Readers' questions answered

I've decided to answer a few readership questions regarding specific issues about wine. Here's a chance to clear the desktop and get in depth on a few great basics. Okay, here we go:



162; Why are older wines better to drink than younger wines? &

Wines with age on them, particularly red wines, have a wonderful advantage over many younger wines. Older wines, say over five years after vintage date, can have an "integrated" feel throughout the wine tasting experience. This feeling comes from many of the individual components, such as fruit, oak and tannins that have time to marry and blend with the juice.

We see this often in many Italian wines, such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello; and French offerings, especially from Bordeaux, where the Cabernet Sauvignon takes some time to get together. I am also seeing this come true with the powerhouse Walla Walla district reds that will soften with time.

White wines, with notable exceptions, do not benefit with age. There are many red wines that should not age for great lengths of times, such as many Beaujolais and simple central valley California wines.

I am also not a fan of aging Zinfandel, which is more lovely within the first five years of harvest because the youthfulness of the fruit is the premium drive of the varietal.

There are those who disagree with me, but once that fruit dissipates, the alcohol on many of these wines, as well as the oak, can become overpowering without the balance of the fruit.



162; I do not like red wines because I find them "sour" or "bitter." Give me an idea of how I can get into this level of wine drinking and enjoy it. &

There are many folks who find red wine "too much" on a variety of levels. Some find the wines to "burn," be bitter or astringent or coat their tongues with wood tannins.

One of the things to remember about red wines is that most red wine, maybe the majority of red wine, is supposed to be consumed with cuisine. Going it alone with red wine can be tough on even the most experienced wine person. Many red wines are in fact designed with food in mind and are really ducks out of water without a companion on the table. Cuisine softens and integrates the red wine experience and is also fun. Finding just the right companion for red wine is one of the great things about wine appreciation.



162; Who decides the price of wine? &

Wine prices can seem wildly out of whack or very inconsistent.

Wine prices very definitely reflect the market pressure. Older vintages, great vintages, super-star winemakers and great appellations, as well as hard-to-find, allocated wines, can send wine prices soaring. This scarcity or best-of-the-best scenario keeps some wine perpetually high and these prices rarely go down.

We also see dollar-Euro fluctuations in wine price instability as well as very low yield growing seasons. The truth of the matter is that many of the great wineries, those wineries with superb track records, have prices that rarely deflate. This is true with recession-inflation cycles: these really nice wines stay tight.

The bottom line remains (this has historical validity) &

with any consumable we write about &

with the will of the consumer. If the consumer finds the price too high and simply does not purchase the wine(s), then you will see a marked decline in the price of the commodity.

Sometimes we see this price drop happen with very large vintages, where the winery has a ton of back stock and need to sell. We also see this with a poor but bountiful harvest followed by a very fine vintage. The winery then will try very hard to get rid of the inferior vintage before selling the "good stuff." In this case we find price declines and very good values. Sometimes we just get lucky!

See you next week.

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