Aging wines is an art

I recently attended a wine tasting where there were many wonderful older wines presented, as well as a few younger red wines.

I love older wines, wines with 10 years or more age, and look forward to attending tastings where some of these wines are presented. Older wines are vastly different than wines drunk within five years of vintage. The younger wines are, generally, fruit-driven or tannin-driven and can be very loud on the palate. This is not to say that one cannot get enjoyment from younger wines, but there seems to be a wonderful something extra or a series of taste sensations unique to older red wines.

One of the things which happens with older wines is the complete lack of explosive flavors. For example, when we open new red wines, we many times get very forward fruit sensations which seem to overwhelm the palate. When this is the case there seems to be a very definite hunt for nuance or complexity, but nuance and complexity often get pounded by a new wine's forward and aggressive attitude. Not only does the aggressive nature of the wine seem to get in the way but the time it takes to finally attain nuances can be quite a while.

I remember not long ago when I opened a new bottle of cabernet and it took the darned thing a day to finally open up. Secondly, what cuisine actually goes with spanking-new cabernet or syrah? This is a problem with newly released red wines which are not the softy merlot of fruit-driven Beaujolais which are supposed to be drunk fairly soon. Red wine, in fact all wine, is supposed to do well with cuisine of some sort and if you find red wine blowing the chops from the table, the wine is probably too young.

Older wines are driven by subtle flavors and nuance and can deliver unbelievable levels of elegance. At this tasting, the silkiness and gentle, but long flavors of these wines were mind-blowing. All of the flavor sensations of the wines (those which were stored well) were quite something and we found that the staying power of each, although many were quite old, was quite something. In the nose the difference between the younger and the older reds was like day and night. Again, the younger reds were, compared to their older siblings, one-dimensional in the nose with vibrant, powerful aroma tones with very little complexity. In the older reds, the array of aroma tones was quite charming to smell and the bouquet changed seemingly minute by minute. With cuisine, the older red wines blended perfectly, adding depth and character to whatever was presented. It was a fun evening.

To build yourself a cellar where your wines will age gracefully you need to do the following things:

1. Do some research. Look for wineries which specialize in red wines for the cellar. Go to wine shops and ask the same thing. Wine shops are independent brokers so most wine shops carry more than a few competing wineries at any one time. There are literally hundreds of different red wines available for five- to 10-year cellaring.

2. Time line. Just how long do you wish to cellar your red wine? There are folks who wish to cellar wines for quite a while and folks who are looking for about three to five years. Some clients purchase wine to cellar for special occasions such as wedding dates and birthdays. I know of one man who has a case each of wine from each birth year of his children which he will give to them on their thirtieth birthday.

3. Price. So where is your comfort level? Stay true to your pocketbook and have fun at whatever level you are comfortable with. My guess would be that to put something down for any real length of time (10 years) you are looking to spend probably $35 to $50 on an entry-level wine. Naturally, there are exquisite wines at far costlier prices which will really blow the doors off, but staying in a lower price range can be rewarding and fun. I just sold a 2004 Brunello di Montalcino which will go the 10 years required of the client, quite easily. These wines were at the $100 mark which might seem excessive but will be worth many times that in flavor sensations and price in 10 years.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at

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