So… what does a 40 year old wine taste like?
This past New Year’s, I stopped by Cosimo to grab a glass of bubbly with Jason (the Wine Director). After a bit, Jason paused during our conversation at the bar and gave me that look – the look that serious only wine geeks give each other when they have SSS (some serious s@*t).
It’s the “let me show you what we’ve got in the decanter, but don’t tell anyone else, man” look.
They had cracked open a bottle of 1967 Chateau Latour. I’d never had a 40 year old wine before, and Anthony (the venerable Cosimo proprietor) was keen, so I had a taste. The experience further convinced me of what I’ve been saying for a long time now: Most people shouldn’t age wine.
Now, I am NOT saying that I did not like this wine (I loved it actually); and I’m not saying the wine wasn’t aged / stored perfectly (it was). What I am saying is that most people in the U.S. would fine this wine “interesting” (i.e., “not worth the price tag”).
Why? Because our tastes in this country are like our wars: Big. Bold. In-yo-FACE!
My tasting notes on this wine read like a textbook definition of classic “claret” for the Brits, which is to say that it looks the list of most nuclear family’s kitchen garbage bag contents: cigar, black nuts, pencil shavings, game, “slim jim,” earth (aka ‘dirt’).
I don’t know too many people that would plunk down the serious cash it requires to purchase aged first growth Bordeaux after seeing that list. It wouldn’t be enough to add that this is all normal stuff for a well-aged Bordeaux, or to talk about everything that was sooooo right with this wine (like the delicate tannins and fruit notes on the finish, which was long and strong and lasted until about 4PM the next day I think), or how the integration of all the components showed that this wine aged so beautifully. Most folks in the States simply would not have the patience to wait 40 years for a wine to reach peak maturity anyway – and they might not be happy with the results if they did anyway. Because our tastes are different from that of the Brits.
So who’s right – us, or the Brits?
We’re both right.
The moral of the story: don’t sweat aging / storage of your wine too much. 98% of it will not benefit from aging anyway, and you’ll enjoy it better now while it’s fresh, fruity, and in your face. If you decide you like red wine and want to develop your palate, start experimenting and aging to find out the balance YOU like best between big fruit and lots of tannin vs. the earthy, meaty flavors that will develop with aging.
There’s no right wine answer on aging – apart from your preference. And you’ll only learn your preference after experimenting (not exactly a chore considering all of the great wine to be had out there!).