Anyone else read Kramers latest article on aging wines? I actually agree with a lot of what he said although I think the 5-10 years tops is a bit short depending on the type of wines you have. When I first started getting serious about wine I was very much in the old world camp and I had this notion that it would be so cool to be pulling 40-50 year old bottles out of my cellar when I was older. After a lot of money spent on older bottles, offlines and wine dinners, that dream faded and I came to the same realization as Kramer. For every amazing 30-50 year old Bordeaux I have had, there were a lot more that were just tired and disappointing to my palate. I went to an 82 Bordeaux dinner with all of the big names a couple of years ago and I thought about 75% of the wines would have been better consumed 5 to 10 years earlier. Of course some of the wines were still improving, but as Kramer said that is a very small minority. My sweet spot is 3-10 years on my CA Pinot and Rhones, 10-20 on Bordeaux, Burg, French Rhone, Brunello and Barolo from good vintages. I like my whites and my champagne young and fresh. Sure I have certain wines that I’m going to age for longer based on my past history with the wines (Lopez de Heredia), but for the most part I just want to be able to pull something that is in a safe drinking window to have with dinner.
Again, this is just my palate, but I think Kramers article brings up something important for younger collectors to think about. I’m glad I went out and tried those wines so I now know what drinking window works for best for me. If you are just buying wines now that you assume you will like in 30-40 years, you might end up having a lot of wine you don’t like!
Well said! As someone who is just getting into this hobby, thanks for the insight.
Very interesting article. Gives me some hope: having a small cellar, I cannot afford to have too many wines that will have to stay in there for 20 years plus. I'd be very interested to hear the thoughts of other forumites more knowledgeable than I am on the topic.
As always, it's hard to follow him because he doesn't present his points sequentially but fires off random unrelated thoughts that don't hold together.
"wines have changed and so have our palates"
Really? I liked older Rioja yesterday but today? Nope. Hate the stuff.
Then his contention that green harvesting made all the difference and that's why wines are different today.
What is the point of green harvesting?
Ideally, to ensure that the leaf canopy is in balance with the fruit that needs to ripen. Why is that necessary? Because the canopies are not allowed to develop properly once vines are pruned and trimmed and otherwise manipulated. Particularly if you have young vines.
In regions where regulations specify yields, it's simply to reduce yield without any regard for whether the fruit can and/or will ripen. The key is to create artificial scarcity.
Can be for other reasons of course, like because the fruit set was bad due to weather or other issues in the spring, and that can be a very good reason for doing it.
Of course, the timing of the green harvest matters too - if you do it early on or at veraison for example, makes a difference.
What does it have to do with harvesting for fermentation?
Nothing really. You can "green harvest" and then let your fruit ripen to sugar cubes or pick when it's still vegetal and your wine will reflect that choice. Final harvest date matters far more than green harvesting.
Then of course, handling of the wine once you pick the grapes will have a huge impact. Short maceration vs long. Cold vs warm. Punch down or pump over. Micro-ox or no. All those things make your wine more or less plush and more or less tannic and hard.
And they have nothing to do with green harvesting either.
Nor do they have to do with an aged wine vs a younger wine, which he actually does acknowledge.
But is it really true that most wine once required aging? So the average peasant with no place to store his wine somehow was able to amass a grand cellar full of aged wonders?
I think most wine was always made to be consumed very young. "Better" wines lasted a while.
The difference isn't green harvesting, it's that today people charge $100 for a bottle of wine that doesn't need any aging at all.
Plenty of wines from Spain for example, like the Chris Ringland wines, are just fine out of the chute. In CA, things like Pride or SQN ditto. Most modern CdP. But those wines didn't even exist before. Those are new on the scene.
Meantime, CVNE Imperial is still a wine that will be better in 30 years than it is on release.
Are some wines that were once rough and tough while young now drinkable at a younger age?
Maybe. But it is not a logical step to then conclude that they are not worth aging or won't be far better with age.
But none of that is really the point - "our" palates have changed and we don't like those older wines any more.
He has concluded that at his age, for his palate, he no longer needs to look for wines that require much time because there is so much that doesn't. That is fine. It doesn't mean my palate or anyone else's palate has changed, and that the benefits of aging are somehow diminished today.
"The best part is how he said the ENGLISH language. Fine irony. Use American next time."
I don't have any experience with old bottles so I am hoping he close to being directionally correct. I don't have the storage facility to store bottles for decades thus I will probably end up consuming "ageworthy" NAPA Cabs, Bordeaux, and Rhones at 7-10 years from vintage date and Pinots and other lighter reds at 5-7 years from vintage tops.
"The hardest thing to attain ... is the appreciation of difference without insisting on superiority" George Saintsbury
You will likely end up disappointed.
Greg brings up some good points. I don’t know enough (or really care to know) about green harvesting so I just assumed Kramer was correct. The bigger point I took away was a lot of people assume they will like a fully mature or older wine and I’ll bet that some tend to be disappointed after the long wait in the cellar. The key is to taste for yourself and decide what you like. Don’t blindly trust a drinking window of 2020-2045 from a critic and think you are going to love the wine at that advanced age. You might find that you like the fruit and freshness of a young wine. I have found that with white wines. I have never had an older white burg for instance that I liked more than its younger version and I have had a good share of them. The secondary/mature/whatever you want to call it tastes and smells that you get with aged chard are not as good as the young fresh fruit are to my palate. Glad I figured that out now before I had 5 cases of old chard in my cellar!
The solution seems simple to me. Purchase older & newer vintages of "age worthy wine," then see what you like better.
One can even take the extra step of doing some homework to find similar vintages for a more accurate comparison.
As for me, I don't mind drinking a wine young, especially if it's my first time tasting it. I don't want to buy a couple bottles to sit on for 20+ years never knowing what's in there. Still, as some have mentioned already, infanticide can very well lead to disappointment. My most recent example of this was an '06 Ridge MB opened late last year. I wouldn't dream of opening another bottle for at least 7-10 years.
Kramer's attempt to dumb down something that is incredibly subjective and complex really does everyone a disservice.
The local forumites in Toronto did a first growth tasting in the fall and many of the wines were barely drinkable. There were some winners but most of the younger wines were left in glass.
Personally, I do not enjoy young Cali Cabs but the ones I've tried with 20+ years have been extremely enjoyable.
Don't get me wrong, I have been disappointed with older bottles from around the world but that's part of the hobby and you learn from experiences. In today's age of instant information, you can usually get a gauge on where a bottle is in development.
Personally, I think a lot of Kramers motives in his article are to make wine more accessible and inviting to people that are intimidated. I believe the novice would benefit more from attending tastings and offlines than opening 99% of their wine within 10 years.
Plus where's the romance in that?
It is true that premium quality wines are now generally made in a style meant for earlier drinking than wines made three or more decades ago. However, those wines are not a direct substitute for wines made in the traditional style that have been properly aged. To me,it is not even close.
Preferences vary, so I like Shane's suggestion of trying aged wines before making an investment.
Next step for those who prefer the aged wines is to make sure the producers you buy from are adhering to the practices that made the wines able to improve with age.
Everyone has different tastes and preferences and Kramer is not going to change your mind if you prefer older wines. However, I am of the opinion that "recent" changes in vineyard practices, green harvesting, sorting and vinification have generally resulted in wines that can be consumed earlier if you are one that likes younger wines. I always thought that the BdX's of 20-30 years ago were basically undrinkable young and thus aging the wine was absolutely necessary. I don't know this, but I am willing to concede that first growths still require some age to be drinkable; however, it doesn't matter if you can't afford to purchase and cellar them in the first place.
Good thread, and a few random thoughts and observations. I always enjoy Matt.
The marketplace has more and more wines available today than ever before, and the overwhelming majority drink well withing the first five years, and within 10 for sure. The reason for this is not singular in my opinion.
Many newer and emerging wine regions just started hitting their stride within the last 30 years, many regions are producing wines that were not serious areas 50 years ago, the climate has changed for many regions the last 30-50 years and producers continue acclimating , new generations are taking over family wineries and becoming more modern and also often more sensitive to the global palate, which is also driving varietals as much as styles in my opinion. The world is truly flat when in comes to sharing information and best practices, thus the experimental phases are greatly reduced. The wineries are much more agile than in the past and also have interest in what is happening in the winemaking world outside of their personal region.
The palates of the world have changed greatly over the last two generations, and also became much more the same I have noticed. American kids ( now adults) were such a sugar generation starting in the 60's-70's with Coke, Kool - Aide et al. being in their diet daily, along with sugar and salt in their daily food products. When I started traveling while in college, the world was not giving their kids sugar drinking daily, now Coke and such is in every corner of the world. It does not matter where I travel, sugar and fast food is everywhere. All this said, I feel very strongly that wines today (broad brush alert) are much easier for new enthusiast to enjoy at first blush. Many wine enthusiast started drinking sweet wines and white Zins at first. Today, there are more approachable wines for the new wine enthusiast.
Older wines. Everyone on this forum has a different opinion what is old or older I read some say older referring to a wine 10 years old, when others like me just think in terms of mature. There is also a lack of understanding what an older wine should taste like imo. Some may drink '82 First Growth Bordeaux and say this wine would have been better to my palate 10-15 years ago. If their bottle was drinking well, then they do not like fruit to show in their wine. There was virtually no fruit showing in '28, 29 '59,'61 '78, '79, '82, '86 or '89 ( yet ALL still beautiful today) First Growth Bordeaux in their first 10-15 years of life, and the same can be said for Burgundy, Piedmont, Northern Rhone ( think '89 Guigal LaLa at 5 years old) and certain Champagne houses for example. Again, these wines are often a different animal today. I had a '79 California Pinot with Longboarder and Thirsty Man last year that was 11.5% alcohol that was showing brilliantly with excellent fruit. That same wine today would be 14.5% or higher ( 33% higher alcohol) and their fruit ( climate) and winemaking insights and philosophies are no doubt different today. I cannot imagine holding a California Pinot for 25 years today. Will it drink differently, absolutely, will it drink better, I think not.
I for one like seeing wines drink younger as a general rule. I said several years ago the days of needing a cellar of 1000-2000+ bottles would soon be a thing of the past, which I think is a good thing. My cellar continues to shrink. I have been serious about wine since my first year out of college ( business world mentor) and over the last 34 years there have never been as many great wines as today or that drank as well as soon. When I first started enjoying serious wine, Italy and Spain had yet to enter into their wine renaissance with few exceptions.
A Votre Sante!
was that your quote, or Board-o's given board-o probably already had a cellar of 2000 bottles of the 1900 vintage on release by the time the 28's and 29's rolled around to know that the first 10-15 years had no fruit =) ;-)
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love it....nice one.
Totally agree. That '75 Mondavi Reserve you opened this fall is on my top 5 ever list from California.
Show me a good loser, I'll show you a loser - Vince Lombardi.
I've had some memorable cali's from the 2000's but by far the ones I've liked the best have been from the mid 90's and older.
It actually gives me hope for the newer Bordeaux I have. If they age the way I think they will, with the extra fruit they seem to have they might turn into that "Cali that could be confused for a bordeaux except for all the extra fruit" wine that many older Cali's seem to be.
I said several years ago the days of needing a cellar of 1000-2000+ bottles would soon be a thing of the past
W&A, please define "need"
I have to agree that this thread is intriguing. Is the debate more about "trophy" bottles versus daily drinkers or in many circumstances is it purely a subjective palate question? ie. do you prefer rich chocolate desserts to European style bitter/sweet desserts? or no dessert? Kramer's statement imo was too assertive and final.
W&A, I believe your comments are valid regarding the palate effect of increased sugar intake over the past 30-50 years influencing winemakers and their product. One thing I would add however is many mature wines in a good spot show a beautiful sweetness. It's just not mouth-coating or overpowering.
There obviously is not a correct answer as palates are different and constantly evolving. As long as wine is made in different styles for different palates all bases will be covered.
+1 on the 75 Bob's Reserve (thanks Mangiare). 94 La Jota Howell Mtn (thanks 2 BigP) is another all time great Cali Cab, in my very limited Cali Cab experience.
On the broader topic - lots of good points here. My interest has always been 'when is a wine at it's peak, or sweet spot for me?'. I aim to drink some younger, and some older, but more when at their prime. The 1999 Delas Hermitage Marquis de la Tourettes comes to mind. It was excellent in 2009, but the bottle we had before Christmas was better, and singing. I'm glad I waited 10 years before opening the first bottle, and still have some left.
Although the 'global, or broad based' drinking window seems shorter now, I think Kramer overstates it. The list he rhymed off as exceptions (Bordeaux, Barolo, and others) are the one we tend to cellar. Given the thousands of wineries in the world today, 1% may accurately reflect what we tend to cellar.
I've shared the disappointment of others with some older 'trophy' wines, but also had some truly exceptional experiences thanks to the sharing of older bottles at offlines. The 1979 La Chapelle last June made me think of holding on to the 1989 a bit longer, not 20 years but up to 5-10.
My wines tend to fall into 5 categories:
1) Drink and buy daily drinkers. Economical daily drinkers that could last 2-5 years. Drink many. Cellar a few up to 5 or so years.
2) Lower end wines that will improve with some age. e.g. Lower end Bordeaux: D'Agassac, Fleur de Barbeyron, Clarke, some Fronsacs... Drink well from 5-10 years.
3) Vin de Guard: 10-20 years. This covers many in my cellar. 2001 Bordeaux are drinking well. Bordeaux from the 1990s are drinking well.
4) Longer ageing wines. Some big CDPs come to mind as do some Barolos. I'll keep a few bottles to 20-30 years of age, but will drink some along the way.
5) The rest: very short list of wines that seem to go the distance. Latour and Haut Brion come to mind, and of course quite a few stickies.
good read, gentlemen.
i strive to buy only wines that reward with proper cellaring every year and have the patience to open them when they're ready to drink.
Honestly, I find myself drinking less and less that when i do drink, I usually always open up "the good stuff"
and since it's always teh good stuff, I'd rather it be drinking in its prime else I just won't drink.
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on my current income, only one mistress is enough.
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If it Flies, Floats or Fuc....
If it Flies, Floats or Fuc....[/QUOTE]
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