Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Aging of a wine

Easter Monday (meal for 6 guests)
For lunch, we served a typical meal from the South West of France: omelet (with truffles from Riberac) with farm eggs, loin of lamb and mash potatoes with truffles, strawberries from Spain with Tahitian vanilla and Armagnac (3 drops);
We drank Blanc de Valandraud 2005, Haut Carles 2005, Valandraud 2005, Harlan 1997 (slightly corked), replaced by an incredible Harlan 1995. We finished with a delicious Maury Calvet-Thunevin 2004.
Our friend from Macao should import, I hope, a few of our wines including Bad Boy 2005.

Panos asked me about the aging of wine:
“ I remember you used Cheval Blanc 1947 as an example to show that wines with high alcohol and low acidity can age well. But how can you explain that great wines from the past such as Mouton 1961 for instance or Figeac 1950 are very good now but have alcohol levels of 12 and even 11.5?
Modern wines such as the ones from the Right Bank, which have been characterized as made with very ripe grapes and alcohol levels of 14 and even 15 percent – are they less able to age than wines with higher relative acidity and lower alcohol? Does the acidity level impact the aging of wines from the Right Bank of Bordeaux? In your opinion, is this role overrated? Why or why not?”

The ability of a wine to age is still not predictable. Any authoritative opinion has, of course, its opposite.
Alcohol and maturity are they obstacles to good aging? Is that so!
What about Sauternes and Ports?
Maury and Banyuls?
Vega Sicilia and all the great Italian wines?
And great red Burgundies where sugar is being added to increase the alcohol level.
Just consider all the wines boosted with Hermitage and Algerian wines (very rich).
On the contrary, an Egon Muller or great Bordeaux have been able to age well for a long time with low levels of alcohol.
Some wines have been able to stay alive, but why? Perhaps for historical or intellectual pleasure?

Some of these old wines produced with unripe grapes were undrinkable for a long time, and still are. Otherwise, we drank a 1929 Corbin Michotte last Sunday to celebrate the birthday of my father-in-law: the wine was moving, sentimentally speaking. This wine was alive, beautiful, good, stored properly, with an incredible cork, never travelled, a typical wine from an old vintage. It would have pleased many. I think that François Audouze would have served it as the main bottle in one of his chic soirees. You can ask my father-in-law, the bottle was not even finished by the 4 of us, even with the “Portuguese” decanting. I must admit that the Chateau La Dominique 2006 seemed to be a better deal: in fact, I bought the 1929 from a friend for 300 Euros (instead of 500) whereas La Dominique 2006 cost less than 50 Euros (including VAT).
Of course, there are great old wines: Lafite Rotschild 1928 drank a few days ago was a proof.

What allows a wine to age well? We don’t know. What’s certain, is that some wines never aged well, some aging very fast. Is it a problem of ph? or caused by a bacteria (brett)?
The only argument, and I am not 100% sure, is, I believe, the ph, which, if too high, can encourage bacterial infection. Old ph had the advantage of being lower with, in great vintages, ripe fruit, like some in Maury or on clayey soil.

Other than that, Denis Dubourdieu seems to have a lead: Glutation.
Don’t ask me what it means.

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