Enjoy those well-aged wines
Nine bottles out of ten of all wine produced will be consumed within the first year and 99 out of 100 within five years. In truth, somewhere between 5 and 10 per cent improves after a year and only 1 per cent after five to ten years, the lower figure for white and the higher for reds.
Wine in general has changed so much since I first became involved in the trade and today many are made with the knowledge that they will not languish in some dark, temperature-controlled cellar.
The fruit will have been picked riper and the winemaker understands how to manage and soften tannins in young wine.
In other words, they are perfectly fine to enjoy in their youth, but why not try the exception?
Higher acidity helps white wines age and tannins are important in the reds. When one considers how long a fine port can age, it may seem strange to suggest the regular reds age better if they tend towards the lower end of the alcohol spectrum. We will not discuss sweet wine, but sugar is a great help in a long ageing process.
The primary aroma comes from the grape skins and juice and secondary, like butter, from a second fermentation called malolactic and also vanilla and spice from oak barrels.
Then as age kicks in, we start to get the bouquet such as cedar, graphite, soy, truffle, coffee, chocolate, mushroom, liquorice and leather.
Let me just mention the least understood part of the ageing process and this is the dreaded closed down or “dumb phase”.
No one seems to be able to predict it, but sometimes a wine will just “shut down” for a period of time and then, as if out of the blue, it blossoms again. Not to worry about as it is not that common and it would be bad luck to catch it at this time.
I am probably too honest for my own good, but it is a fact that in this age of consuming wine in its youth it is not always easy to move older bottles out of our warehouse.
With this in mind I would like to tell you stories about three and as an incentive also make substantial reductions in their price.
The first one is Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2011 from Auckland in New Zealand. The winemaker tells us that it “needs some bottle age to reveal the power and concentration that lies beneath the surface”. James Suckling writes of “excitement and tension” and rates it 96/100. Parker, who gives it 95/100, finds mango, guava, pineapple, brioche, cashews, fresh ginger, cinnamon toast and honeysuckle. Now here is the important part of the Parker review, “Drink it now to 2021+”. Regular retail is $39.45 but for now you pay $25!
In December of 2015 Decanter magazine said of the Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2011, “it will benefit from further ageing”.
The winemaker emphasised that this wine would benefit greatly from a period of bottle maturation.
The Wine Advocate (Parker) and Wine Enthusiast both rated it 91/100. I tried both of these wines earlier this month and for an unabashed Chardonnay aficionado, I have to admit that they were a real joy, but I would suggest that you include them during a meal, as it is here that they will truly shine. The regular price of this wine is $34.40, but for now just give us $20 and you will see what the passage of time can do.
My rule about fine reds is to give them ten years to get themselves together and so I offer you a 2006 from Napa Valley.
The Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is a blend of 79 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 17 per cent Merlot and a remainder of petit verdot and cabernet franc.
I know that I have mentioned this before, but about two years ago I was tasting old cabernet sauvignon with a friend and I apologised for not being able to vocalise on that certain something that I so enjoyed in this category of wine.
“Maybe there are no words for it” was his answer and the simple truth of it made me feel much better. Really the only way to find out is to try it yourself.
The original price was $48.55, but now I would like to say goodbye to the last few cases as they are at their peak, a bottle is yours for $35.
• This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their drinks is available online at www.wineonline.bm