When it comes to aging wine, not every wine is meant to be put away in the cellar. I have been surprised at some of the wines that I have aging in my locker. There are several ways to test to see the aging process and how a wine develops over time.
I remember winemaker Clarissa Nagy, CNagy Wines telling me that she determines when to release her wines by sipping them over a series of days. She uses this guideline to establish whether to release the wine in one, two, or three months because each day represents a period of time. This concept can be used with a bottle of wine one has been storing.
If you purchased a few bottles of a particular wine, it might behoove you to take one bottle and taste it over a series of days. Even with decanting or aerating, it may get even better after a few days. If a wine seems tight before decanting or aerating, the wine will hold for many more years.
A few years ago, I opened a 1980s St Clement. The first day my family thought it was over the hill. One of my wine-savvy friends came over, and for the fun of it, I suggested he sample the wine. He said this wine is ready to drink; it is perfect; drink it tonight. Unfortunately, I was having a medical procedure and could not drink, so we waited another two days, and the wine was spectacular. In addition, this shows that how you recap a bottle of wine is very important.
Aging Wine In Collio
Aging wine under most circumstances is sometimes a crapshoot. None of us can predict how long a wine will last. A lot depends on how they are stored. I remember being in Italy at Livon while Valneo Livon’s son Matteo celebrated his birthday. The year he was born, 1988, they saved a large portion of the Pinot Bianco they produced that year. Each year they opened a bottle of this wine for their son’s birthday. I was privileged to get to taste that wine. It is not often that white wine ages, but with the storage conditions, the wine showed exceptionally.
My notes at the time described the wine as having aromas of honey, apricot, and nuts while exhibiting creamy honey and apricot flavors.
I did notice in Italy; many wineries are aging white wines much longer than we typically see in the United States.
Aging Wine: A Family Legacy
As part of their family legacy, the Dierberg’s of Dierberg Starlane Winery in Santa Ynez created a family library in their wine cave with the premise of aging wine for generations. Their ambitious goal presumes their vineyards can produce world-class wines for at least 250 years into the future. This plan establishes a vision for a family legacy and the Dierberg family brand and involves future generations.
This library holds back the best vintages from Dierberg’s three family-owned vineyards so that future generations can grab a bottle of wine that their grandparent created. The family thinks these wines can potentially be around at least 50 years. They have tested 25 years
Aging Wine – The Vertical Tasting
Finally, an excellent way to explore aging wine is through a vertical tasting. This evaluation can show if a winery and winemaker are consistent in their goals for producing wine. It also shows the evolution of wines. Vintage climate and conditions play a role in the differences in each wine in a vertical tasting.
An excellent example of this came about with two recent tastings I enjoyed with L’Ecole No 41. I sample the 2013 and 2017 Perigee on the first occasion, and on the second, the 2015 and the 2018 Perigee. Perigee refers to the point when the moon is closest to the earth. The name is befitting because it also represents when the moon is closest to the Seven Hills Vineyard. Naming the wine Perigee signifies the proprietary name for L’Ecole’s Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux blend from the Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla. L’Ecole is a partner in the170 acre Seven Hills Vineyard. The soils consist of wind-blown loess.
Whatever the vintage, the wine is characterized by the following qualities, cedar, black cherry, and richly structured elegance. All vintages age for 22 months
Aging Wine – Perigee Vertical Tasting
Perigee 2013: The composition of this vintage consists of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 9 % Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. 2013 was a warm vintage. I found the wine very together. This wine emphasizes the rich elegance and earthy structure of Seven Hills Vineyard. The wine is accented by flavors of Cinnamon and clove. The wine aged for 22 months in 50% new French oak.
Perigee 2015: The 2015 vintage is now considered the warmest vintage on record in Washington. The blend consists of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot. Over two days, this wine got better. I decanted the wine on the first day of tasting. The wine delivered a smooth and integrated texture and quality. I found herbal, cedar, and savory notes that accented the blueberry and blackberry aromas on the nose. On the palate, the wine exhibited blueberry with spicy pepper on the finish. The wine aged in 40% new French Oak.
Perigee 2017: The vintage was moderate in terms of heat. This Bordeaux blend combines 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, and 9% Malbec. Flavors of blackberry, cedar, cocoa, and earthy and herbal notes dominate this wine. The wine aged in 40% new French oak.
Perigee 2018: This vintage was later to ripen. The composition consists of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot and 9% Malbec. This wine should be aerated or decanted. On the nose, I detected blueberry, pepper, and cedar aromas. On the palate, the wine exhibited dark fruit and spices. This wine opened up beautifully by the third day of tasting.
Aging Wine Today
In this day and age, when we so often want things to come our way immediately, aging wine takes patience, but sharing the outcome with friends and family is worth the wait.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.