Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making It For A Ripe Old Age

I’m photographing a wedding this weekend for a beautiful young lady and the handsome love of her life. Other than being a “Rockstar” wedding photographer, Becky knows that I’m also the “One Rich Wine Guy” when I put a glass in my hand and my cape on in my off hours. Becky is the owner and publisher of Taste Tri Cities Magazine, which I also am a featured columnist in a few issues each year.

Becky approached me at a few days ago and asked me what local wines I felt would fit into their wine box ceremony for their wedding? They need a wine that will last to make it to their 10th anniversary. After all, the last thing that you want is the stuff my wife and I bought to make it to our 25th. The stuff has been vinegar for at least 15 years, so we’re serving it as salad dressing for our 25th next year.

After much thought, I suggested the Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon from Fidelitas, amongst other favorites of mine. But, since that conversation I’ve been pondering that question of what wines will stand up to aging.

Fifty years ago you needed more than just a little dust on the bottle in order to have a good wine. It was just expected that most European and Californian reds required considerable bottle time in order to be drinkable.

It really hasn’t been until the past few years that wines have been developed more and more to be consumed immediately. For the most part all wines that you find on the shelves in the United States today are “RTD” or ready to drink.

So, what does it take to have a good wine that can be stored for several years? Is it a certain bottling method? Is it juice sourced from a specific place? Is it a cork type? Is it just chance?

According to experts, most aging qualities in wine have to do with the pH balance in the wine. Wines that have a low pH balance tend to do better overall. That would mean that there is a high acid content.

Along with low pH, there should also be some strong tannins or flavor compounds in the wine in order for it to age well. Wines with the highest levels of tannin content tend to be Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrahs, Nebbiolos, and other like varietals. Wines that taste “green” like unripe vegetables or berries tend to fall into this category.

I know I’ll get some hate mail over this broad statement, but by and large I’ve found that this holds true: A good old wine, is a lot like a baby rattlesnake when its young. It should look safe enough, but messing with it will surely give you a bite. If you want a wine that will age, find one that pretty well rips your tongue out and stomps on it when it’s young.

I realize that the above statement is not always true. As I mentioned early in this column, the Fidelitas Champoux Cab is far from a dangerous wine to drink right now. It has silky, smooth tannins, and is pretty darn drinkable now. The difference is that this wine has depth to its flavors, and an intense tightness that loosens up when decanted over a period of days. With aging it will make a good wine that I know will bless Becky and Ryan on their 10th anniversary, and many more to come.


1 comment:

  1. This is a great article Rich. I would love to link back to this one, for our Women Who Wine blog. We have made that mistake ourselves. We are just now realizing that some of the bottles we bought even 3-4 years ago, need to be opened soon. I now ask the wine makers how long we can age their wines. Some do produce a particular red that will age well with a lower ph. Most US wineries though want to sell their product right now. So they make it ready to go. I will have to check out Fidelitas Champoux Cab.


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