Recently I had the rather disturbing realization that almost half of the bottles in my cellar are wrong. They are not wines that today I would bet on to give me the pleasure that I look for in mature wine. There's nothing terrible in there, but there are plenty of wines in which today I would not make the investment of money, cellar space, or time. It got me thinking again about this whole question of aging wine. How should I decide on the wines I want to age?
Let me be clear - I am not asking about which mature wines I want to drink. That's easy, I would say. I want to taste any and all mature wines so I can learn more about what to expect from various young wines as they age. I'm asking about about selecting young wines for the cellar.
Keith Levenberg wrote something interesting about this a little while ago, telling a story about buying 6 bottles of 2001 Bernard Levet Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche, drinking one and not being moved, and then "disposing" of the rest by bringing them to dinners with people who don't care which wine they are drinking. And then he drank a bottle of the same wine but from the 1983 vintage, and was moved. Enough to bring newer vintages of La Chavaroche back into his cellar.
I have never tasted a young version of a classically made and age-worthy wine, and then aged that wine to maturity. I simply have not been collecting wine long enough to do that. I have never tested my own ideas about which wines in time will become what I'm hoping for, and which will not. I don't know if I'm right when I drink a young wine and then think "yes, this wine should age well."
Think about it - you have to have been collecting wine for 25 years if you've tasted a great old bottle of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, or northern Rhône wine that you bought upon release. It's rare to be in the company of such a person. I only rediscovered wine about 7 years ago. Who knows if I will still care about wine in 25 years? Will I drink my 2007 Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux with the same delight that I felt in putting it into storage, planning for that day? I'm just guessing every time I put something in my cellar. I'm more educated now with my guesses, but I am still guessing.
I actually feel pretty good about what I put into the cellar these days. Some of this is simply understanding what it is that I like in wine. For example, I cellared almost nothing from the 2009 vintage in Burgundy. 2009 was a ripe vintage that gave big wines and that is not the thing that excites me about Burgundy. I saved a few nice bottles from 2007 and 2008, though. Wines from those vintages tend to have less ripeness and body, but while very young they showed a balance, clarity, and detail that I found compelling. Will that translate to mature wines that are exquisitely balanced, thrillingly detailed, and terroir-expressive? Honestly, I have no idea. I do like the idea, though, of cellaring wines that today show some of the characteristics that I want to be amplified in maturity.
Another thing that I'm enjoying lately is thinking of all of the recent vintages I've had of wines that I actually have built some familiarity with, and trying to decide which recent vintage is the one I would cellar if I had to choose only one vintage. This is not always easy to do.
For example, I've drunk several bottles of Foillard Morgon Côte de Py each vintage since 2006. I was in love with the 2007 and felt that it would age well so I saved a few bottles in the cellar. But then one night a couple years ago I was hanging out with Joe Salamone, one of the wine buyers at Crush, a lovely guy whose thoughts on wine are always smart and well-considered. I asked him what he thought about the 2007 vintage of Foillard Côte de Py, hoping he would confirm my belief. He said that he liked the wine a lot, especially for short term drinking, but that he didn't think the 2007 was a good candidate for long term aging. Hmmm. So maybe my read is wrong on age-worthy Foillard Côte de Py. I've since drunk all of my remaining bottles except for one, and it's true - it is already showing mature notes and it feels completely harmonious. Still, I think I need to see what will happen with another 5 years or so. You know, to confirm or refute my own hypothesis. The 2010 Foillard Morgon Côte de Py, by the way, is the recent vintage that I would now bet on for best future satisfaction.
It will be fun to see what happens with these wines down the road, as I have a bottle or two of each vintage in most cases. I hope I still care about this by the time they mature, and who knows, maybe the 2008 Gonon will turn out to be best in 15 years.