Time in a Bottle
Gary Parker, Owner
The WineSellar & Brasserie
Here is an article I wrote recently for The San Diego Union Tribune. It discusses the merits of cellaring a bottle to reach its maximum evolution versus drinking the wine soon upon its release. There are arguments for both sides of the equation, and actually, I find myself enjoying wines when they are younger more so than I have in the past
Recently, I made the trek to Napa Valley to catch up on some winery visits. One of my best stops was at Mi Sueno winery, where four of us spent a very long time tasting through the current and older releases. I was quite enchanted with the Mi Sueno story, the staff, and more than a couple of their wines.
I found the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon quite intriguing and totally delicious. As I was making extensive tasting notes on it, I began to wonder, with a wine that tastes this great right now, should I consider aging it in the bottle?
As a wine merchant and restaurant owner for nearly 30 years, I have tasted more than my share of aged wines, and really do enjoy the benefits of putting a wine in the cellar for how ever long I think it will take for it to reach its maximum potential. But this 2010 Cabernet offered something I rarely get with a newly released California Cabernet Sauvignon: Seamless texture.
That means that the wine has a nice balance of astringency to fruit. It did not have the pronounced youthful tannins and hard edges you experience with many young, premium Cabernet Sauvignons. It is creamy, dairy like, full-bodied, and well-balanced. The wine delivers an outstanding feel in the mouth, providing a long, perfect finish that is both glorious and satisfying.
And, the youthful fruit, my heavens! Dark and red berry fruits meld with the vanilla oak/wood notes brilliantly. It is like biting into the ripest black cherry I have ever had, which is baffling, because these are grapes! With the dark cherry, cola and cream flavors, it is like having an adult ice cream sundae.
Back to my question: With all this, do I want to cellar it because it tastes so fabulous today?
I asked Mi Sueno representative, Jaime Orozco, that very question, as well as a few of my close wine drinking buddies who are ageing a lot of California Cabernet in their cellars. We concluded that the only way to accurately assess the question was to try a few older bottles (and see how they have aged) next to the youthful 2010 Mi Sueno.
While we tore through our cellars on this quest, we did taste a number of older Cabernets, many of which were quite delightful. Others should have been consumed a few years ago, having lost the edge of perfect bottle age to Father time.
The best comparison was to drink the 2008 Mi Sueno Cabernet next to the 2010 Mi Sueno Cabernet. Jaime said these years had very similar growing and wine making conditions, and should be as close as one can get to make an accurate comparison.
Even only two years apart, the 2008 Mi Sueno Cabernet had taken on some of the characteristics of bottle age: a softening of the tannic acids, the youthful, fresh fruit aromas on the nose moving into a more evolved, complex bouquet, and the flavor profile becoming more elegant, rife with delicious, subtle nuances not detected in the 2010 Cabernet.
But the 2010 . . . is still undeniably amazing to drink right now.
What do we do? What do we drink?
I am of the opinion it is a matter of personal preference. I would metaphorically compare the older wine versus new wine issue to how we like people. Do you find youthful energy, exuberance, ready to go type of people fun and interesting, or do you like the sage wisdom, complexity, and mellowness older people generally exude?
In conclusion, I think wine lovers should indulge in both the younger wines and older, aged wines. Start a cellar, no matter how small, and put some wines away for a few years and see for yourself how time can make magic with a bottle of wine.