Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Great Expectations: Drinking Seriously Old Wine

To quote the famous Bernard Black, 'The older the wine, the gooder it is'.Unfortunately, Mr. Black, I have to disagree. Yes, certain wines will age better than others, but leave it too long and the consequences can be dire. People died last time!

Well, they didn't but more often than not, the anticipation of opening such a prestigious bottle can lead to it being put off until it's actually gone passed it's drink dates. Do you open it on a birthday? An anniversary? Do you do it with other wine fanatics who will appreciate it? Or do you open with a bunch of noobs to educate them? The list goes on.

I myself fell victim to this exact problem.
Last Christmas (I gave you my heart), I was given an amazing present by my girlfriend of a 1966 Gran Reserva Rioja. For me, this was the perfect present. She knows how much I love Rioja, especially Gran Reservas, and being a football fanatic, it was also a very special vintage. As any self respecting English football fan will know, it was the year England last won the world cup. I didn't want to open it on just any occasion, so I kept pushing it back.

If you buy from places like The Wine Society or Berry Bro.s and Rudd, they will give you recommended drinking dates. While they may only be recommended, they are the opinions of professionals and there for a reason. This particular bottle was recommended for drinking now. What I failed to realise is that it meant NOW!

The big moment. It's a Wednesday evening. I've decided that tonight is the big night. I dust off the decanter and open the bottle. The cork breaks, spewing dusty fragments down the neck. I pour the bottle out. It's Brown. I inspect the imbibing liquid within the confines of a glass. It's raised to my lips. The tension is palpable. My heart is pounding and my mind is a flurry of excitement and anticipation as the nectar touches my lips and engulfs every taste bud of my mouth. The beat of the drum growing fiercer and stronger and then, the shatter of the glass.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Not only had I left it too long, but I'd also built this wine up in my expectations to be the wine to end all wines. There was still some fruit, but the only words I could muster upon my first taste were, 'It's alright'. In hindsight a wine going on 50 years old wasn't going to be great, unless it's from an exceptional vintage and has been cellared correctly right up to drinking point, which to be perfectly honest, it hadn't. It's less about finding a gluggable wine, and more about having an incredible experience of drinking something that was made before the moon landings, and almost 25 years before I was born. It's lived double the life I have.

I stuck some straws over the sides and necked the rest as I wallowed in my folly.

I think the moral of the story here, is that if you have a bottle that's ready to drink now, just do it. You don't need a special occasion to open it. If it's a good enough wine, it will make the occasion special.

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