Why should I purchase age wines?

There seems to be some misunderstanding about the aging of wine and the benefits of putting something down in the cellar.

Most folks think that red wine should be drunk early, within five years; others believe that red wine needs time to age to be better. This controversy has been around as long as wine has been made, bottled, sold and consumed.

There are wines emerging from Washington state, in the Walla Walla area, that are the classic age worthy reds of the Cabernet persuasion, as well as some of the big Syrah with tons of spice and long, broodingly dark aftertastes.

The wines from the Umpqua region in the Beaver State are producing equally big wines that require some cellar time, especially those from Abacela winery; the Tempranillo reserve and Syrah are first to come to mind. In the Applegate Valley, we are looking at the Troon Cabernets, the 2004 being the wine of note, as well as the Syrah from Slagle Creek and the Cabernet from Wooldridge Creek.

In the Rouge Valley, we are seeing Mescolare from Weissinger, the Velocity and Trium from Roxyann, as well as a few other little gems. It can be understood that the Noble Pinot Noir from Oregon might not do well for longterm aging, say, over the six-year mark.

I have been judging these wines for years and I find that their aging capacity (there are some notable exceptions) just does not have the stuff to keep them going. The fact that Pinot Noir in general and Oregon Pinot Noir, specifically, are prized for nuance and elegance rather than power and deep backbone, really do not allow for these wines to take long naps in the cool of the cellar. We can see, however, the French Burgundy of the Pinot Noir variety aging far better than its American brother. There are many reasons for this phenomena but we will have to discuss this at a later time.

I have found this inability to age well true with most California Zinfandel, as well but for vastly different reasons. The big boy Zins are prized and purchased for their up-front fruit, alcohol levels (well, many of them) and overall chewy "meal in a wine" treatment. Because the cellar tends to diminish fruit with the alcohol levels, seemingly feeling as those they are rising in the bottle as a result, the big Zins come out all wood and alcohol with the veil of fruit dissipated and lost in the process. Therefore, what we love about the Zin gets lost in the cellar, which is exactly what we do not want in an aged wine!

The Napa reds are also becoming dangerously "hot" because of the warming of the valley and we will have to wonder what the world has in store for them within the next five years. Alcohol can really sneak up on the palate as wines age and it is important to understand this when thinking of starting a cellar.

White wines, with a few exceptions, do not age well and were never intended by the wine maker to do so. We can see the sweeter Riesling of Germany or the fine Sauterne of Bordeaux being the notable exceptions, but these are the "great" noble exceptions.

More on cellaring wine and what to look for in next week's article. Until then, see you next week!

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