Monday, June 13, 2011

When I'm 65

The other day I had a somewhat startling realization - when I buy a wine today with the plan to age it for a long time, say 25 years, if I am successful in holding it for that long, I will be something like 65 when I drink the wine. Simple math, you say, and you're right. But the point is, 25 years is a long time - what if I'm not drinking wine when I'm 65? It must be hard to sustain a hobby for 25 years. Honestly, who out there has purchased a wine on release, and then cellared it for 25 years before drinking it? Not many of us, I bet.

So, why do I so eagerly buy wines that, based on my tasting experience, will show best after long-term cellaring? Well, here is one reason - the hope that the wine turns into something like this:

My friend Keith very generously served this the other night with a lovely dinner of roast lamb. There were five of us at the table and I didn't really check in with other people about the wine, I was too busy with my nose in the glass, too busy tuning into the amazing feeling of the wine in my mouth. I thought this was a truly phenomenal bottle of wine, I think the finest bottle of red Bordeaux wine that I've ever had.

There were two things about the wine that got me: first, the nose was absolutely pure in its expression of tobacco leaves. I experienced them as fresh leaves, leaves that had been cured in a warehouse in Cuba, but still vibrant and fresh. There were other things happening on the nose too, but it was this amazing fresh tobacco aroma that moved me. And then, there was the texture of the wine, the silky smooth mouth feel. Not glossy, not artificial smoothness in any way, and there was still plenty of structure by the way - just a beautifully textured wine. A pillow of fresh tobacco leaves, with a finish of gravel and faded potpourri. A memorable wine.

And the thing is, Keith didn't buy this wine on release - he wasn't born when this wine hit the shelves. I don't know when he bought it, but he said "I bought it back when it was affordably priced. I can't buy Chateau Haut-Brion now."

I wonder, will any of the wines that I've been buying be as good as this wine in 25 or 30 years? Will I be around to drink them? One can only hope...

9 comments:

King Krak, Oenomancer said...

Those cellaring fine wine should have a goal of drinking the best wines in their cellar by the age of 65. Why? Because the chances of major loss of smell becomes significant; and when that happens, well, wine is just wine.

This is why you see seniors over-season their food. This is why famous wine critics aren't all the rage when at 72+.

Anonymous said...

I got started (again) with wine just after I turned 60. Bought a fair amount of young barolo, Leoville Barton, and 1ers to cellar (no GC's...so far!). How do I know what I'll be smelling in 10-15 years? Maybe they'll invent digitized snifting enhancers or nasal transplants. Whatever....I also plant trees. You can't let biology textbooks frame your expectations.

Anonymous said...

Another thing (I'm the tree planter)...it's not about maintaining a hobby continuously all one's life. Often it's about returning to something you've sort of ignored and appreciating it again with less intensity, less at stake. I bet, BG, that you'll really appreciate those well-aged wines when you're 65: they'll bring back lots of memories and you won't have the same exacting standards. It won't taste better or worse...just different and differently wonderful.

Keith Levenberg said...

Glad you enjoyed the wine as much as I did. This vintage and the 1970 in my opinion are about as close to textbook Haut-Brion as you can get, and for awhile they were just ignored and lumped in there with all the other second- and third-tier vintages. Now that the label is more important than the wine, even the second- and third-tier vintages are unaffordable.

I suppose that would be an easier pill to swallow if the wines that offered 80% of the pleasure at a fraction of the cost were still around. But the old ones are getting drunk up fast and the new ones, well, they don't make them like they used to.

I think the 1995s are probably the Bordeaux to be buying now, to the extent one is interested in buying any Bordeaux at all. It seems to be the last vintage before wholesale Parkerization took over, hasn't changed hands as incessantly as the top vintages of the '80s, still costs less than the 1996s which were overpraised on account of their concentration (achieved no doubt with tricks in the cellar), and has a 15-year head start on aging over the vintage being sold on futures right now.

The Wine Mule said...

Michael Broadbent is 84. Anybody want to ask him whether he thinks his nose/palate have diminished?

Dan McGrew said...

Drank a 1986 Leoville Las Cases two weeks ago for my retirement party. Bought the bottle on release and marked it for that occasion. Amazing wine and certainly worth the wait. Patience rewarded.

deetrane said...

I plan to drink all my fancy aging wines when I'm 64 1/2, just to be safe....

James Swann said...

I attended a tasting by Stephen Spurrier the other day, he provided an interesting insight into the different approaches to when to drink a wine between the British and the French.

For French, he explained, they would now be drinking 2001, whereas the British are on 1995. The former consider wine should be drank far earlier than the latter.

He summarised thus; the French would take out a 2005 and say, oh, it will be wonderful in a few years. The British take out a 1957 and say, oh, it would have been great 15 years ago.

I wonder, which is the culture in the US?

Custom Labels said...

You've inspired me to stick a couple of bottles in the back of a cabinet and cellar them for the next 25 hours. Although I will only be 53 at the time and I'm sure will still be desperately in need of a glass of wine at the end of the day. Haha!