Wine—What’s Old Is Rarely What’s New
It’s the query that occupies the minds of most anyone in the wine industry who ponder what kind of new fad or new embrace is coming to wine drinkers near them.
“Grenache…the wine we’ll be drinking!” “Natural wine is the new thing being driven by a new generation of drinkers.” “Cabernet is dead, long live red blends!”.
Some of the predictions (and hopes) come true. Others remain mere hopes or failed predictions. So it will always be.
But last night, as I and a crew of industry folks drank our way through a series of California wines 10 years and older, I wondered how it could be that well-aged wine has never captured the attention of those who want to grasp for the new thing?
The 1995 Howell Mountain Cabernet from Howell Mountain Vineyard, for example, was sublime and tasted nothing like what one would be accustomed to drinking the three and four-year old Cabs and Pinots and blends we are all used to evaluating and tasting and drinking more commonly. Why has well-aged California Pinot and Cabernet and Zinfandel not been put forward as the next new thing?
Certainly, these wines are more difficult to come by. But lack of access to certain wines has never dimmed their status as coveted. Perhaps it’s a matter of thinking forward toward “what’s new” precludes the idea of “whats old is new again” thinking. But then I read about the excitement surrounding more austere or more “balanced” wines and I note that such wines were once the norm. Maybe it’s because so very few taste makers and trend setters actually have much experience with these wines. I suspect it’s a combination of this latter reality along with the style of older wines being so foreign to them that they don’t know how to wrap their brains around them, let alone tout their desirability, or at least their potential trendiness.
Give me leather, smoke, caramel and muted fruit over bright acid-driven wines on any occasion. Give me the complexity and balance and layered nuance of well aged California Cabernet over the juicy, blackberry and blueberry and cassis bombs of young California wine always. I’ll take it.
They say that Napa Cabs won’t age; that they are too flabby or don’t possess the structure or are overly high in pH. As I taste more and more Cabs from the early 2000s and the Pinots from the same era, I’m not finding this to be the case.
In any case, I would find it absolutely delightful if one day well aged wine became the flavor of the month, if only because it would open horizons for wine drinkers to something truly new and different.