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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Wines that age longer are better"

Ah, wine collecting. Why do people do it? Besides to show off, that is. It's because the best wines have to age for years before you can drink them. Damn, that's inconvenient!

What other product would you put up with that? You don't hold on to a new album until it's at its peak "listening" time. You don't order out Chinese for next year--it's for tonight.

The good news is there's a couple problems with the statement, "the best wines have to age for years." In previous decades the top wines (they're French red wines, of course!) were made in a style that would be described as hard, acidic, tight, and tannic. So not only did you have to age them correctly for years to get them to their peak drinking, but they weren't even very drinkable in their youth. Well, ain't that a pain in the rear? So you have to store them at the right temperature, humidity, and for just long enough. How long is long enough? How long is too long? What happens to the wine if say, several years in to it's aging it happened to get exposed to a few hours of heat and sunlight. Is it ruined? Do I drink it now or continue to wait for another decade?  Jeez.

You could do this--or you could just drink it
Heck, you could be dead before this stuff's ready!
Image from
Along comes the New World Style pioneered in California and Australia where your typical Cabernet is good within five years of it's vintage date and maybe earlier. Sacrebleu! These wines can't be as good as the Old World style! I mean, the longer a wine needs to age the higher quality of a wine it is, right? Well, some folks still cling to that notion. But if you look at American wine drinking statistics most wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase. So you have to think the New World style winemakers might be on to something.

For every person who thinks a wine that ages for 25 years is better than one that is best at its release there are 100 more that won't wait and probably don't care about aging. And there's a few of us that see the New World style as correcting a flaw in the Old World way of making wines. While they were at it the New World winemakers pretty much got rid of brettanomyces, volatile acidity, sulfur, and other flaws in wine.

So if your ever driving across I-80 in California near the town of Davis give a wave and a thank you to the University of California at Davis, arguably the home of New World style wines.