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Friday, March 07, 2008

Young Or Old?

A few weeks ago I was reading, with a bit of jealousy I must say, Eric Asimov's diary on DRC tasting. While reading I was struck by the comments of the co-owner and co-director of the estate Aubert de Villaine on the possibility of drinking a Burgundy in early age; "when you get older, you develop a taste for young wine." My first thought was one of disbelief... but then I remembered how the Tuscans drink their own wines - young - and it didn't seem so irrational after all.
Obviously there are some wines that need to be drunk young and others that need more time to develop, a fair few having almost the same progression as a human being - a few years of infancy, followed by childhood, adolescence, puberty and so on. Wines like Barolo, Burgundy, Brunello and in some aspects, also Bordeaux age like humans. A bottle develops, grows, changes in color and characteristic, loses power and gains complexity, until finally shrinking (ullage) into death. Now if that is somehow true my question is: are all of the teenagers not quite worthy of our attention? My answer is no - Mozart was a prodigy in his childhood, as was Picasso. So is it possible to appreciate a wine, which is destined to grow old, in early age? Now my answer gets a bit more complicated. Yes of course I enjoy young wines - they are more challenging, austere, bitter and astringent, is fun to let them open in a glass and feel my taste buds battle through the tight tannins. It's akin to wrestling with a kid and tricking his impetuous energy with the experience. But, on the other hand the chess game you can have with an older wine is also a great experience. Ideally, there would be enough bottles of the same wine to enjoy it in all the stages of its life, but that is a prohibitively costly solution, not only in simple practice, but because it implies the acquisition of larger quantity of the same wine for every vintage, which for most of us is not possible. So, the process I like to use goes something like this: open a wine and pour a glass right away, take a sip and set an aroma/taste benchmark - are there any aromas or flavors at all? How hard are they to detect? What are they? Then, keep tasting it in regular intervals (every half an hour, for example) and see how the wine changes. Then leave the bottle open with a piece of paper on top (so none of our small flying friends can usurp your fine juice) until the following day and pour another glass... and so on until the wine dies or the bottle is finished. That will give you a pretty good idea on the wine's longevity. Usually after the second day you will start to taste the oxidation, although I've had wines that lasted over 3 days (like Bernard Faurie Saint Joseph I wrote about a while ago). Doing this, you don't need to open a bottle per year - you can decide when the wine will be developed enough to be enjoyed. But! - the real question here is whether or not you can enjoy young a wine ought to age; as I mentioned before, the Tuscans like their wine young... they are wine pedophiles. I always thought of that as sort of a sin, but growing up I find more pleasure in drinking a wine at an early stage, like Mr. de Villaine did, so I my answer will be yes I can, and I not only think is important for my job to do so, but is becoming a growing pleasure to sip low ph and Gallotannins. Am I becoming wine pedophile as well...
Buon Bevuta a Tutti

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