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Friday, May 24, 2013

On Aging Gracefully and How It’s Done

They say that the vast majority of wine produced is intended for immediate consumption.  And it’s true - most wine should be opened and enjoyed not long after their release.  But there’s this fascination with older bottles - and rightfully so, because only wines made in special years, of special grapes, from special vineyards in special regions have true aging potential.  And a great older wine can be spectacular.

Years upon years of sitting, waiting for the right time to be opened, the great bottles reach maturity.  If you’re the one who bought the bottle in its youth and decided to age it on your own and hold it until it’s ready, then I’m guessing (and hoping!) you took the time to know how to store it properly - not to move it around, not to leave it in a place without the proper temperature or darkness or humidity, etc.

But perhaps you decide you want to invest in an older bottle, something that’s mature now, and you’re willing to pay the price for it, but you weren’t the one who aged it.  This means that you’ve got to gamble on whether it’s been stored properly over the years.  And unless you’re buying the wine from a reputable place, the wine might not have been kept correctly over the years.  We know what this means - there’s a strong chance the wine is not good any longer - it’s gone bad, the color will be off, the aromas and flavors will be nothing at all like a wine that’s been properly stored, the texture will be unappealing - basically, the wine is ruined, or at least not aged as correctly as its counterparts who have otherwise been kept properly.

Last year, I wrote a post about the aging potential of some wines, namely Nebbiolo, and created a parallel to the aging potential in people, and how some people just have a better capability to age gracefully than others do, and some are, in fact, better with age.  But not all people are that way.  Some are genetically less equipped to age gracefully.  Others bring it upon themselves and live a life that tends to age them quicker than others, and perhaps quicker than they otherwise would have aged.  They don’t look so good, they don’t feel as well as they could have, and there’s no possibility of recapturing their youth at any time.  An unhealthy or foolish lifestyle tends to have these results.

Think of it as the way we store a wine for many years.  The ones properly cared for will probably age well, if they were produced as wines with aging potential.  But improper care will eliminate chances of aging potential.  Too many rough spots, bumps on the road of life, will do the same thing to a person, coupled with an unhealthy lifestyle for too long.

If you go into a wine shop where older bottles are available, be careful when selecting an older bottle.  Observe the conditions and inquire about the care of the bottle.  Of course, you’ll have to depend on your own judgment, but remember that there could be a reason why the bottle may be sitting there so long, perhaps past its peak time, particularly if the price seems a bit too low.  Think twice - it may be worth the gamble, or maybe not.  And if you decide that the gamble is not worth your trouble, remember that you can always choose a different older bottle, or stick with a wine for immediate consumption for the time being, and play it safe.  Risk-taking can be fun, but only when the results are to your liking.  No one wants to be disappointed.

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