On the Wine Trail

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  • Does age matter?

    Does age matter?

    Many people spend a great deal of time musing and considering the importance and relevance of age. They pick prospective dates or, worse, dismiss ideal partners because they are "too old" or "too young". I find it intriguing how frequentlyy people rely on steadfast social rules to inform the choices they make for happiness. What are the other people doing? It's interesting how social cues and benchmark accomplishments (marriage, introducing a child into a relationship, buying a house) relative to a person's own timeline can instantly increase or decrease happiness. I've witnessed too many people, too frequently denying themselves their own true happiness because it just didn't conform. I bear witness to them instead choosing mediocrity and its accompanying security, beating back the accompanying slow syrupy sadness with mind numbing distractions and obsessions. Or meds. 

    So. What of age? There are no steadfast rules. No blanket statement that works for every wine and every wine drinker. There are those wines which will never benefit from age; those that will indeed grow tired and dull from the passage of time. There are those, however, that have an attraction & complexity that comes with age that, for the right drinker, is actually what makes wine delicious and interesting. There are those people who are themselves too jubiliant and effervescent to have the patience to await a beautifully aged bottle of wine that requires hours of planning and decanting prior to being poured into a glass at dinner. The same people who would be well passed full or bored tableside to slowly sip this wine as it unwinds its mysteries, like a genie let out of a bottle. It is rather a pensive undertaking. Some people like quick chatter while others like long conversations, deeply contemplated with few words exchanged unless woven into complex thoughts. Match the wrong person with the wrong wine and it spells disaster. I enjoyed a lovely 2008 Brunello di Montalcino today, produced by Podere Brizio. The proprietor, Roberto Bellini, is the same man who sold the larger part of this parcel, Pieve di Santa Restituta, to Angelo Gaja in 1996. Signore Bellini felt this particular parcel was of a quality that far exceeded the holdings that now make up Gaja's Montalcino property. And a lovely Brunello it was...aromas of tar and dark sour cherry, tobacco, baking spice with a hint of tar as it's laid down on a hot, sunny day with grippy yet integrated tannins. It was delicious as I drank it immediately poured from the bottle. But. All I thought of was the 1990 Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino pictured above and enjoyed with a kind friend earlier this month. Long before we sat down to dinner he carefully decanted the wine swirled it ever so gently in the decanter. It sat patiently while we had a first course with a coquetish white--cute, but not a lot of thinking needed to enjoy it. So by the time we approached the Brunello, it had been breathing fresh air for over seven hours. Even still, our dinner--which lasted another three hours--went by too quickly for this wine. It revealed more elements of its personality; the confidence and sophistication that come only with age for quality Brunello--deep, dark black cherry melting into only slightly sweet chocolate with dried herbs and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. And that's only what I remember--most of what it was carried me away.  Did it have the zippy freshness of the 2008? No. Is it for everyone? Definitely not. While both wines are impeccably made and are memorable, each has the right match. And what of that coquetish white? It was fun and refreshing and perfect for some foods and some flavors. But not the first choice of everyone.