When you get into wine you find there are many references to ageing it and you could feel that you’re missing out because you don’t have twenty year-old bottles in your collection.
That is easy to rectify — if you buy young wine now and wait for twenty years. For instant gratification you can buy old wine from specialist shops and auction houses.
But you might be disappointed. When wine ages, its flavours change. The fresh fruitiness of youth that many people enjoy vanishes. Good wines can gain complexity, lose harsh tannins and be rewarding. But wines that can improve with long aging are rare.
The truth is that more enjoyment is lost when wines are drunk too old than when they are drunk too young. You might think that if you’d kept that young wine another year it would be even better while still enjoying it. But with a wine that has passed its best you can only regret the lost opportunity. And that feeling is amplified when you have more of the same in storage. Those that do sometimes offload their remaining old bottles onto the unwary by selling them at auction.
Modern wine making techniques produce wines that are drinkable now. In the old days many wines were unapproachable when young because they were overly tannic from spending too long in wooden barrels. As wine aged in bottle the tannins reduce producing sediment. The trick was to open the wine at the point where the tannins had faded but before the fruit had vanished.
If you want to experience an aged wine the best way is probably via attending a organised tasting. Here you can fairly sure that the wines will be worth drinking. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll like them, and you may wonder what all the fuss is about because aged wines are an acquired taste.
If you intend keeping wines for more than five years you should make sure they will keep and improve. That means red wines that are expensive. Cheap wines you find in supermarkets are produced for immediate consumption and are unlikely to be any better with aging.
It can be a rewarding exercise to buy a case of twelve bottles of a medium priced Cabernet, Bordeaux blend, Syrah or Zinfandel and open and drink one every year, making notes on how it tastes. As soon as the year arrives when the wine is no better than the previous years bottle then you know it is at its peak and you can enjoy those remaining as soon as you like.
What are the oldest wines you have drunk? Tell us about them on our forum.
Grape Man of Texas is a detailed and exhaustive biography of T V Munson. Co-author Roy E Renfro founded the Munson Memorial Vineyard and has been a driving force in ensuring T V Munson is not forgotten.
This book was never reprinted after the plates were destroyed in wartime bombing. Peter F May spent a year transcribing this new edition of A I Perold's masterpiece. Not a scan or photocopy, this is a newly typeset edition available in both hard and softcopy.