One of the problems many of us run into this time of year is the unfortunate intersection of price and structure. You see, to a certain extent the reason some wines are more expensive than others is that some wines are more concentrated, rich and powerful than others. That can be due to several factors but the one producers would have us focus on is the reduced yields that tends to be used to create these wines. Those lower yields not only translate into higher prices, but also the bigger, denser, more age worthy and tannic wines. This is where we run into trouble.
At the holidays we all feel generous. We spend more on everything, including the wine we share and gift. The thought process goes that if a $15 bottle of wine is great, a $30 bottle of that wine must be better. That in and of itself is a dubious calculation, but let’s assume it’s valid in the abstract. What makes the wine better? Is it more delicious? Generally not quite, more complex is more like it, and in many cases only potentially more complex. As wines become more expensive they tend to require, and of course reward extended cellaring. And that is the trouble we run into.
You see, all these great wines can be fun to drink in their youth, but they only offer a fraction of their potential at a young age, keeping much in reserve for those with more patience. There is one notable exception. Rioja. It’s not that these wines don’t require ageing. They do. Thankfully the Rioja Bodegas take care of much of that for us, releasing wines that have already seen extensive barrel and bottle age so that the wines are ready to drink on release. This in no way reduces the wines ability to improve in the cellar, often for decades. It simply make nearly every bottle on the shelf delicious the day it’s purchased.