Wine Talk

Snooth User: rshan

encouraging young oenephiles

Posted by rshan, Jul 31, 2013.

Agree completely with the your latest column as I and several of my friends with large and older wine collections having been doing for years. You stated  the situation well but need to remind people that a key question to be asked of the more experinced is "with proper storage what charcter when young helps determine how long it will hold?' Also you need to purchase enough of that young well put together wine and then lose it in storage to be able to be in the position to share in the future with others "the journey of exploration" that is the aging of that wine.


Reply by JenniferT, Aug 1, 2013.

Neat question! I would also like to know what elements of a wine indicate it's ability to age.

For example, one wine I think of as requiring age is barolo. With the requirement of aging being a given, how would you know which barolos will be the best bets? Aside from reputation of the producer, are there any characteristics of young wines that might indicate they are particularly well suited for cellaring?


Reply by JonDerry, Aug 1, 2013.

Jen, the characteristics to look for are acidity and tannin. When tasting young wine, there will be a certain "tightness" to ageable wine where "drink me now" wines will taste more simple and fruity. If you're lacking experience, or even if you have plenty of experience people will just generally go by the history (with more weight towards recent vintages obviously) of the producer and the reputation of the vintage. For example, in Piedmont and Burgundy, 2007 is known as an earlier drinking vintage, and 2008's will generally need more time in the cellar.

Reply by outthere, Aug 1, 2013.

This is where taking part in a vertical tasting an shed light on the subject for you. Having the opportunity to sit in on one and  go through the changes that time brings to a bottle of wine, with vintage variation making itself known, can be eye opening. Aged wine takes on different characteristics that may or may not suit ones palate. Understanding this characteristics up front can help in ones decision to age or not to age their wine. 

On the other hand palates change with time so what you like now may be completely different from what you enjoy 10-20 years from now. (WineBid, HDHWine, Benchmark Wine Group, BPWinwes, Heritage Auctions etc) It's one of the things that makes wine more interesting.

Reply by rshan, Aug 1, 2013.

These responses are both on point .

Hopefully you are aware of the character in the mouth that  acidity and tanin represent. At the risk of overdoing this ,acidity is the salivation seen primarily as an after effect and tanins are stickiness on your teeth after effect. Determining that these are in balance takes some experience. I like to see in wines with good longevity potential some sense of fruit in the middle part of the profile in the mouth. Unfortunayely high alcohol levels tend to kill this "mid " palate.

For white wines the acidity is absoulutely the criticall factor with good minerality being the other charaacter I like to see for results in the long haul.

Tasting with others on young wines who have had the long term experience and will engage in conversation helps you gain perspective with the caveat that it is thier palate from which they speak not yours.

I may not like a particular style in a wine but  put credit  emphasis to others if it is well crafted for the long haul.

Unfortunately as others will attest this is not an exact sience for all of us so some failures can be expected. I like to get some half bottles as well as 750's because they generally mature at 2 X the 750's rate.

Your long term storage is critical with lower temperatures or very slow temp changes winter to summer needed as well as no vibration and no sunlight.

With current prices on wines with established history for longevity ,the vintage reputation ,the vineyard reputation and these days the winemaker reputation are going to be worth attention.If this begins to sound like what you have heard about picking Burgundy  wines you are right.However read enough to find the edges of these "big reputation"areas and exlpore those wines in the best growing years . An example is the Cote de Chalonais in burgundy for 2009 and 2010. The lesser traveled and available Barolo areas also.Also try slightly off cycle years ,so 2006 in Baolo rather than 2008 .In Bordeaux try the third tier or fourth tier from the great Chateaux in really good years but there you have to get them early in retail cycle.

Every wine maker worth thier salt will tell you great fruit on the vines allows for great wine produced.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 1, 2013.

Looks like there was a random mis-edit or deletion in OT's response.  I think he might have been suggesting that you go on the lookout for bottles that already have some age on them in the secondary market--hence, HDH, Benchmark, BP, etc.  Oftentimes a collector sells a chunk of wines as his palate changes or s/he wants to diversify or just realizes there's too much wine in the cellar and it's not getting consumed fast enough.  I've bought wines that are 20+ years old from HDH, not quite as old from BP.  They are both as careful as they can be about provenance (authenticity + handling) but the possibility always exists that the wine has gone bad from either mishandling or just age/bottle variation. 

Also, K&L has library wines now and again, and wineries will offer them up, sometimes in packages of verticals.  These can be great ways to introduce yourself to how wines age.  Some winemakers just make wines in a style designed to age---think Randy Dunn, for one--either by how they treat the grapes in the vineyard or, more likely, when they pick them.  Bell and Burgess offer library wines and sometimes you can score wines that aren't on the shelves anymore via LastBottle, a sister company to BPWines.  (One of the BP partners split off to start it, it's a flash wine seller.)  OT and I have had bottles from 2004 within the last year or two from LastBottle, and OT even scored a 90s sparkler from them recently.

Some better wine stores hold back bottles for sale as older wines.  Chambers St. in NYC is a good resource there.  Tends to be high end stuff but that's what is usually worthy of age. 

Reply by GregT, Aug 2, 2013.

I didn't know if "encouraging" was a verb or an adjective!

As to what you look for Jen - maybe tannins, although those may just never resolve and you're stuck with a nasty wine forever. Sometimes people find a really tannic nasty wine and they imagine that it just needs age. But that wine might never turn into anything, so tannins alone aren't enough. And the quality of the tannins really matter too - the way they feel in your mouth and the effect they produce.

Maybe acidity, although you might just end up with sour liquid. Especially in reds, you want some acidity to remain when you open the wine in a number of years. With wines like Barolo, that's mostly going to be a given, but not necessarily with other wines. That's not to say you want searing acidity whether the wine is young or old, just that you need something so that the wine doesn't seem flat and dead. You have to have enough acidity to keep the wine alive when you finally open it, but how much is enough is really a matter of taste.

Mostly you look for everything that would make a wine good if only it were all working together. So you might have a lot of young fruit but also some really drying tannins that you want to smooth out. Now if those tannins are from wood, they may not, but they come from many places - stems, seeds, skins. Some of them will fall out over time and if you had enough fruit to start, you'll still have some when those tannins fall out.

 And when you consider it ready is also a matter of taste.

Good advice above - try verticals of some wines. Maybe five or six wines at say roughly 10 years different but also put in a few "off" vintages. A wine that's only five or ten years old won't really tell you much, but if you try something young, then go ten years back, then another ten, then another ten, you get a good idea of the trajectory of the wine. And within that, have a "good' vintage an d an "off" vintage from a few of the decades. You'd be surprised at how little they sometimes matter over the long haul, as long as the producer is good. And sometimes "good" vintages don't do so well over time. Good luck.

Reply by rshan, Aug 2, 2013.

Well, Jen have you learned enough to jump in and launch on yout journey or are you just throwing up you hands with the "I will never get there "

Ley us know if any or all of this has been helpfull.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 2, 2013.

As always, GregT nails it.  (Well, almost always.)  I want to add one thing about so-called "good" vintages:

IMO vintages have gotten labeled "good" because large numbers of the wines are good on release or even during barrel tasting.  Again, my opinion:  That's often a function of high ripeness at harvest and, worse, group think.  It's also a function of critics looking at the weather, which is not irrelevant but can be overrated.  For instance, an overall cool rainy year in a region means likely green, unripe wines.  But things can be a lot more location-specific, so that's just a guess.  And sometimes that "perfect" weather is, in many places, just a little too perfect and the grapes hit high sugars too early in lots of places.  I have felt that the '07 S. Rhones and the '07 Napa Cabs are big disappointments for that reason.  In off years, wineries that are well-capitalized and have the means to sell less wine (and at lower prices based on the vintage's lack of prestige) will brutally cull bad grapes and make less wine.  Why?  Because they really don't want to risk a bad year and the press associated with it.  Even though you might not like the style that Parker does, you should thank him for this:  top estates won't risk a bad rating and the possible talk that they are slipping.  Many of these wines were already made in a style RP liked, so you don't necessarily have to worry too much that they are over-Parkerized, although they are not immune to the trend towards bigger wines with more ripe flavors.

My own opinion is that a lot of '07 CdP is flat and overrated (prices are starting to come down from what I can see--I might not be the only one who feels this way) while '09s, which are kind of hot, fruit forward, big wines (really, what Parker likes and kind of sold the '07s as) are a good example if you like that style.  (I like it young and if I don't pay a lot--not as serious wine.  Guess what?  There's a fair bit out there at decent prices.)  Just an example of how tasting vintages and verticals can give you some idea of where wines are headed. 

By all means, buy some of those off vintages.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 2, 2013.

Haha @ the noun/verb Greg...

and in the vein of Seinfeld...hey I never said acid + tannin would age into something good, just that it could age!

To paraphrase GT: The two longest lived grapes are generally considered Nebbiolo from Piedmont andSpanish  Tempranillo. Bordeaux and Burgundy, along with others I'm sure would rank tier two.


Reply by JenniferT, Aug 2, 2013.

As always, thanks for all the great answers! I'm going to look for some alternatives to find some older wines. I've just been scouring wine stores for them, to be honest. 

I will have to watch for some vertical tasting opportunities - I've never done one yet. I think it would be really illuminating.

Fox: you are the first person that I have seen speak of wine Parkerization in any positive sense! 

I will eventually try to take some time to learn about what's happening in the bottle chemically as it ages. I was wondering about the pitfalls of vibration. If you're interested, I really liked the explanation I found here:

And Rshan: I really only started getting into wine this year, as my other half was studying to be a sommelier (ISG level 3). I naively decided that I would try to assemble a collection of all the most common wines from different regions, to pour at home and help him prepare for the blind tasting exam. Needless to say, I had no idea of the magnitude of the project at the time. 

Somewhere between then and now I hit my low point. I was literally almost in tears talking to the a retailer about the difficulty of finding so many wines that were drinkable now, knowing which wines are more typical examples, etc. So if I was just gonna throw my hands up and walk away, that would probably been the time. I'm still here, so I figure this is probably gonna be for the long haul. :)

Purchasing wine for the future - also a completely new exercise for me, lol! Buying the Bordeaux wines was particularly scary, to be honest. If only I had joined Snooth back then! It was a total black box purchase for me at the time, and I was entirely dependent on trust in my retailer. 

I know I've said it before, but I have really appreciated the advice and feedback I've gotten from many of you at Snooth. :)


Reply by JenniferT, Aug 2, 2013.

I'm also fairly sure that something akin to " How the F am I supposed to guess what the hell is actually in these bottles?!" was one of my past gripes expressed to said sommelier! Along with a few other choice words and exasperated tears.  

Really not my finest moment. But love makes one do crazy things.

It's kind of funny to think of it now! I doubt that I'll be forgotten at that store anytime soon. :)

Reply by GregT, Aug 3, 2013.

Interesting link Jen. For people who want to read it w/out paying the $31, here it is:

I'd sure like to know more. I wonder if the authors know that some of the oldest wineries in Haro, Rioja, were intentionally built right next to the railroad station.  Lopez de Heredia is pretty much right on the tracks and they store their wines for ages. Muga is right next door.


Reply by JenniferT, Aug 3, 2013.

GregT: Thanks for posting that link!

REALLY interesting about the wineries in Rioja. Maybe they just built next to the rail station for proximity to transport? Do you think that vibration isn't necessarily the evil it's been made out to be? From my reading, I thought it was important to store wine away from ANY vibration (as in from a dishwasher, etc).

It's funny that you mention Muga. I'm planning on opening a bottle of their Rioja reserva (2008) later today. 

Reply by lingprof, Aug 3, 2013.

Great thread!  I love the idea of a "wine meltdown" in the shop, lol.  Sometimes it does make me feel overwhelmed to know how much is out there and how relatively little I know about it.  GDP posted something in an article once about the impossibility of tasting even a small percentage of the wines out there now.  But what a great journey to be on!  To me, no other food or drink can bring out the sheer emotion of a nice glass of wine.  (Although I bet some single malt drinkers may disagree with me).

Enjoy, Jen!

Reply by zufrieden, Aug 3, 2013.

Great advice... regarding time and vertical tasting.  Unfortunately, many of us have neither the patience nor the time to wait more than a few years (maybe a decade for those not subject to ADHD).

But for the truly serious among you, another (cheaper) possibility is to join a club where vertical tastings are possible outside your own more finite collection of wine.  Yet another suggestion is to buy several bottles of a wine you are fairly certain meets your exacting tastes; then try at various points - 2, 5, 10, 15 years, let's say.  I am not sure if I (personally) can hold on for several decades, but many of you undoubtedly can: in which case, plan now for your future  taste comparisons.

As usual this thread meandered, but that's OK too. I say, generally with some of the verve of А. И. Герцена, let freedom and truth decide for each of you.

Reply by GregT, Aug 3, 2013.

Jen - they most assuredly built right next to the railroad for proximity to transportation. Muga, López de Heredia, La Rioja Alta, CVNE, and Bilbaínas are right next to each other - two minute walk from one to the other. The river winds around the town and the railroad is directly next to the wineries. I don't know if vibration is a problem or not - wine is usually kept still so it's not quite certain if that's a requirement or an artifact. Your article was pretty interesting. I'd like to see more. But what I can say is that those bottles in those wineries have been there in some cases for fifty years and longer and I've had some right from the floor that have been sitting for 50 years and they're really good. I have no idea whatsoever if they'd taste different had they been stored elsewhere.

BTW - Zuf has a really good suggestion. No way would I have been able to taste all the wines I have been lucky enough to taste if I hadn't banded together with others who were also interested in tasting.  And if you're doing a vertical, it's great to have a few people around because really, do you want to open six bottles yourself?

Many different ways to do it, but the best I've found is to have a monthly group that meets at the same place and time each month. Everyone puts in their money up front so if they can't make a tasting, the group isn't screwed. Then you figure out what you want to taste and someone buys it or contributes it. When we do it, everyone has 12 glasses so you don't have to taste sequentially.

Another way is to have everyone bring a bottle, but those are more random and harder to learn from, although still great fun. The whole point is to have wine with friends anyway, so if they're geeky, you can make it a lot more academic. If they're not so interested academically, then just do it as a fun thing and you pay more attention then the others do.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 6, 2013.

My sources say GregT tastes more wines in a year than most of us will in a decade.

Reply by jtryka, Aug 8, 2013.

Well, I took this column to heart and decided to open my cellar to a young colleague who recently decided to leave our firm and accept a new and exciting position that will provide for a lot of growth.  So I told him and his girlfriend to review my cellar list on my blog and pick a bottle and it would be my gift to them to help celebrate.  Of course he seems much more aloof, but his girlfriend is more wine saavy and she picked an '07 Stags Leap Artemis, a good choice from what I could see (though I think I have many more interesting wines to try than that one, at least in my eyes)!  So hopefully they'll enjoy the bottle and expand his wine experience for the future.

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