I just set aside my first bottles of wine for aging. They are in a closet on the north side of the house, so conditions are not ideal. I won’t ask too many more years of these wines, a few or five perhaps. Kevin Zraly writes that most wines made today are meant to be consumed within one year (Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course on the World: Complete Wine Course). I want to find out for myself how the wines will change. I don’t have experience with aging wines, but I want the chance to learn more about how wines unfold with age, and stashing bottles away in a cool dark place for a few more years is the best way to do it. Many of the wines I chose to hold back have only released their first few delicious award-winning vintages and I believe they show great promise to continue to improve.
Washington reds have so much in their favor for continued life in the bottle.
The focus of my wine research (and consumption) is Washington reds, especially Red Mountain reds, but occasionally other serious wines so as to give the Washington wines some context. My interest lies in wineries that are small-scale production and estate-driven, express originality, use little intervention, are anything biodynamic or even leaning in that direction (sustainable), have soils that interest me or something about the wine maker I like (his or her philosophy or attitude toward life)—or some combination of the above.
I chose to store mostly single varietals (Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet). These I’d like to hold onto for five years, and if I had better storage, even longer. I set aside a few blends as well that I have faith in because the wines are so good—a Merlot and Cab Franc-based blend, and a few Cab dominant blends which I wouldn’t plan to keep all that much longer (two-three years). I am not storing cases or even half-cases, just a single bottle—what storage and pocket book will bear. I have the great fortune of having in my neighborhood, 2nd Street Wine Shop which provides me with easy access to what I think are the best wines of Washington. Most of these wines have come my way through their wine club, expertly curated by the shop’s owner, Laurel Davis. I have already tried all of the wines I plan to hold onto, and they all showed themselves to be good candidates to continue to change and improve.
These Washington reds have so much in their favor for continued life in the bottle—big fruit, complex and well structured tannins, and a nice alcohol level (14-percent plus) balanced with a enough acidity. The intense dry weather in eastern Washington which tends to concentrate sugars and support the development of tannins, the unique Missoula Flood soils, general terroir, oak and time on the skin, and grape variety—the main factors are in place that influence a wine’s capacity to continue to evolve with age.
How will the wine open up—will it stay the same, decline, or change in interesting ways?
How will the wine open up—will it stay the same, decline, or change in interesting ways? I am interested in observing how the balance of the fruit, acids, and tannins change over time. How do these virtuous big and generous Washington reds transform in ways that improve the wine with the extra time in the bottle?
I hope to observe, based on the experience I have with curing and aging other life-based substances (compost, biodynamic preparations, fermented dairy and vegetable products, sourdough bread, flower essences), the positive transformations that may come about in these wines when the terroir that is expressed is still active—or in biodynamics we would say when the chemistry in the substance is still connected to life forces.
Here is a link to a spread sheet listing the wines I’ve set aside for a few years. A few were actually released in 2014. This data is excerpted from a lengthier, more detailed data base I maintain on wines I find interesting.