on tattoos.  Tattoos?  Geez!

We spend $40 to $50 Billion a year on exercise and about $200 billion on Fast Food.  Want to save a quick $250 billion stop doing both!

img_2739One of the craziest things I think we do is buy wine to put it on a rack and not drink it.  We are obsessed with aging wine.  Why is beyond me.  Wine is made for one reason, to drink.  It was never intended to just sit in the bottle.

Let’s look at some myths about aging wine.  Wine improves with age.  This statement is not true.  Some wines, maybe 1% of wines made have the potential to be aged.  90% of all wines are meant to be consumed within a year of production and 99% of wine within 5 years.  Your tattoo will age better than a bottle of Yellowtail.

Where did this obsession for aged wine come from?  Well it seems like most everything else about wine we get it from the Greeks and the Romans.  They knew “straw wines” were able to age due to the high sugar content even if all they had to work with were earthenware containers.  Even the Bible tells us that “old wines” are valued over “new wines” or was Luke the Robert Parker of his time.

After the fall of Rome, the appreciation for aged wines faded with a greater appreciation of staying alive.  The wine was crap but it was safer than drinking the water and supplied some calories along with a buzz.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that interest in aged wine returned.  The wines of Germany, Riesling with high acidity and sugar were prized because they didn’t turn to vinegar in a few months.  

Then in the 17th century technology arrive that greatly increase the possibility of aging wine.  The glass bottle and the cork were major advanced in the ability of wine to last more than a few months.  The other great idea was adding spirits to wine or fortified wine Port, Madeira, and Sherries.

The romance of ageing tells us it makes the wine taste better. Or that a wines ability to age for an extended period of time is an indicator of a good wine. Both statements are generally accepted misconceptions.

Aging wine “changes” wine that is for certain.  Those changes do not mean the wine is getting better, in most cases it’s getting worse.  Science tells us that fruitness deteriorates rapidly after only 6 months in the bottle.  Wine is after all a perishable product.  It’s ability to age will be determined by the grape variety, vintage, viticultural practices, wine region and winemaking style.  To this list let’s also add, the condition the wine is kept, not many two bedroom condos have wine cellars, the condition of the bottle and cork, and the wines proximity to toddlers.  A lot can go wrong with a bottle of wine over 5 years, not to mention a decade. The sad fact is most of us drink ours wines too late, not too early.

What do the experts say?  Coates Law of Maturity, this principle says a wine will remain at its peak for a duration of time that is equal to the time of maturation required to reach it optimal quality.  In English this means if it takes a wine 4 years to taste good, the bottle can be cellared for 4 years. Sorry can’t prove it by me.

For me, I trust the maker of the wine.  Let them do the aging.  I accept the producers tradecraft, when they bottle it, it’s ready to drink.  Most winemaker’s notes will tell you how long you have to drink the wine.

Vinepair suggests that if the wine costs under $30 a bottle drink it NOW.  Most wines under $30 a bottle have no aging potential.  Other wines I would enter into this category are white wines, Rose wines, sparkling wines, anything that says “ Nouveau” or anything made at home.  I’m going to get yelled at for that one.

Over $30 okay, but you still have to know what you are doing.  Pay attention to vintage, wine region and winemaking style. In general wines with low pH have greater capability of aging. Wines with higher Tannins will age better.  Acidity in white wines act like tannins in red wine so whites with high acidity will age better.  Always read the winemaker’s notes.

Wines I would attempt to age; cabernet Sauvignon (4-20), Riesling (2-30), Nebbiolo (4-20) Syrah (2-6) Zinfandel (2-6) Syrah (4-16) Spanish Tempranillo (2-8) here’s your best bet Vintage Ports (20 to 50) Yeah, I’m hooked on Ports.

The question I still have is why?  Why age wine at all?  I’m getting better at aging.  Six years ago I aged wine approximately the amount of time it took me to drive home from the store.  I have grown and developed over these last six years.  I now have a cellar.  I buy wine by the case (mixed cases), yup I get the 10% to 15% discount!  I use to have over 100 bottles in “my” cellar.  I stopped it because the wines were going off.  I’ve cut back to only 50 and if I’m not careful I have the same problem.  Trust me on this,  write down when you buy every bottle and review it, because your biggest problem will be pouring the wine down the sink rather than drinking it too early.  Maybe that should be another crazy thing people do, have 5,000 bottle cellars.

My opinion is if you want to drink old wine, pay the extra money and buy old wine.  Take it home and enjoy it.  That’s why they made it.


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